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Carlton Clark

Carlton Clark

Table of Contents

When you do a search for a local product/service, you may notice 3 different sections of the SERPs:

  1. Google Ads
  2. Google Maps
  3. Search Results

For your reference, it usually looks something like this.

In the Google Maps section, you can see three businesses that Google decided to showcase above the organic search section.

Any smart business owner knows that getting in the “Google 3-Pack” can be huge for the number of leads you generate. Businesses that rank #4 and even lower on Google Maps receive significantly fewer calls and website visitors.

Let me guess…

You clicked on this article because you know all of this and you want to know how to rank your local business higher in the Google maps section.

In this article, we’re going to discuss the six Google Maps ranking factors you need to worry about. (Everything else is white noise)

Let’s get into it.

Ranking Factor #1: Proximity

Proximity is the #1 ranking factor for Google Maps.

Since it’s a bit out of your control, we won’t spend much time on this one, however, that doesn’t deny the fact that it is the #1 Google Maps ranking factor.

If you’ve already picked the location of your business, your best bet is to just move onto the next five tips.

If you haven’t, carefully consider where you foresee the majority of your business coming from.

What specific neighborhood?
What income bracket?
What demographic?

For example, if you run a luxury car repair shop in Atlanta, you may want to situate yourself in a wealthy neighborhood like Inham Park or Buckhead. This obviously makes sense for the drive-by traffic your business will receive and being close to your clientele. From a marketer’s perspective, it also makes sense given the importance of proximity.

Let’s move on to the five ranking factors that will always be in your control.

Ranking Factor #2: Website Ranking

Second, on the list of importance is the ranking of your website.

Generally speaking, sites that rank in the top 3 of organic search also tend to rank in the top three of the map packs.

From my experience, this is for two reasons:

  1. If your site passes Google’s tests and ranks on organic search, it basically gets a free pass in Google’s eyes to rank in Google Maps.
  2. If you do the necessary SEO work to rank your website on organic search, it’s likely you also did the necessary SEO work to rank on Google Maps as well.

Make sense?

Ranking Factor #3: Citations

If backlinks are the votes of confidence that rank your website on Google search, then citations are the votes of confidence that rank your Google My Business on Google Maps.

What is a citation?

A Google citation is your business name, address, and phone number as Google sees it listed somewhere on the internet. Your name, address, and phone number is also known as a NAP.

Why is this important?

Straight from the mouth of Google, they list “prominence” as to how well-known a business is.

This is how well-known a business is in the offline world and the online world. Speaking of the online world, you can increase the prominence of your business by increasing the number of places on the internet it’s mentioned. A few different places can be links, article mentions, and directories.

As far as directories go, you’ll really want to get this one right by using your exact match NAP.

What Is A NAP And Why Is It Important?

As we mentioned, your NAP is your business name, address, and phone number, according to Google.

What does, according to Google mean?

Google considers your business name to be the exact name you use in your Google My Business profile. This is important because if you use any other variation, Google won’t recognize it. This is simply how they keep things organized and fair for the millions of businesses that use its platform.

For example, our business name is “Flying Lobo”, so naturally, we decided to use the same thing for our GMB profile.

This means that we have to use the name “Flying Lobo” on every directory listing on the internet.

This includes places like Facebook, Yelp, and Yellow Pages.

Even though names like “Flying Lobo LLC’ and “Flying Lobo Marketing” may seem acceptable, they’re not an exact match and won’t be recognized by Google.”

Your address has a bit more flexibility with commas and formatting, just make sure there aren’t any typos.

Your phone number also has room for a bit of flexibility regarding whether you use parenthesis around the area code like this (xxx) or if you use a dash-separator like this, xxx-xxx-xxxx.

Ranking Factor #4: Profile Optimization​​

If your business isn’t ranking as high as you’d like on Google My Business, one of the quickest improvements you can make is to optimize your profile.

By optimization, we basically just mean adding the correct information.

Another quick thing you can do is respond to any reviews customers have left.

Lastly, add as many photos as you can.

Don’t think you have enough photos? Think again, here are some ideas:

  • Photos of employees working, headshots, photos during company events, and doing just about anything work-related.
  • Photos of completed work
  • Photos of inside your office/storefront
  • Photos of outside your office/storefront

1. Correct Hours, Website, & NAP

This is what a searcher sees on the right of the search results when they google your business name. Make sure everything is correct from your address, phone number, and even website URL.

2. Accurate Service Area

If you own a service business and travel to your customers, Google will allow you to hide your address and instead create a service area. 

3. Photos... Lots of Photos

We like to aim for about 20 photos, but this benchmark won’t stop us from uploading literally hundreds of quality photos if a company has them.

This will increase your relevance in Google’s eyes and increase the comfort potential customers feel with your business. Remember, nowadays, a lot of the selling is done before you even interact with a customer in person.

Before a customer invites a stranger in their home to fix their plumbing or paint their kitchen, they’ll do their due diligence to see if you are trustworthy. A couple of places they’ll look include your social media profiles, your website, and your GMB profile.

March 2020 Update: Google is starting to crack down on GMB’s with spammy photos. We don’t know the specifics yet, but this probably will include stock images and photos that aren’t 100% unique to your business. This does NOT mean that Google will crack down on your GMB profile because you posted a bunch of iPhone photos.

Types Of Photos To Add

As you can see, it’s not that hard to whip up more than a few photos with the ideas we just shared above.

Ranking Factor #5: Google Reviews

This one surprises a lot of local business owners we work with. Not that it’s on the list, but that it’s not higher up.

In their mind, it should be the #1 ranking factor for businesses on both Google Maps and Google Search.

And you know what? They bring up a good point.

Unfortunately, Google doesn’t 100% see it that way.

In fact, we’ve ranked businesses #1 on Google Maps without receiving a single review. Ya, I know… It doesn’t really seem fair, but that’s just how the Google game is played.

Still, your reviews carry a good amount of weight. We say, “the more five-star reviews you have, the better.”

Reviews will help a bit with ranking, but they’re going to be the biggest driver of higher CTR’s to your website and the call button.

Here’s a decent example:

Ask yourself, “Which business are you calling?”

The #1 spot has a 5-star rating, but only one review. Although WHITNEY is #2, they only have a 2.5 rating. Lastly, you have a business at #3 with a 4.5 rating. Yes, this is less than a perfect 5, however, they have a whopping 123 reviews.

This is a perfect example of a business not ranking #1 on Google My Business but most likely receiving the majority of the calls and clicks.

Ranking Factor #6: 3rd-Party Reviews

In ranking factor #3, we talked about prominence. How many places around the internet are talking about your business? An important way Google calculates your relevance is through 3rd-party reviews on trustworthy sites.

A few of these sites include:

  • Facebook
  • Yelp
  • Home Advisor
  • Thumbtack
  • Yellow Pages
  • etc.

The more reviews you have on these 3rd party sites, the better in Google’s eyes.

Final Thoughts

In our minds, Google is the #1 way to grow a business and get more customers. Every second, millions of people across the world are searching for local businesses online. If your business doesn’t show up, there’s no other way to put it… You’re leaving money on the table.

If you find yourself in this situation, there’s good news.

Google has laid out the rules clearly and made ranking on its search engine doable for any business.

Check Out The Rest Of Our Local SEO Guide

Chapter 2:
Local SEO Ranking Factors

Chapter 4:
Pages Every Site Must Have

Dominate Your Local Market & Explode Your Lead Generation