Improving Your SEO For Google Maps Ranking
If you’ve taken a spin around Google in the last year, you know that local search results get promoted over organic search results. If someone is searching for, say, a barber in their area, they’re going to get a map and several listings before they even see the top spot in the organic search listings. Search for a specific business name and a knowledge card comes up on the right with lots of information.
Getting your business into those spots isn’t as easy as it may first appear. The problem is that the information for those listings is user-submitted. Google hates inaccurate and useless information in their listings, so it’s not just a matter of submitting your information to Google and hoping for the best. There are steps you can take to make Google consider your local business to be much more authoritative than it currently is. Here’s what you need to know.
Google My Business
Registering your business through Google MyBusiness is the first step to any of this. Unfortunately, if your business is an online-only business, you won’t be able to use this service. Sorry, work-from-home freelancers!
The site you need to go to is https://www.google.com/business/. The process is relatively simple. First, the business owner signs in with their Google account on the site. You’ll be taken to a map screen. Type in the name of your business in the box provided. Google may already have your information. It’s quite likely your business will pop up. Why this is we’ll get to in a minute. Assuming that someone hasn’t already claimed to be the owner of your business, you can make the claim yourself.
If you have multiple locations or someone has already claimed your business, Google’s help pages can guide you on your next steps.
The next step is to verify all of the information Google already has. Carefully verify all of the information and write down exactly what is listed there once it is correct. This will come in handy for a bit. Once you are sure that everything is correct, submit the information.
Google will then take you through a verification process to make sure that you’re the owner. There are several ways this can work. Most often, they will mail you a postcard at the address you put in there with a verification code. Once you submit the code, Google will make a listing for your business. You’ll be able to upload photos, put in hours, and all the other tidbits of information Google asks for. You should strive to fill this out as completely as possible.
However, even after verification it can take around three weeks for your information to show up on Google’s searches. Why? Google doesn’t trust user-submitted information and will try to verify it in other ways.
Data aggregators compile gigantic databases of information for verification and marketing purposes. Google is known to use at least four of these to cross-check the information you put in. The four data aggregators in the US that Google is known to check are Infogroup, Localeze, Factual, and Acxiom. If the information you provide doesn’t match what they have on file, your chances of getting a higher placement drop. In bad cases, it may prevent you from showing up at all.
These aggregators are how Google knew that you had a business in the first place when you put in the name. Sites like CitySearch, yellowpages.com, Yelp, and Superpages.com also pull info from these aggregators. If the data you submit doesn’t match what they have it must be corrected or you won’t get good local SEO placement. Localeze charges a small fee to view and update your listing. The others are currently free.
Take the information you wrote down when you submitted your Google information and cross-check it with the four aggregators. If necessary, change the information they have so that Google can see that what you gave them was accurate information. The closer the match, the better Google will trust your listing.
Ask for and respond to reviews
Once Google is comfortable with your submission and you can see your card, that’s the time to start getting people to review your business. Reviews are one of the ways that Google decides how to rank a company among other submitted companies in your local area. It’s not just the star rating, but also the number and how often you respond to the reviews. Activity in your review feed is a strong social signal and will push your placement higher.
The reviews need to be honest and, ideally, have more than just a star rating with no description. Manipulating your reviews can get you delisted.
Structured Data Markup
This is a technical improvement, but if you can grasp it you’ll have a powerful tool in your kit for SEO. Structured data markup is a way to tell search engines specific information about your company and what it is doing through snippets of code in your web pages. Google has gone all-in with this and uses it for many different purposes, including verifying that your website and your My Business information are linked. Thus, if you can get this set up correctly you can boost your organic SEO results.
In a nutshell, each piece of the code links something on the page with a particular type of data. Thus, a local business can tell the search engine that this is the name, these are the hours, this is the phone number, these are our reviews, etc. Google and other search engines can read that information directly and use it to improve their search results. Google has two tools that can help you start putting in structured data markup, though you will need to have some HTML savvy and access to the web page code to know where to put the information once you’re done.
Google has provided two tools to help you create structured data markup entries for your site. The structured data markup helper lets you load up a web page and highlight different parts of it to tag it with structured data entries. Once you’ve added the code snippets to your web page, you can verify what Google sees by using the structured data testing tool. For those who want to know more detail, Google has guides on structured data markup code.
To sum up, here are the things to check to improve your local SEO:
- Register your business with Google My Business if you haven’t already.
- Verify that all of the information in your entry is correct and all entries are filled that apply.
- Verify that the information you’ve submitted to Google matches the information that data aggregators have.
- Encourage your customers to leave Google reviews and make sure to respond to those reviews.
- Use structured data markup to tie your website to your My Business profile.
Once these are done, you’ll be in good shape. Keep working on your review profile and be sure to update your information when it changes. This will keep your ranking high and help make your business much easier to find.