So you want to show up in the maps result of a Google search? Showing up in the maps is difficult and sometimes very competitive (maps result shown below). This guide will walk you through the process of creating and maintaining your local Google+ Page so at least you have a chance.
Who qualifies for a Google My Business Account?
The business needs to be able to make in person contact with customers during its stated hours. This is Google’s definition for a local business and the first step to be considered for the maps.
Exception: ATMs, video-rental kiosks are permitted, but must include contact information.
Create a Local Google+ Account
First make sure you have an email address with Google.
Next navigate to Google my Business. Google my Business is the platform where you can manage all of your local Google listings.
Once logged in you will be directed to select a business type.
Choose A Business Type:
When setting up a company on Google, there are three types of businesses to choose from.
Storefront businesses have a physical location that customers can visit. (Coffee shop, restaurant, car repair shop, etc.)
Within Google my Business there is an option to select “I Serve Customers at my business address”. This should only be selected if you are OK displaying your full address, and having customers visit the location during your normal business owners.
Service area business are local, but visitors cannot visit the business at a physical address. (Plumber who operates from their home, taxi service, heating and air, etc.)
Within Google my Business there is an option to select “I Deliver goods and services to my customers at their location”. Only select this option if you travel to your customers within your service area.
If you are a business like a plumber, who operates out of your home and wishes to keep the address hidden, select the I deliver goods and services option.
Brand business types do not need to be local but also can not show up in the maps (online stores)
What if the business has a store front and a service area (like Pizza hut)?
Always choose the Service Area business type if the company offers a service area. Then, as shown below, you would select both the “I deliver goods and services to my customers at their location” and “I also serve customers at my business address.”
Google guidelines for addresses
- PO Boxes or mailboxes located at remote locations are not acceptable.
- If your business rents a temporary, “virtual” office at a different address from your primary business, do not create a page for that location unless it is staffed during your normal business hours.
Basically, if you want to hide an address, it needs to be your home. If the address is not your home address, a company representative needs to be able to meet with people at that location during your business hours.
Don’t use fake or filler addresses like 123456 Main Street, etc. These addresses are usually flagged and will impede your chances of showing up in the maps.
For example: A user could not go to a PO Box number during your business hours and talk with you about the business
After you select a business type, you will be directed to search for your business (to make sure it does not already exist)
You then fill in the important business information like name, address, and phone number.
Type in your exact business name, and more specifically how you refer to your business across the Internet and in the “real-world”. What name do your customers know you by? How is it listed on your website? Google wants to see that your business name is consistent across all platforms and media.
Does this name match with your company name on your website? Google auditors take a percentage of all created listings and compare them to the information on the website. This means your local listing needs to reflect the information found on your website. (If you need to change the information on your website to make things consistent, that’s okay. Just make sure you actually make the changes)
If you have an existing presence on the internet consider using this tool by Moz– to check the different variations of your business name across the internet. Then you can consolidate and make your business name consistent across the internet.
Business name tips:
Refrain from using keywords as part of your business name such as “Best SEO Provider: Boostability”. Google guidelines also states to leave off location data from your business name such as “Boostability- Salt Lake City”
Type in your exact street address. Google want to see consistency across the internet wherever you address appears. If you choose to show your address, make sure it is also on your website- exactly the same as you typed in.
Type in the full name of you city (do not abbreviate) and make sure the city also appears on your website.
Provide a local phone number that is listed on your website and connects your customer with your business as quick as possible.
Refrain from using 1800 numbers. These number generally take longer for the client to reach the desired party, and denote a national company as opposed to a local one.
Refrain from using call tracking numbers. The purpose of tracking phone numbers is to see where the phone calls are coming from or to track different lead sources. Lots of times these numbers will redirect to the actual business number. This usually creates a discrepancy between the Google+ number, the actual business phone number, and the phone number listed across your website.
Pick a category that most represents your business. This helps Google know when your Google+ page is relevant for certain keyword terms and topics.
When selecting categories, go in order and select the most relevant and overarching category first.
Stray from using custom categories. Google has a list of categories that it feels most businesses fall into and likewise what most people search for. You can pick up to 5 categories but make sure they all describe your business- with the most relevant category coming first.
Once the basic information is filled out and the profile is created you should finish optimizing the profile to make it complete.
After you create a business profile you will need to verify your listed business information. There are several ways to verify your information with the most common being a pin number sent to the provided address. The pin number is only good for 30 days. You can login to Google my Business to verify the pin number, once you have received it.
Click on “Manage Location” to
Verify your Business
If you were sent a pin number recently there is an option to input the pin number and verify the listing. If the Pin number has expired, you can click the “Verify Now” button and send another Pin number to your address.
You want to verify your website as soon as possible, because without it you are less likely to show up in the maps.
For select businesses there are two ways to instantly verify the business
1) You will see a verify by phone option, where you can get a text or an automated phone call with your pin number.
2) If you have already verified your website through Search Console you may be able to instantly verify the Google+ page as well.
Add hours of operation
Google is in the business of providing users with relevant and useful results. If the hours of operation are not listed or are wrong, it makes Google look bad.
Keep your hours of operation up to date on both your Google+ page and on your website. Google even allows you to schedule holiday hours of operation
Connect your website with your Google+ page. Once the website is added Google will try to verify the connection. Of course make sure the information listed on the profile is consisted with the information on your website.
If you click on the edit button you are able to expand on the information you have already submitted- included placing the pin, adding categories, and adding special hours.
Introduction: Give a brief and relevant description for your business. This will help Google determine what searches and services you should be relevant for. While there is no character limits in the introduction section, try to keep it brief and to the point.
In a conversational manner include your main “keyword/service” and service area at the beginning of the introductions. Something like “We are a Dallas plumber offering 24/7 service with a special focus on emergency repairs…
Refrain from stuffing or listing your services or keywords in the description. If Google thinks a description looks spammy, your listing could be penalized.
A good introduction will concisely explain what you offer, who you are, and most importantly help convert visitors when they find you on Google maps.
“NAP” is a common term used when talking about local listing consistency. It stands for Name, Address, and phone number- which we have already touched on. This Acronym should be expanded to “NAPI” to include images.
They say an image is worth a 1000 words. Images help visitors get to know your business better than most other information on your website will. For all intents and purposes images “are” a required part of a fully optimized listing, and give you the best chance of being found and visited by potential customers.
At the top, under identity photos, there are three important images to add. If you only have three photos, the most important are a picture of your storefront, logo, and your team.
Profile Image: This image is the circular image that shows up on your Google+ page next to your business name. It is also the image the usually shows up on the top left hand side snippet of Google+ when people are looking for your business. Try choosing an image of a storefront as your profile image.
Logo Image: Add your logo to help customers identify your business.
Cover Photo: This image is the large rectangular background on your Google plus page.
What to Do after Creation
Google is in the business of providing results that people want to see. While not a direct correlation with top rankings, having more reviews (compared to your competition) will give your Google+ page a better chance of showing up at the top.
The reviews are prominently displayed and entice users to visit your website to find out more.
If you provided good service, went above or beyond, or your clients seem genuinely happy with your company, don’t be afraid to ask for a review. (Side Note: Do not promise money or compensation for a positive review)
Occasionally post on your Google+ page
Posting to your page about your brand and business, will help you connect with your customers, but also let Google know that you have an updated profile.
Create a custom Business URL
Instead of a long string of numbers for your Google+ URL, create a branded URL relevant to your business.
To do this, navigate to your Google plus page as a user would (be logged in). Click on the About tab of your Google plus page. If you are eligible and everything is set up there will be a link to “Get URL”. This is where you can set your custom URL.
Work on your website
After the Pigeon update, Google maps results were influenced by more traditional SEO ranking factors including the authority and relevance of your website. Make sure the information on your website is consistent with your Google+ page. Important information like your name, address, and phone number should be included on every page.
Google wants to provide the best results to users, and having a poor, irrelevant or inconsistent website gives Google mixed signals about your business and does not instill confidence.
Work on building up the authority of your website (through backlinks). The more authority a website has (the more popular it is), the more likely a user would be interested in visiting your website and, likewise, the more likely Google would be willing to show your local listing to visitors.
Build consistent external local citations.
Just as your business information needs to be consistent on your website, build up other local citations with consistent information.
This further lets Google know that your business is legitimate.
Follow these practices in setting up and maintaining your profile and you are well on your way to ranking in the maps section of a Google search.
How should I set up my service area?
When editing your address there is an option to select the areas that you deliver to or service.
This can be done in one of several ways including, by service radius, cities, zip codes, or even by counties. Make sure that you can service people within whatever service area you select.
Adding this service area is important because it, at the very least, lets Google know what areas you are willing to service, and gives you the chance to show up in a maps results within the service area.
While there are multiple ways to set a service area the most recommended method is setting a mileage service area that is attached to a city (the location city of your business).
However there are exceptions to the rule, like if you service select cities that can’t be encompassed by a service area (like two cities on an island). Or if you are a real estate agent or similar business, you could consider targeting by county.
As you can see (in the below picture) there is a circle highlighting my service area. This highlighted area shows up when I select the service radius of my business.
Can I show up outside of my physical location?
Just because you have selected a large service area in hopes of targeting a larger demographic or city, does not mean you will show up in the entire service area. In fact, showing up and ranking outside of your location city can be very difficult.
Here are 4 points to consider when trying to show up in cities outside of your own.
- Increase current city rankings
Most of the time there are more opportunities to explore and traffic to be had in your current city. Corning the market in a smaller city will always bring more traffic than no rankings in a big city.
Only 3 maps results show up on the first page of a Google search. While traveling 10-15 miles may not seem like a lot, it is, if the consumer passes several of your competition on their way. Because a consumer is unlikely to travel farther for a similar business, Google is equally unlikely to rank a business in the maps that is located farther away.
You can look at your competition by typing in the service you are trying to rank for together with the location you want to rank for. In this case “Plumber Lehi Utah”. Because there are numerous competitors located in Lehi, it is unlikely a business located outside of this physical area would show up in a Google maps results.
People are willing to travel further for a specialized service, and Google more likely to rank as well. For example, if I switch the search to “24/7 plumber Lehi Utah” the competition decreases significantly.
If you want to rank ahead of your competitors but are located farther away, then you need to specialize. What makes you different?
- Location Page
Google looks at more traditional SEO ranking factors, like authority and relevance when determining what companies show up in a local maps result.
To better increase your chances of showing up in another city, you could create a unique page on your website specific to the new city you are trying to target.
If you have multiple listings created for the same business or past businesses, you first will want to try and get all the listings under one set of logins. (This can be done through requesting access or claim the profile).
Once the business listings are under one set of logins, unfortunately, there is no way to merge listings. However, to make sure business information is consistent, it is most beneficial to have one verified listing per location or business.
If a Google + page is deleted from your logins, it a lot of time will not actually delete the listing as much as just unverified it. To insure a better chance of deletion, gut the listing: including categories, description, photos etc and then delete it.
If you still see old listings show up after you have deleted them, the next best option is to call Google every couple of weeks until it has been deleted. (Sometimes this process can take up to a year)
Changed your address
Every once in a while a business might move and need to change their address.
To change the address for a Google listing is pretty easy. Once you are logged in you can manage your listing and edit the address. After you have changed the address, Google will again want to verify your address, most likely though a pin mailed to your new location.
Like with setting up a new account, you need to input the pin number to finish verifying the listing.
It is very important to have the same address listed on your website as is listed on your Google page. As soon as you change the address (if you want it visible to the public) also change the address on your website.
Site Note: Google looks for location consistency not only on your website but also other local listings you have created. After you move your business location, make sure other listings like on Yelp, Yahoo, or Bing or also updated.
Pin in the wrong location
Having a properly placed pin is important, as it influences your service area and the clients you can service. Plus it doesn’t make sense, and can effect rankings, to have a pin in an unrealistic place like in a lake or the ocean.
In the same tab where you edit your address you can also set your marker location to most accurately reflect where you are located.