It’s not enough to simply have a Google Business Profile and Google Maps listing. Since they are crucial local business marketing tools, you’ll want them to rank higher on Google to stand out from the competition, help new customers find you, and bring you new business for free.
But how can your Google Maps listing rank higher?
According to Google, you can rank your listing in three ways:
How To Rank In the Map Pack
Let’s dig deeper into Google’s three map pack ranking factors to see how each determines how your business ranks on Google Maps.
Google defines local business relevance as how well a local Google Business Profile matches what a user is searching for.
You must create or claim your Google Business Profile listing, which essentially makes it possible for your business to appear on Google Maps.
Three key aspects matter when it comes to relevance:
- Your business name
- Your business categories and sub-categories
- Your Google Business Profile landing page
When creating your Google Business Profile, ensure your business name highlights your primary service. For example, if plumbing is your primary service, this can appear in the business name.
It also helps if you have your service location in the name to help Google identify your business with that specific area and potentially pull it up for relevant local intent searches. The three businesses highlighted in the image above all have “Calgary” in the business name as their service location. This isn’t a coincidence.
Note that your primary service can also double up as a service keyword or its variation. If your business name naturally includes your primary service, that’s awesome.
You’ll want to keep a low profile with keywords and their variations because Google wants you to avoid unnecessary details and maintain your business’s real-world name. Your competitors or Google can flag the name if they notice keyword stuffing. This is why it’s useful if your real business name includes the service and location.
Here’s how typical results look like, with each result having the “public house” keyword in the name:
Here’s how typical results look, with only one result having the “pub” keyword in the name:
Alternatively, you can sneak in some keywords using a Doing Business As (DBA) listing. The DBA will be your operating name, which differs from your legal business name. Most cities require you to file your DBA to protect customers who do business with you.
You will wait for Google to change your name when and if they don’t recognize it as your business’s proper name. Once the change happens, you can submit proper documentation and claim the name to show you are “doing business as”.
Another way to protect your Google Business Name without having it updated by Google is to add services in your website logo in addition to the primary service you used in your Google Business Profile name.
Here’s an example from Mr. Mike’s Plumbing as it appears on their Google Business Profile (GBP) and website logo. They probably could include “and Drain Cleaning” and get away with this addition.
Website logo name:
You can get away with the dual name because it appears correctly on your website, which is included in your Google Business Profile.
As mentioned, your business’s primary category and subcategories matter in Google Maps SEO.
Your business gets only one primary category in Google Business Profile. You’ll want to choose the category most important to your business as the primary one.
For example, use HVAC as the primary category and main service even if you want to rank “HVAC” over “Air Conditioning”.
The key to choosing rankable secondary categories is to only pick the ones that show up in the drop-down list when creating your Google Business Profile. Adding others not identified by Google for your business type will be a waste of time.
Google Business Profile Landing Page
Your Google Business Profile should send users to a page on your website where they can access more information about the business and its merchandise or services.
This can either be the homepage or a specific location page on your website as the GBP landing page.
This is easy if you have only one service location. In this case, your homepage can act as the landing page.
If you have multiple Google Business location pages and want to rank for multiple cities, you’ll want to send your GBP users to the specific landing page for each city.
Here’s a city-specific single landing page for one of our self-storage clients showing multiple locations in one city.
Here’s a business ranking for two locations in the same city and using different landing pages for each location:
To help with Google Maps SEO, ensure your GBP landing page includes the following details:
Let’s assume we’re trying to rank for Self Storage Muskogee.
- A relevant H1 tag title. For example, “Secure Self Storage in Muskogee”.
- URL with a relevant slug, like https://click4storage.com/self-storage-muskogee/
- H2 tags
- Supporting content, such as the size and number of units for a self-storage business
Lastly, your GBP landing page should be responsive on mobile to ensure you don’t lose potential clients by having them bounce back to the faster-loading websites of your competitors.
2. Distance or Proximity
Your business is more likely to show up on the Google Map Pack if it’s closer to the location term the user added in their search.
Your business may also show up based on Google’s distance calculations from what they know about the user’s location if their search doesn’t specify it.
Now, there is little you can do about your business’s proximity to the user. If you have multiple retail locations, make sure you set up all of the locations. If you are a service area-based business, you’re technically only supposed to open one location, but not everyone will abide by the rules.
Prominence gauges how well your business is known both online and offline. It is the most diverse of the three Google Map Pack ranking factors as it includes the following:
- Google reviews
- GBP age
- Domain authority
- Local backlinks
- Landing page factors
- Reviews on other platforms
- GBP completeness
Three aspects are important when it comes to Google Reviews:
- Review score
- Review count
- Review velocity
The highest overall Google Review score is a 5-star rating, while the lowest is 1 star.
Google automatically calculates the new average star rating each time a user leaves your business a new review. It can be up to two weeks before the new rating appears.
Customer service needs to be a fairly high priority if you want to generate a great Google review score.
Generally, if your star rating is below 4.3 stars, you’re either not collecting reviews aggressively enough, or your customer service isn’t very good.
The review count is important. The more reviews you have, especially the positive ones, the better your Google Business Page will perform. A good review rating also will help you convert leads into customers. Potential clients will trust you more and readily do business with you.
Here’s a sample positive review on our Google Business Profile:
Review velocity refers to the number of reviews your business has received on Google in a given time. This could be in the last week, month, six months, or 12 months.
The higher the number, the better for your business. You can get more reviews by automating a follow-up sequence that asks your most recent clients or people who have interacted with your business for reviews.
We generally include a review automation sequence with our local SEO services.
An older Google Business Profile is better than a newer one in the same line of business. It’s advisable to claim your Business Profile on Google as soon as you buy or set up your business.
And if you buy a business, make sure the old owner transfers the Google Business Page to you.
Your website’s domain authority shows how strong it is and how it is likely to rank in the SERPS (search engine results pages). Generally, a higher value indicates a higher likelihood for a higher ranking.
While your whole website has to be strong, your GBP landing page (this is the page that your Google Business Page URL points to, not your Google Business Page itself) must be authoritative to rank well on local search results pages.
One way to make your landing page and website authoritative is to build both internal and external links to them.
Internal links come from one page on your website to another, while external or inbound links point to your website from websites owned by others.
You can increase the authoritativeness of your landing page by linking to it from multiple relevant and supporting pages on your website.
The external links pointing to your website are backlinks. You’ll want to have as many high-quality ones as possible. These often point to your homepage, but it is also helpful if you build some links to your location-specific GBP landing page.
A local business can do well with quality backlinks from other local businesses, local bloggers, local news sites, local directories, local awards, and even the Chamber of Commerce.
An example of a quality backlink is the Ontario Chamber of Commerce linking to your homepage or GBP landing page from one of their pages or blog articles.
Landing Page Factors
Optimizing your landing page for local SEO includes an optimized H1 tag, URL, supporting content, and H2-H4 tags for the subheadings.
Including relevant content on the page can help it rank better on local search results. For example, if the page is about plumbing, you can talk about different aspects, such as fixing toilets and winterizing plumbing, if you offer these services.
You can improve your GBP landing page by embedding your GBP link or Google Maps on it.
While doing this may not explicitly guarantee higher rankings, it’s good for user experience. It can help users find your GBP easily without needing a branded search on Google Maps. This can happen if they found the page after a local search and now want to see your Google Reviews.
Here’s how to embed a Google Map on the landing page:
- Search your business name on Google Maps
- Click the “Share” button
- Click the “Embed a Map” button
- Copy and paste the link on your landing page.
Citations have been a declining ranking signal but are still important. It helps to have your business cited by trustworthy outlets like Yellow Pages, TripAdvisor, Brownbook.net, and Yelp.
It’s important to ensure consistency of NAP (Name, Address, and Phone Number) wherever your business is mentioned.
You can periodically search online for your business name to see places you have been mentioned that may have used your NAP incorrectly.
Check also to see if these mentions link back to you and ask that they do if they haven’t. This can be a good way to earn high-quality backlinks, which can directly help with higher rankings.
Reviews on Other Platforms
Reviews on other platforms like the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Facebook, UpCity, Angie, and Homestars can help rank your business higher, especially if they link back to your GBP landing page.
A complete Google Business Profile helps with better rankings on Google Maps. Google says a complete GBP enhances the relevance of your business in local searches.
A fully-completed Business Profile on Google also gives a human touch to your business, making it easier for users to identify with you.
When creating your Google Business Profile, ensure it is filled out as humanly as possible with the following accurate information:
- Physical address and service areas
- Category and subcategories
- Phone number
- Business logo
- GBP opening date
- Social profiles (it’s now possible to directly add social profiles to your GBP)
- Business hours/hours of operation
- Profile picture
- Answered FAQs
Schema markup is a form of structured microdata at Schema.org that creates a rich snippet when added to a webpage.
While microdata may not directly boost your website or GBP landing page’s organic search rankings, the rich snippet can make these web pages more visible in the SERPS, leading to better click-through rates.
Schema makes it easy for Google crawlers to easily see your business’s vital information and trust you more. This makes it more likely for Google to pull your listing higher in Google Maps.
You can use RankMath Pro to add your schema data, ensuring it matches your Google Business Profile information.
Use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to check and validate your schema.
Here’s what to include in your schema markup:
- Business name
- Website URL
- Contacts (email, phone number, social media profiles)
- Business location (street address, postal code, country of operation)
- Opening hours
- Service type (such as “professional service” offered by an “organization”)
As a business owner looking to rank on Google Maps in your local category, you can visit the Google Business Profiles of “unfair” businesses and suggest edits if their GBP business name is inconsistent with the one on their website.
For example, if the GBP name is “ABC Web Design Agency” and the business name is “ABC Design”, you can suggest the GBP name to be only “ABC Design”.
This strategy doesn’t always work because the business can change back to its “unfairly competitive name”, but it’s worth fighting for.
Here are the steps to make a contribution or suggestion:
- Search for “My Google review profile” (when logged in with your Google account)
- Go to “Google Help”
- Scroll down to “Find & share your reviews”.
- Click on “Contribute”.
Now that you know how to rank higher on Google Maps, let’s look at some common myths around the topic.
Google Posts Are Important
Posts on your Google Business Page won’t directly improve your rankings, but they are good for user engagement.
Does Responding to Reviews Improve Your Rankings?
Responding to Google Reviews is a good practice, but it doesn’t improve your rankings.
Your responses can show new and past clients that you care about each customer, increasing their likelihood of doing business with you and leaving you generous reviews.
Do Keywords in Your Description Improve Your Rankings?
Stuffing keywords in your GBP business description won’t help with better rankings. You should write a simple and clear description that sells your business or service as best as possible.
Does Geotagging Photos Help?
Geotagging your GBP profile photos won’t help with better rankings.
Does Adding Keywords to FAQs Improve Rankings?
Adding keywords to FAQs won’t help you rank higher. It’s important to add FAQs your customers would genuinely ask about. This reduces the temptation of keyword stuffing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions you may have.
Can I Remove Negative Google Reviews?
Yes. You can have negative Google Reviews removed if you can prove to Google that they constitute prohibited and restricted content such as fake engagement, hate speech, and violence.
Alternatively, you can submit a legal action request, which is usually expensive and time-consuming but effective.
Another strategy is to respond to the negative review. Take the blame without picking on the customer, address what’s wrong, and see if it can be corrected.
Should You Buy Reviews?
I’ve never advised clients to buy reviews, nor would we do it ourselves. But, and this is a big BUT, buying reviews does kind of work. This is an interesting read on buying reviews. TLDR: the offending party just keeps buying new reviews, Google removes them, and then they buy more fake reviews, and the cycle continues.
Hopefully, the party in question receives a suspension, but it is just as likely the cycle continues.
Google advises businesses not to incentivize customers with free goods, discounts, or free services for positive reviews or to remove or revise negative reviews.
How Should You Get More Reviews?
You should aggressively (as in asking for them several times, not being overly rude about it) ask your customers for reviews both offline and online.
Once customers leave your point of interaction, you can follow up with them using an automated tool to send them an SMS or 2-3 reminder emails. Most customers will happily leave you a good review.
Why Do I Have to Re-verify My Google Business Profile?
Google will require you to re-verify your business profile for two reasons:
- You changed or updated your business address
- You changed your business phone number
How to Reinstate Your Google Business Page?
If Google has suspended your business profile, a marketing agency like Salt Water Digital can help you reinstate it at a fee.
Google’s Search Generative Experience and Map Pack Rankings
Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) is a new and currently experimental way to use generative AI in search by gathering information from different sources and showing it in a snapshot.
The snapshot presents a detailed response to the query and helps users make comprehensive searches and informed decisions. Users get links to relevant further results and a conversational mode for asking follow-up questions.
Should you worry about SGE as a business owner?
SGE applies to different forms of Google search, including the SERPS and Local Map Pack.
It shows a 5-pack similar to the usual local 3-pack, a short description for each pack, and a carousel of quoted results alongside a map with pinned locations.
Now, you don’t have to worry much about SGE because it is still experimental. Google says SGE will use AI-powered insights to provide context about local places to make comparing and exploring options easier.
When users click on an SGE listing, they see a knowledge panel, while a click on a carousel item will take the user to your business’s website. This can present your business to more customers alongside the duplicate local pack results.
In particular, update your business profile’s images, reviews, and description because SGE shows these in the snapshot. That should help while the SGE experiment continues and you watch for new developments.