Crack the Google Maps Code: Proven Strategies for Higher Rankings

I asked the SEO experts at one of the best SEO companies in Troy, Michigan how to rank high on Google Map. Here’s what the experts are saying:

Google Maps ranking factors

You may have a website for your business and a Google Business Listing, but have you given any attention to your presence on Google Maps? Google Maps has factors it takes into consideration to calculate rankings. These are called local ranking factors. These factors are influenced by such factors as your business location, and the location of where the searcher is currently located.  Google has laid out  three main local ranking factors. They are Relevance, Distance and Prominence. Let’s take a look at each one of these in turn.

The Vicinity Update

In December 2021, Google confirmed they rolled out a massive local engine update. That Vicinity update became the biggest local search algorithm update in the last five years and heavily shifted the balance of the three core ranking factors. In particular, the distance factor started playing a far more important role than it used to. For example, before the update, the listings that were better optimized could easily outperform those that were actually closer to the searcher. As for now, this is hardly possible.

Together with the Vicinity update, Google has started testing the new local pack layout in SERPs. So you may come across a wider block with its map on the right and the three local Let’s take a closer look at how the Vicinity update affected each local SEO ranking factor.

Relevance factor

Relevance is probably the easiest factor to explain. It is how relevant a business is to the query. And while for quite some time in many niches relevance used to get down to simply having an exact match keyword in your business name, the power of this factor was diminished by the recent update. As for now, it’s the category and subcategories of your business listing that seem to matter.

Distance factor

Distance is probably the only factor you can not influence. You are where you are, and you can neither move your business nor make users search for it from a certain spot. 

The Vicinity update heavily increased the importance of distance. Even a poorly filled-out listing can rank if it is located close to the searcher.

Why is this possible? Because Google is trying to show users the closest places without making them walk too far to the desired destination. All for the sake of people’s comfort. As one of the best SEO companies in Troy, Michigan, we pay close attention to our local SEO to get referrals from local businesses.

Prominence factor

Now comes prominence, the most difficult and extremely important ranking factor to pin down. The Vicinity update has had some impact here, too. 

Google’s documentation claims prominence is based on how well-known a business is, both offline and online. So your company’s website organic positions, GMB reviews, ratings, and backlinks are all counted towards your prominence in Google Maps. 212 Creative, LLC is one of the best SEO companies in Troy, Michigan and we consider all of these factors in all of our SEO campaigns.

The power of prominence is clearly seen if you search for a place in a location different from your current one. I just did a quick search to find gelato near our office in Troy, Michigan.  

All the results on Google Maps had high ratings, from 4.6-4.9, but the first place had 974 reviews, the second location had the next highest amount of ratings, at 111  and the third one has been reviewed 105 times. The correlation is quite obvious. They were all in the same basic location, but Google listed them on the Maps search bar in order of the number of positive reviews and overall ranking

How to increase Google Map rankings

1. Make sure to add your business to Google Maps

To rank on Google Maps, you first have to make sure your business is listed on Google Maps. To do this, you need to go to Google Maps and type your business name into the search bar.

If there’s no information about your business yet, use the Add a missing place option.

A window will pop up, offering you to fill out the basic business information like the open hours, category, and location. Once you’re done, click Send. Your application will get reviewed and approved, and you’ll get an email notification.

2. Create a Google Business Listing 

Technically, you don’t really need a GBL listing to rank on Google Maps, but if you are looking to appear in local searches, we believe you absolutely need a GBL listing.  We look at the GBL as almost a second website.  If you want to create a GBL listing, you can do it right from Google Maps. To do this, click Claim this business in the Maps pop-up.

This action will immediately take you to the Google Business Listing Profile page, where you can fill out your listing, providing details and information about your company.

As for the optimization of the GBL listing, the rule is simple: carefully fill out every line and section you see. Or check our comprehensive article on Google Business Listings.

Your business name must be exactly like your actual legal name without any additional keywords or phrases, like “Best Texas Barbecue” when your business name is just “Texas Barbecue”.

3. Get more reviews

Positive reviews definitely impact your position on Google Maps and getting into the local pack during searches. To get reviews, first and foremost, you can encourage your clients to leave reviews. We do this by sending an email with a link to the Google Review page to all of our clients. You could also launch a campaign on social media and offer a discount. For more ideas, check out our comprehensive article on getting Google Reviews. In general, the more reviews you have, the better, especially if the reviews contain keywords relevant to your SEO campaign.

4. Optimize your website

Although technically you don’t need a website to appear on Google Maps, neglecting organic SEO can harm your Google Maps performance, as there’s a strong correlation between organic traffic and growing positions in the local pack. Here are some ideas to optimize your website for local traffic. As best SEO companies in Troy, Michigan, we always optimize each one of our custom websites for multiple devices.

Add local keywords

To boost your local positions, enrich your website with local keywords. These are the keywords that let Google see your relevance to a certain location. 

In most cases, you can simply add the name of the location you operate in to your landing pages. For example, use New York best coffee instead of just best coffee. Also, you might want to try optimizing the near me keywords

If you operate in several different locations, consider creating different local landing pages and optimize each for relevant local keywords — these may be names of nearby sites and attractions, cities, etc

Embed a Google map

Adding Google Maps right on your website is another way to let Google connect your business with the location. In particular, you can point out the directions to your location from the most popular nearby places — it may be an airport, railway station, local attractions, etc.

Keep in mind that the Google Maps API is not free for heavy usage, but for most businesses, it is very inexpensive. Still, adding Google Maps on your About and Contact pages is absolutely viable. Just create a billing account with Google Cloud Platform to get a $200 credit on Google Maps API every month.  You won’t be charged unless the usage exceeds these $200, which probably won’t happen to you unless you have thousands of visitors a month to your website.

Make your website responsive

A majority of people, myself included, use their phones to search and research a product or business. You have to make sure that your website is responsive, meaning that it functions consistently across any device or screen size. As Google Maps business listings contain a link to your website and nearly 60% of Google searches occur on mobile devices, having a responsive website goes without saying.

Update NAP citations

This is an easy, but often overlooked, SEO strategy.  Make sure your company Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP) is perfectly, meticulously consistent in your website, your GBL, Google Maps, and all of your social media outlets.  The more consistent these details are across your business mentions on the internet, the more confident Google is about your business

If you need help getting your GMB page or Google Maps listing set up, or any assistance with your current SEO campaign, check out one of the best SEO companies in Troy:  212

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