Google is often the first place people turn to for guidance when searching for businesses or services in their communities. In fact, 98% of consumers look online for information about local businesses, and nearly one-third perform local searches multiple times a week, according to data from BrightLocal.
To get in front of this audience, your business needs to appear prominently in Google’s map-based local search results. This involves optimizing your digital presence and signaling to search engine algorithms where your business is located, what products and services it provides, and how trusted it is. Follow along as I explain the key components of an effective Google Maps search engine optimization (SEO) strategy to enhance your visibility and send potential customers flowing to your website or storefront.
Why Google Maps SEO Matters
While the internet can connect you to businesses around the world, people still rely on Google to find products and services nearby. When you focus your SEO on Google Maps, you can appear in the highly coveted map pack, which spotlights three businesses that satisfy a search query. This is tremendously desirable positioning — when the Google 3-pack appears in search results, it generates 44% of the clicks on a page. Plus, since Google pulls the map pack from page one, you’ll also appear in the organic search results below it.
In addition to enjoying a visibility boost, businesses that rank in Google Maps offer a seamless user experience right on the search results page. Customers have quick access to your location, business hours, reviews, and other details, reducing friction and encouraging conversion. More than three-quarters of people who searched for a local business on their smartphone visited a physical location within a day, with nearly three out of 10 of these consumers pulling out their wallets to make a purchase.
Google Maps Ranking Factors
Google wants to ensure its search results are as useful as possible, so its algorithms take the following three main criteria into consideration when determining where businesses appear in Google Maps.
- Relevance: Does your business offer what searchers are looking for? Be as precise as possible in describing your products and services to help search engines match your business to a query.
- Distance: Where is your business in relation to the searcher? Google considers how far users must travel to identify the most convenient businesses. However, even if your business is close by, another may rank higher if it’s seen as more relevant.
- Prominence: Is your business well-regarded? Companies that are more visible or have stellar ratings may rank higher than those with a minimal digital footprint. Photos also play a role in highlighting work quality.
I’ll also offer up a public service announcement here. Your website’s overall search performance impacts your ranking in Google Maps. In addition to following the strategies outlined in this article, remember that best practices for SEO still apply. Be sure to implement technical, on-page, and off-page SEO on your website to help Google understand your business and rank it better in Maps.
Google Maps SEO: How To Rank Higher on Google Maps
Now, let’s roll out your local SEO strategy. The steps below will help you improve your Google Maps rankings as well as deliver a superior experience to potential customers.
1. Claim and Fill Out Your Google Business Profile
Your Google Business Profile (GBP, formerly Google My Business) is an online hub of information about your company. Details from your GBP appear in Google Search and Maps as a knowledge panel.
Google relies on your profile to gather facts about your business (though they’ll also look at your location page to make sure the information is consistent). Customers also use it to learn about your offerings, so it’s important to take advantage of this free marketing tool to promote your business.
To get started, check whether a profile exists for your company. If it does, claim and verify it. If there isn’t a listing for your business, set one up. You can find detailed instructions in our blog post about optimizing your Google Business Profile.
Once your profile is ready to go, fill in each section as completely as possible. The more information search engines have, the more effectively they can pair your business with user queries.
2. Complete NAP Information
Fill in your business name, address, and phone number (NAP). Google uses this basic information to determine your location and proximity to the user. It also cross-references your NAP to other information it finds online. Your business is more likely to appear in search if Google can confirm your business is real and customers can interact with you.
Be meticulous and ensure the NAP on your profile matches what’s published on your website and in other directories across the internet. For example, avoid publishing your cell number on your GBP, a toll-free number on your website, and an office number with the Better Business Bureau.
3. Update Your Business Hours
According to Google, 54% of consumers who perform local Google searches on their smartphones are checking the hours a business is open.
Keep your operating hours up to date on your profile, especially if they change during holidays or at different times of the year. You don’t want to frustrate potential customers who check your hours and arrive at your location only to find the door locked. Even worse, you risk a negative review, which can impact your ranking.
4. Generate and Respond to Google Reviews
BrightLocal found that, in 2022, 76% of consumers regularly read reviews to learn about companies. Businesses with high ratings send important trust signals to search engines and customers, showcasing the quality of their service and products.
You must deliver an exceptional customer experience to earn those positive reviews, of course. However, a key part of Google Maps and SEO is encouraging happy consumers to share their opinions with others. Google looks at the number and quality of reviews to help determine local search rankings. You’ll also want recent reviews, so don’t rest on your laurels — keep those reviews coming at a steady pace to grow your digital presence. Once customers submit a review, respond professionally to both positive and negative reviews to show you value them and are willing to help resolve problems.
5. Add Photos to Your GBP
Google notes that profiles that feature images are more likely to generate requests for directions or click-throughs to a website. Well-lit, inviting photos make a great first impression on users. They help establish legitimacy and give customers a better sense of what your business offers.
Emphasize quality, not quantity, and curate your photos. Choose images of the inside and outside of your premises that showcase a welcoming, clean space, as well as pictures of menu items or products. Your customers will also contribute user-generated content.
If you’re a service provider, make sure to show examples of your work if possible. Potential customers will be looking through these photos to see how well you do what you do, so show off!
6. Regularly Create Google Posts
You can deliver updates and marketing messages directly to customers through your GBP. These posts can include a headline, description, photo, and call to action. Use Google posts to make announcements, promote events, offer discounts, or highlight new products and services.
Regular Google posts show that your business is active and engaged. Posts also provide search engines with additional context about your location and services, especially if you can naturally incorporate keywords. If your niche is particularly competitive, Google posts are a great way to distinguish your business. You can capture attention with interesting news and promotions and hopefully drive traffic to your website.
7. Remove Any Duplicate Maps Listings
To rank well, businesses should have only one GBP per location. For example, if your company moves to new premises, change your Google Business Profile address instead of creating a new listing. Similarly, if you own a single business with different types of services, avoid creating separate GBPs promoting each service.
Duplicate listings cause uncertainty for search engines and customers regarding the accuracy and reliability of your business information. Clean up your presence on Google Maps by deleting duplicate listings or merging listings if there are reviews on both that you’d like to keep.
8. Optimize Your Website for Local Keywords
Search engines follow the link from your Google Business Profile to your website and crawl your web pages for additional information about your company. By incorporating local keywords into your site, you’ll help the search algorithms determine how relevant your business is to particular search queries. Here are some tips:
- Identify keywords related to your products and services, including ones used by your competitors. There are many local SEO tools that can help you pick keywords to target.
- Select keywords based on factors such as search volume, competition, and your business objectives.
- Create interesting, high-quality, and relevant content.
- Follow best practices for incorporating local keywords into page titles, meta descriptions, header tags, URL slugs, and image alt-text.
9. Add Local Schema to Your Site
Schema markup is a standardized code that’s added to websites to provide key information about businesses to search engines. These facts help Google accurately pull details from your website and display them in organic search results as rich snippets. These eye-catching listings can give you a leg up in search results, capturing attention, showcasing essential information, and inspiring users to visit your website.
Local business schema lets you categorize your business in different ways to help search engines better match it to queries. For example, you can designate your company as a food establishment, store, or health and beauty business. There are additional options within these categories. Subcategories for health and beauty businesses include beauty salons, day spas, nail salons, health clubs, and tattoo parlors. Other local business schema include address, aggregate ratings, geo coordinates, area served, opening hours, and price range.
Remember, Google is always scanning the internet to gather information before featuring a business in Maps. Local schema gives search engines more trust in the details of your business.
10. Embed Google Maps on Your Site
The contact page on your website is another way to signal the location of your company to search engines. You should include your full address in crawlable text. Provide additional context with directions or references to nearby landmarks, cross streets, or subway stops. Consider embedding Google Maps directly on the page to confirm your NAP and make it easier for customers to find your location.
11. Earn Local Backlinks
In addition to crawling your website for information about your business, search engines look elsewhere on the internet to confirm that your company is credible. Backlinks from respected third-party websites to your web pages can have a significant impact on your ranking. Google will consider the number of inbound links from unique referring domains and the quality of those sites.
For local SEO, build backlinks from organizations and media in your community. Reach out to your chamber of commerce or local business development association, partner with small businesses that have a similar target audience, publish guest posts on local blogs, and sponsor charity events.
12. Edit Your Google Maps Business Listings When Needed
Google Maps SEO should be an ongoing part of your marketing strategies. In addition to keeping your basic contact information and business hours up to date so customers can successfully interact with your business, make the profile as useful as possible to customers. Add photos, respond to reviews, publish posts, and make it easy for search engines and consumers to gather information about your business.
You can edit your profile directly from the Google Maps app as long as you’re signed into the Google account associated with your business. Note that some edits must be approved by Google, so they may not appear right away.
- Click the profile picture in the top right corner of the app.
- Tap “Your Business Profile.”
- Tap “Edit Profile.”
- Tap “Edit Business Information.” From here, you can make changes to your contact information, location, hours, and more.
Become a Powerhouse of Local SEO
Your customers are out there looking for your products and services — help them connect with your business by ranking higher on Google Maps. Use the tips above to kickstart your efforts or ask the experts at Victorious to customize a powerful local SEO strategy that delivers maximum visibility. Book a free consultation today and ensure your business stands out in a dynamic and ever-changing online space.