For local businesses, Google My Business (aka Google Maps; aka Google Places) is a vital organic listing. Here are tips that will help you rank at the top for important searches.
If you are a local business with a physical address or a defined service area, you must create your Google My Business account. This map listing, business info source, and review platform provides prominent organic listing on SERPs (search engine results page). High rankings here will mean more leads.
Ideally, you want to be in the top three spots in the business listings. These listing appear between paid search ads on top and organic listings below.
Setting up and optimizing a Google business listing is fairly straightforward, yet we commonly see businesses make mistakes that hurt their rankings. Here are the fundamentals that will help you rank, as well as advanced tactics that will get you in the top spots in competitive markets.
Complete All Business Information
Fill out all contact information; make sure this includes your business address.
Often contractors that go on-site to work don’t include a business address, but this will hurt your ranking because without it, you won’t be included on the maps image:
Don’t skip any of your contact info, particularly if your business address is within your main target area. This is the focal point from which Google ascertains your location and service areas (see pro tip below if your service area is outside your address).
Making sure you’re crystal clear about where your business is located is increasingly important as more searchers drop location modifiers like city names and use statements like “near me” – or nothing at all.
For example, a searcher might use the phrase “painters Fort Collins”; or they might use “painters near me”; or they might just use “painters”.
Today, Google knows where the searcher is, so they consider these searches to have basically the same intent. However, for Google to match the search to your business, they must know where you are and what your service areas are.
It’s also important to have the same contact information on your website and other local directories.
With a new listing, you have to verify your location. If you have business hours, be sure to include those. Update your information if it changes.
The more information you can provide the better, including business category, attributes, “from the business” message, and photos. Here is how to edit your business information.
Pro Tip: Service Area Businesses
Many businesses have mobile service areas that are not associated with their business address. For example, a contractor may use their home address for their business which is outside the major city where they service customers.
In this case, you need to edit the service area in the address section of your listing.
To edit your service area details, follow these steps:
- Sign in to Google My Business.
- If you have multiple locations, open the location you’d like to manage.
- Click Info from the menu.
- Click Edit for the Address section.
- In the window that appears, select Yes next to “I deliver goods and services to my customers at their locations.”
- Enter your service area information. You can set your service area based on the zip codes or cities that you serve, or on a given area around your location. Note: If you want your complete address to appear on Google and your business location is staffed to help customers during its stated hours, check the box next to “I also serve customers at my business address.”
- Click Apply.
This is a very important step for businesses that are mobile and serve clients in broad geographic areas.
We also recommend that you have clear content (like an “areas served” page) on your website that outlines your service areas, listing all towns, cities, and regional areas you go to.
Also, optimize your homepage for your main target area (i.e., the largest city you work in) and use that as your primary location-based keyword for site optimization.
Manage and Respond to Reviews
Google My Business is now a major review platform. It’s one of the easiest places for consumers to leave reviews as well as one of the places they are most read.
Google states that review count and scores are factored into rankings. The more positive reviews you have, the better you’re are likely to rank.
Learn tips on how to get more positive reviews.
Gather honest reviews from actual customers. Also, respond to reviews, both good and bad. You don’t have to respond to every review, but rather when you have new or relevant information to share.
Responding to reviews shows (and signals to Google) that you value your customer feedback. It’s a sign of an active business with strong customer service.
How Local Ranking is Determined
Google states that local results are based on relevance, distance, and prominence. Let’s break these down and connect them to the elements we’re discussing here.
Google wants to match local listings to what the searchers are searching for. This is why it’s important to complete all the business information so Google understands as much as possible about your business.
For example, say someone does a search for “burger restaurant with outdoor seating.”
If you include outdoor seating in your attributes, Google will know this about your business and rank you higher.
Make sure you provide the right category for your business and expand on this in your “from the business” segment. Provide useful info and descriptions instead of promotions or sales pitches.
Restaurants can include a menu, and health and beauty businesses can list services (like types of massage or hairstyles offered).
Google will rank businesses that are closer to the searcher’s location, particularly when specific geo modifiers are not used.
For example, if I search for “painters Fort Collins”, here are the top three business listings (note one business includes a paid result with business listings):
When I search on “painters near me”, the results are slightly different:
The reason “Erlandson Painting” shows in the “near me” result is because they are closer to my location. The first search shows painters who are in or service the city of Fort Collins.
Google does differentiate the intent of these searches, and the results change based on the user’s distance from the business.
This is a big factor for mobile phone searches. When Google thinks the searcher wants a business closer to their location, it will rank based on that factor.
This shows how important it is to have a specific address associated with your business. If you properly identified your service area, Google will rank you (when it understands the service comes to the customer).
Without a specific, local location, you’ll fail to rank for searches where Google is trying to match businesses based on distance.
Prominence is a bit more difficult to nail down, but it’s a ranking factor Google notes. They tend to rank well-know businesses such as landmark hotels, famous tourist sites, or well-known brand stores. Here’s what they say about prominence for local service businesses:
Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business from across the web (like links, articles, and directories). Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking. Your position in web results is also a factor, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization.
For local businesses that aren’t well-known publicly, Google aggregates information like links (links from other local businesses and organizations help) and presence on directories.
As we mentioned, reviews count as part of prominence. Established businesses with many positive reviews tend to rank better.
They also specifically mention that your position in web results is a factor in business rankings. For this reason, you want to get your website to rank as high as possible for geo-modified searches (painters Fort Collins).
We recommend that you’re explicit about your business and service locations on your website content. This will increase Google’s data on where you are and where you perform your services.
Pro Tip: Optimize Your Website for Locations
You should also optimize your website for location-based keywords. As we said, optimize your homepage for your prime target area; create landing pages for additional cities or regions.
Note, for example, that on the search for “painters near me” every local business (excluding review sites) that ranks on page one has “Fort Collins” in the title tag:
The businesses that rank higher in web results tend to do better in the business listings. And of course, it doesn’t hurt a thing to have multiple results on page one.
If you follow these steps and stick to Google’s guidelines you’ll give yourself the best chance rank high in local listings and maps. Keep in mind that the more competition you have, the more important it will be to get everything here right.
If you have multiple listings or a listing you can’t access, contact us. We can work with a Google rep to clean-up these issues.
Google My Business listings are a major source of organic traffic for local businesses. Treat this channel with the diligence it deserves and you’ll get paid back with high-quality leads and new customers.