NOTE: ***Before you dig into how to rank your business in Google Maps, there’s some required (okay, not required, but STRONGLY suggested) reading, in the form of our post on How To Get Your Business On Google Maps. Got it? Okay cool, moving on…***
We’ve previously discussed how to set up your business so it shows up on Google Maps when someone searches for you, but what if they don’t specifically type in your business name? If someone types in a search into maps to find a certain service nearby, you want to make sure you rank highly in the search results if they search for what your business provides.
Google uses several ranking factors for local SEO to decide what results are listed first, including proximity, industry categories, and more, which helps small businesses, in particular, to compete with the big guys. To get yourself on the coveted first page of the search results, we’re going to break down several strategies to improve your ranking in Google Maps.
Consistency? What? How can that be the first thing? I thought you just set your business up once in Google and then you’re done?
Sorry, but no, that’s incorrect! Do not pass go or collect $200. But if you want to bring in that money, keep reading.
To bring your business some truly killer local SEO and get way up to the tippy-top of those SERP rankings (including those in Maps), you are going to want to list your business everywhere. This includes having your own website, of course, as well as listing in local directories like Yelp, FourSquare, and others.
This is where consistency comes into play. Since your business will be listed in so many different places, you’ll need to make sure all of your information is consistent and accurate.
In particular, you should focus on your NAP across all platforms. NAP refers to Name, Address, and Phone. If your NAP is consistent, it means that these three items will be exactly the same everywhere your business is listed — exact being the keyword here, because any tiny variation will make Google think that you have listed a separate business.
Remember that search engines like Google are robots, so to Google, the Fred T. Wilson company, Fred T Wilson company, and Fred T. Wilson co., are three different businesses. See how subtle the differences are? That’s how consistent you need to be. EXACT!
Any inconsistencies will negatively impact your business, so make sure everything is accurate, everywhere, and you are ready to move on.
Complete Your Profile
To help boost your ranking in Google Maps, you’ll also want to go back and make sure you’ve filled out everything in your Google My Business profile.
This includes your business’:
- Phone number
- Cover image
- Website URL
As we mentioned above, you need to make sure the name you have on your Google My Business profile is exactly the same as it is listed on other online profiles such as Facebook and Yelp to keep things consistent. Likewise, you need your address and phone number to be accurate to your current location. If your business has relocated, you will need to dig through all of your various online profiles to make sure you update the address on every single page.
You’ll also want to add photos of the business and your logo so people can have some familiarity with you before they arrive. If you have photos, it also helps people find your business when they are using Google Maps for navigation because they will know what it looks like!
You should also choose the appropriate category for your business when you create your profile. You should choose the category that most specifically relates to the services your business provides, as well as the term you think people will use when they search for your business. Avoid the temptation to use multiple categories, however, as this may just end up hurting your ranking rather than helping it. You want to rank highly for one thing
Adding your hours is helpful simply to let your customers know when you are actually open for business, so you’ll want to make sure you make any updates to your profile should your hours change for any reason. Lastly, a link to your website is key to making sure traffic gets driven to your website, as well as right to your door.
The Verification Process
Google My Business will ask you to verify your business when you create or attempt to claim your profile. The verification process helps ensure that your information is accurate and that only you, the owner, has access to your profile. Unfortunately, this process can be a little tricky and a bit of a hassle, as your verification is most often sent in the mail — as in a postcard via snail mail.
This can take up to 5 days and you won’t be able to edit your business profile while you wait. Worse even is that the postcard is often mistaken for junk mail and thrown away.
Select businesses will qualify to be verified over the phone or by email, while some others may even be eligible for instant verification. Google has a post outlining the different ways to verify your business profile, so take a look and see which you qualify for as well as which would be the most convenient.
What If My Google My Business Profile Is Claimed & Verified?
In this case, you’re going to have to request access to own or manage the business profile. Once again, Google has provided an article that helps break down the procedure to request access to a Google My Business profile, and how long it takes/how much of a hassle it will be, depends on the level of access you are trying to gain. For instance, requesting ownership of a business profile will take longer to process than management.
Reviews are a powerful ranking factor that can help your business gain visibility in Google Maps. Users can actually type in their reviews right there in your Google Maps listing, and your other user reviews, as well as your star rating, will have a large effect on whether or not a person decides to visit your business.
Since a higher ranking and positive reviews will always yield a better ranking, you should do what you can to ensure your customers are having a good experience. This starts with your user experience online and includes your accuracy, customer service, the level of satisfaction with your services provided and more.
To bring in reviews and help your ranking, you can request them from your customers. Send requests to customers who have visited and joined an email list, made a purchase, or attended an event and ask them to leave a review outlining what they thought of you and your business.
You will most likely encounter negative reviews from time to time, and while they can be harmful, it’s actually your response to them that matters more. You should avoid taking negative reviews down or responding harshly. You’re much better off taking the high road and responding calmly to thank them for their feedback and offer to make up for their experience, as well as highlighting any positives available.
Featured posts are a newer feature to Google My Business that allows you to include more information about your business in the SERPs. You have several options for what you want to include in your featured posts, but they should be timely and include a strong call to action to draw traffic to your business.
Featured posts appear in the sidebar if the search is being conducted on a desktop, or will display above your listing in the SERP if the person is searching on a mobile device. These timely posts allow you to create specific messages with a longer word count, enabling you to add important information about any event or promotion that is currently happening at your business. You can even add images and a link in your call to action to direct them straight to the event or sale page, etc.
Since featured posts expire every week, you should create a content calendar to publish a new featured post every week that will align with any promotions you have going on. It’s not much work to deliver a message that speaks right to your target customer, letting them know you are paying attention.
You can also use your featured posts to gain orders online, gain leads and contact information, give your customers a freebie or access to an exclusive offer, entice them to enter a contest and more.
These tactics can help you bump your business show up higher in the rankings when a person does a search on Google Maps for the services you provide when they are in your local area. This can be a huge tool to drive people toward your business, so make sure you take advantage. After all, it’s all free!