Just recently, the MozCast showed turbulence in the Google algorithm that many in the SEO community suspected was a search update (the first line in the article even mentions that the week prior to this update, there were reports of a different update!). The Google search algorithm is an ever-moving target. These last few reported updates are considered minor but when the “big one” hit like it did in September 2016 with Penguin 4.0, then you have to be on top of your game.
At the end of 2016, Google announced they were experimenting with mobile-first indexing. This means Google will soon primarily get their data from mobile sites as opposed to from desktop data, which was their main source in past years.
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Small Business owners and managers are becoming obsessed about the Letter A Google Maps ranking. As they should be. This is a trend our marketing guru found back in 2015 and now many people have caught on to. Google’s latest numbers show that 63% of all searches have local business intent, and what’s even more powerful is that 79% of local searches resulted in off line purchases. Not only that, but this past year (2016), more searches were done on mobile phones than desktop computers. What this means is that the brick and mortar business is still critical to the buyer experience when paired with the right digital marketing to be found by buyers searching online. And why the competition for Google Maps rankings is getting fierce.
Google displays their top search results from Google Maps business listings on a small map above their organic search results. This map only shows the top 3 ranked Google Maps business listings and rankings are calculated differently than your organic search results. These 3 spots have been given the letters A, B, or C – and is sometimes referred to as the “3 pack”. Creating a premium value for rankings of the letters A, B, or C. If you’re a local business in the 3 pack, you get a premium placement on the front page of Google for local searches relevant to your business. When you’re ranked in the 3 Pack, and also ranked at the top of Google’s organic search results – you create instant authority and credibility. If you’re ranked letter D (#4) or beyond, then a user won’t see you without additional clicks from the user to find you.
Here’s a screenshot of the 3 pack (letter A, B, & C) Google Maps rankings on both mobile devices and desktop computers:
As you can see, only the top 3 (letters A, B, & C) rankings are showing in Google Maps local search results. Also, notice, Google gives their users the opportunity to visit your website, find directions to your business, and call you – directly from their Google Maps Results. For many service type businesses, ranking in Google Maps can be just as good as, if not better than, ranking number 1 in the search results.
Optimize Your Google Maps Rankings:
The first thing you must do is to create and verify your Google Maps business page. You want Google to have your most up-to-date business information: Name, Address, Phone Number, etc. To help get you started, here are a few tips to help your business rank higher in Google Maps in 2016.
Verify Your Google Business Page
The first step for any local business to ranking in the Google Maps is to add and verify your business in Google My Business.
Visit https://www.google.com/business/ and click “Get on Google”.
Select or create the Google account you want to use and sign in.
Search for your business in the prompted area by name and address.
Once you have found or created your correct business location and type, click on it.
Google will now create your Google + page with your address you inputted. Check “I am authorized to manage this business” and click continue.
Google will need you to verify your business so click on “Mail me my Code”. Your code will be sent to your business location.
Congratulations! You now have Google My Business set up for your business!
Here’s some tips to keep in mind as you set up your Google My Business page:
To Optimize your results, you want your Title to include important information about your business. For example, if you are a Dentist in Phoenix, then include search terms such as “Dentist, Dental, Phoenix, etc” in the title of your Google business page. Google recognizes these modifiers in your title. Now be careful, if you overuse / abuse the use of modifiers, which means you stuff your title with keyword phrases, then Google will penalize that. Google wants the most natural and authentic results.
Your Description should be supportive of your Title. You don’t need to repeat the same terms you use in your Title, instead, use related or similar terms so your listing is associated with as many relevant search terms as possible.
Make sure your primary category is the most relevant category for your business. One way to know the best category to choose for your business is to look at who are currently the top ranked businesses in Google Maps. For example, search your targeted keyword phrase in Google (i.e. ‘dentist phoenix’), all of the dentists that are ranked letters A, B, and C use the category dentist:
To find this information you can search for the phrases you want to be found for on Google Maps. When you click on a business listing from the left-hand side (i.e. Risas Dental & Braces – Phoenix Central), their information will appear on the left-hand side. You’ll now see all of their information.
Get Your NAP (Name, Address, Phone) in authority sources across the internet:
Your business NAP is an acronym for your business name, address, and phone number:
• N = Business Name
• A = Business Address
• P = Business Phone number
The NAP of your business also references what are called citations.
Just like you cite a reference in a high school English report, you can cite your NAP across the internet in ways that add relevance and legitimacy to your business location, and your Google Map.
The internet is a popularity contest. The more authority sources where your Name, Address, and Phone Number appear – the more powerful your business is to Google – which helps in your maps rankings.
For a definition of citation:
Citations are references to your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) that are published on external websites and directories.
The key to NAP’s and citations are that search engines such as Google use citations to determine the accuracy and relevance of your business information.
Authority sources for citations:
Schema Markups are codes that you can add to your website:
Schema language is a way to place important details about who you are into the code of your site – which then search engines read and understand. Schema is called structured data and is sponsored by Google, Yahoo, Yandex, Bing, and more to make it easier to determine certain things (datasets) within web pages. These schema enhance important data sets within web pages that search engines can quickly identify and use to help them understand what a website is about. Many of which are relevant when it comes to local SEO.
The above example of a schema data set is called “Organization”, we would also use the schema “LocalBusiness” that both include NAP information that will tie your website to your map, and also to your other properties such as Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, and Google Plus. Now you’ve provided a direct source of information to Google Maps that contains your Name, Address, Phone number, and more.
There are many other Schema or direct data sets that you can use in your web pages, depending on your type of business. For our purposes of Google Maps rankings, however, I just wanted to make you aware of their existence. If you want to look further into Schemas you can click this link to view the full hierarchy of Schemas for your business.
Directory and Other Niche Specific Sites:
Networking and content creation is a part of nearly all business. If you can find directory sites for your business niche or can create a piece of content that a website editor wants to feature on their site; you can place a citation to your site/map on a powerful source. A directory will have many businesses featured, but it is a good way to get a citation for your business and contact information. If a dentist can get an article or piece of content published on a local website about health, they may be able to get their Google map embedded at the end of the article for an extremely powerful authority source for that map.
Lastly, I want to explain a trouble shooting measure that will cause problems for your Google Maps rankings if you don’t clean this up: citation consistency and removing volatility. The reason your Google My Business Name, Address, and Phone Number is so important for your rankings in Google Maps local search results (and organic search results) is because if you’re not consistent across the internet, your rankings can suffer drop due to volatility.
Volatility With NAP Citations
You create volatility with your NAP citations whenever you have many variations of your address listed across the web. Here’s an example.
This is what you call an NAP and a citation. The NAP is the business information, and the citation is the result of the NAP being published here in this article.
Let’s say I have 10 different directories that list my business the way you see it above. But then let’s say there are 50 other directories or websites that publish my NAP in varying ways. For example, some of the NAP’s use a home address from my early days “1234 Not Good Lane” is found instead of “1202 E Maryland Ave #2d”. Or, “SEO Phoenix” shows up in some directory sites instead of “Search Explosion”. Some NAP’s may use “Suite 2d” instead of “#2d”, while this is a slight variation – many of these may affect you for a competitive term. These variations in the presentation of the NAP can create a lot of volatility. You want to be consistent across the internet so you record as many citations as possible, and they’re all referencing the same thing.
To check for you volatility, you can perform an analysis of all the sites where you have citations published.
Do a search for just your business address – for example I would type ‘1202 E Maryland Ave #2d, phoenix’ (without quotes) into the search bar.
Start going down through the search results and identify all of the places where you have a citation.
As you identify each source for your citations, go to those websites to see which ones you can easily update. Some of the sources may require to create a free account and claim your business. While others might require you to contact the website directly in order to request the update. Regardless of the workflow involved, it is well worth your time to go through and start the process of cleaning up your NAP citations.
For every citation that you clean up by making them consistent with your Google business page (yes, your Google business page is the base citation that all others need to match), you will be removing a lot of volatility from your overall citation portfolio.
If that seems like too much work you can always call us here at Search Explosion to do it for you. Or, use a service such as MOZ Local, Marketer’s Center, or Yext. Both represent an automated solution to what is the ultimate end objective – removing volatility from your local citations in order to rank higher in Google Maps.
You want to compete for as much business as possible, and you want to be found by users who need your goods and services. For this, you want to improve your rankings in the Google Maps search results. Take the time to focus on the details of your business information and create the foundation necessary to compete for the top rankings. Fill out your Google My Business as much as possible, upload high quality photos, a great description, and most importantly ensure you select the correct primary business category. Don’t forget to work on your Google reviews.
Once your Google My Business page is right, get your site right with schema and even place your google map on your contact page with NAP. Then you want to create citations and avoid volatility by keeping your details consistent. When your listing is right, your page is right, and you create the authority and relevance through citations – you’re 3 Pack worthy. Good luck.
Got questions about Google Maps Rankings?
If you have questions about local SEO for your business, call us today at (480) 351-2202. We’d be more than happy to talk about and review the local SEO strategy for your business
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