|How To Get My Business To Show Up As A Map In Google SERPs|
Maps at the top of Google's SERPs
Nearly every Google search result with the name of a town now seems to have about 1-3 'local' businesses showing up at the top of the SERPs next to a map, with their address and phone number.
I'm guessing it has sopmething to do with Google Maps, but I can't work out how it works.
Would anyone be kind enough to let me know how these lucky businesses manage to get into this set of results?
OK, I found out how to do this, so I'll chnage the question slightly. Has anyone found that this has helped their business in any way? Have you received any enquiries and have these been mainly via your phone number, or has it increased visitors to your website?
Business listing has a downside bad reviews by competitors and top reviews by friends
Well, as a user I can say that I love it when I see a business that I am searching for with its phone number and address. I have often called that number for more information (e.g. make a reservation at a restaurant) and printed the map before leaving home. I have seen that if I am making a more generic search (pizza brooklyn) I end up choosing a business with the map and phone #
I've gotten business from my Google business directory listing.
When I ran my ecommerce store I had a local business map listing. The only problem was that I was Internet only (from my house) and started getting phone calls asking where my business was, how late we were open, etc. I had to write in and get my business taken off.
How did you get your business to show up?
How did you get your business to show up?
I was curious too, would you be willing to offer your insight?
I haven't actually seen it show up yet to be honest, but I just followed the link to Google Maps and then (I think) I signed into my Google account and registered there.
If you look at the detail of a business, there is a link there to add you business.
Wish I knew how it worked then I could stop it.
In my spare time I run a site for a community group. One page has a list of contacts with postal addresses and G now gives a map to the chairman's home on certain searches.
Of course we get nothing like this on our events page where we actually want people to go to a location and pay us money!
The one-box results up at the top are often different from Google Maps results, though there are often some similarities. They generally don't correspond to the algorithmic results in the broader Google index.
You should get your business listed in Google Maps....
Google Local Business Center
Help customers find you on Google Maps
You should also note where Google appears to be getting its data, and try to get listings in local sources Google uses. Make sure your local data is consistent across various directories, etc, in which you are listed.
Factors affecting rankings, and even the scope of the map, appear to vary depending on the nature of the business types searched. Google has improved over its initial "distance from the center of the zip code" approach to rankings, eg, but location is an inevitable consideration. Local review sites appear to be a big factor in many searches. Google also appears to be buying data from human edited sources like Zagat, which might conceivably be less prone to manipulation than local discussion groups.
Both the one box and the Google Maps algorithm have been evolving over time and some of the most interesting discussions about search I've read in the past few years have appeared in the WebmasterWorld Local Search Forum [webmasterworld.com].
Here's one of my favorite local search discussions, from three years back....
User Reviews and Local Search Optimization
i was guessing before that businesses who are registerd in that place's business directory like in the yellow pages would show on on those positions.
I've got an indented listing for a site that has a link to the maps, but I didn't do anything at all to get it.
One day I was checking my ranking and found myself listed as a business. I was affiliated with (part of) the business, but not the business itself.
Since I hadn't put it there, I figured G just made its best guess to fill in the blank if no one had signed up as "Widget Store, Suburbia, USA". I hold the top organic listing, so I guess G just plugged me into the business spot.
Since then, G has decided to put the corporate site in that spot. Very odd, since the local business does have a web site. (And they've refused my offer to help get them ranked. Oh well.)
I have received business from being in the top rankings, but not sure whether or not being in the business listings made a difference. The main office has probably received some calls, but they wouldn't know where the calls came from. I think they're oblivious.
Google's "Local Business Results" have seriously hurt my business. In the past, the most I had to worry about was having 2-3 sponsored listings appear above my site. At one time, I become the top sponsored result, but noticed that only 10% of people doing searches clicked on my ad. That wasn't a significant number of clicks, especially considering some might have been from competitors, so I pulled my sponsored listing.
But once Google implemented the local business results, local business plummeted. Now I've got to deal with two sponsored results, and three local competitors (with no SEO) with their phone numbers visible. My site is listed on the map and additional results if you click on "more results" (which no one will), but I'm towards the bottom of the list. What's worse is that some potential clients assume that the local results suggest that my competitors have better SEO skills since they "outrank" me.
Its frustrating to lose money to competitors who have no knowledge of SEO, I'm convinced that the whole thing is a scam by Google just to encourage more spending on Adwords. Since Google introduced this features, has no one figured out how to improve one's chances of showing up?
Google Maps being inserted into organic google serps has a significant and definite impact on traffic and awareness of local businesses.
During most of this year Google has been experimenting and changing some aspects of maps. Sometimes the map will show at the top of the search page, other times, contingent on its evaluation of sites and serps (according to Google) it adjusts the placement of maps and drops its appearance under a couple of organic searches.
One can advertise specifically within google maps.
First, one needs to enter their data in the google business center as outlined above. That is critical. I'd also enter data in the Yahoo Local business center (or whatever it is called).
One other thing is to generate a wide variety of related terms for your business service within its region/city/town/state. Use variations on the main term(s) i.e. stemming and different terms for the main business service within your site for your services; ie. tennis racquets, tennis supplies, tennis store, tennis shop, tennis stringing etc with your town/city/geography.
Sometimes google's maps algo is way off for variations on terms.
For instance for advertising agency in any city Google maps lists actual agencies; for advertising agencies it has totally bad results and in some cases isn't injecting maps into the serps.
Moderator's note: I'm allowing the above limited references to specific search terms in this post only, to illustrate principles involved in local targeting, which are not all that different from SEO targeting in general, except that location is also involved.
[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 7:24 pm (utc) on Nov. 19, 2007]
[edit reason] removed some specifics [/edit]
1. The reference to variations on a search term in the above was made to point to an example of "getting around" or sidestepping the impact of google maps within normal search.
For certain business services/products for a location....google maps will be inserted into the serps, typically at the top of the page, but sometimes underneath the top 3 or so results.
At times, for secondary terms terms for the local business/service Google doesn't insert Google Maps into the organic results.
In this regard it is wise to use keyword expansion to hopefully catch as much traffic as possible for one's product service in an area, but also as a way to avoid the impact of a google maps insertion into organici searches.
That is not a way to get high rankings within Google Maps but simply an alternative to get organic results that might not be affected by a google maps insertion.
2. DXL, I found it extremely interesting to hear that while even tho your site can be found within google maps (but is not found in the top 3), it doesn't generate calls. That REALLY emphasizes the importance of high Maps placement (top 3) versus just being within Maps.
3. There are some elements that might affect Maps algos, besides distance from the city center point.
I'm testing this with others, but I'd suggest getting reviews on sites like Yelp, and/or important references to your site from local or topical sites.
[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 8:08 pm (utc) on Nov. 19, 2007]
The three top results in the local results were businesses clustered at the heart of my city's downtown area, the further you are from downtown, the further down you go on the list.
It's worth wondering if someone can simply get a PO Box at a downtown Post Office and get bumped up the results by virtue of your business mailing address.
|The three top results in the local results were businesses clustered at the heart of my city's downtown area, the further you are from downtown, the further down you go on the list. |
This has been a problem with Google Maps, but they're getting better at breaking this mold.
In a city known for its gourmet food, I'm seeing [cityname pizza], eg, going to a wider map, with top results for the most popular pizza places in various trendy neighborhoods around town. None of them is downtown.
In some cases, but not always, top results have to do with user ratings and what listings they've gotten in sources Google trusts. Local sources seem to carry extra weight for some categories.
In the social area, Google (and others) have definitely been thinking about portable reputations, and I don't doubt something similar would eventually be applied to local.
One person with familiarity with how the data sources work that supplied the bulk of Google Maps data on businesses suggested "getting" an address as close to a city center point as possible. Possibly that would work. You would need to reenter your information in G business center. I have yet to see a report on that working. Its not a bad idea.
You should review the patent info on G maps. There are a number of characteristics or influences that seem to have an effect on G maps rankings such as distance, reviews, "citation sources". In one case we saw a google maps search for "gun shops cityname" show a link to a Boy/Girl Scouts website show up. We believe it was because of the strength of the "citation"/link.
If not in the central location I'd look hard at getting local/topical strong citations and reviews. They seem to have a strong impact beyond distance from a central point.
[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 12:51 am (utc) on Nov. 20, 2007]
[edit reason] removed specifics, incl city name [/edit]
|It's worth wondering if someone can simply get a PO Box at a downtown Post Office and get bumped up the results by virtue of your business mailing address. |
You wouldn't want to use a PO Box. You'd want a maildrop street address.
You'd also need to be consistent across the entire web, because Google can easily compare data. Even unintentional inconsistencies can cause listing problems, so for local you want to "cleanse" your data, as it's called. There are services that do this.
If the maildrop address is fake and you have an actual physical presence somewhere else, then you create another problem for yourself... ie, your customers won't be able to find you via the web.
I gotta agree with Robert on the suggestion above. You want to be consistent with regard to Google Maps. Also, the Google business center seems to be having problems with making changes to a business listing. I suggest being careful.
With regard to one business we operate we are contemplating a limited relocation of certain services simply to take advantage of this focus on being centrally located. Not sure about it though, for as Robert referenced, not only could Google get our information wrong but our customers and potential customers could get it wrong.
Some recent news from Google suggests that the factors for ranking in Maps/Local will rely much more on external factors (reviews, etc) so the rules for getting into the 'onebox' (the 3 results that are seen following a local search on Google) may continue to change rapidly (and not look straightforward) so understanding the basics of geography and categorisation is important to give the small business a chance..
I've been paying more attention to the UK results, but if my experience is anything to go by Google is getting more aggressive with the number of matches that trigger the onebox results. Clearly this means understanding the way they work will become more important.
It used to be just major cities coupled with well defined category names that triggered the onebox, as time has passed Google seems to be allowing more matches to happen on different geographical and categorical terms.
This area is changing rapidly and I've seen results that suggest Google has a good grasp of what terms are being searched for when looking for particular business types (possibly it's the other way around, with data extracted from advertisers' keywords as they will know the general classification of a business through the data they purchased from Yellow Pages companies).
Now that Google knows the terms that people want to show adverts for it makes sense to show local results that match those broad categories, expect to see quite clever matching popping up more frequently.
What does this mean for the small business owner?
The other side of the matching equation, once Google knows what the searcher wants is to match that with suitable businesses. This is where having consistent, correct information is vital. Google does use review data and does match pages on trusted sites to business listings, meaning if you can control what is shown on the major local sites when they list your business (be that in a list of businesses or on an individual page about your business) then you stand a better chance of gaining business. You can probably influence the type of business you get from Google Maps/Local by ensuring you have both the broad category name and your target keyword/s in your public business listings. There are numerous services that are cropping up making it easy for business owners to update their details across many Yellow Pages/Local Search sites, expect these to be heavily influential to Google.
As for the geographical side, that's moving fast too. There are many different ways to pinpoint location and many of them do not mean the centre of a city will be the starting point for the results (ignoring the other external factors influencing position for a moment). Think about these US geo data points:
state name (very wide)
phone area code (often very wide)
county name (quite wide to very wide)
city name (suggests 'central' coordinates)
neighbourhood name (difficult to define)
street name (can be long)
zip code (quite accurate)
full address (very accurate)
full business name (very accurate)
business phone number (very accurate)
What does this mean?
It means that Google may use different starting points for who they are going to match for a search. If you do a search for 'City Service' then the external ranking factors will mean it may not be the closest to the centre of that city that come up, but the featured businesses should be quite close to the centre (close to the centre by distance changes depending on how many businesses there are of that type in a place). If you search by zip code (and if a result comes up for that) then Google is more inclined to pick businesses close to those coordinates but again can be overridden by good external ranking factors. Make sure your geographical pointers are correct and all there.
What else is changing?
Just this week Google announced that they will allow the general public (registered users) to correct the coordinates of individual addresses (that's about as local as things get). The importance of this is that individual addresses in the US are calculated by extrapolating the difference between block corners so an address that is numerically between the two corner addresses is estimated to be half way between the two coordinates, this is often not the case and when dealing with individual addresses (and the photos Google has been taking at street level) it's a problem.
The fact they are letting the public do the legwork suggests that they are happy for some degree of errors or gaming to get into the system (although it should not be difficult for them to control most blatant gaming attempts as most updates should be between 2 defined points).
It's all change at Google Maps/Local and I think they are putting more emphasis on it as it's an area for growth. Local is a huge potential revenue earner, but it's costly to sell to local businesses so it's understand able that Google should have been concentrating on non-geo search before. Now they can see that they are dominant in the non-geo it's clear they are going to get more aggressive. Local companies that have already caught on to the possibilities of local search are often earning massive ROI, and why not when you can get super-targeted leads for a few cents.
Will Google change the local landscape?
Yes! Now is the time for the 'mom and pop' businesses to get involved, it's what Google wants - Google really want to cut out the middlemen and deal directly with the local businesses, they will make it easier and easier for small businesses to spend their small budgets online. I believe the only middlemen that Google will be happy with in 5 to 10 years are those that help small businesses spend money with Google, squeezing of Yellow Pages companies and Directories will happen and only the strong will remain. If you are looking at Local Search from the perspective of a developer then it's time to think of how you can help small businesses advertise on the eventual 'winners' rather than trying too hard to oust Google Maps/Local, that ship has probably sailed.
I think one of the biggest flaws, as regards small businesses, is that this being so office-location-based, as opposed to business-area focussed.
My offices are on the ouskirts of the city I live in. But my business is focussed in the central business district (CBD).
Why don't I have an office in the CDB? Because it's expensive and also irrelevent to my business. I am not a hardware store owner or a restauranteur. When potential clients search for Widget consultants in ExampleTown, they don't care where the offices are. There is zero advantage to a client in having a Widget consultant down the street from them. Yet if they search by city name, Google maps will only throw up results from the Central location.
I can only get my business to show up in seaches for "Obscure Industrial Estate on Outskirts of City".
OK, that's my problem. But it's also a problem for the customer who is only going to get results drawn from huge international Widget consultancies with extortionate fees.
|My offices are on the ouskirts of the city I live in. But my business is focussed in the central business district (CBD). |
Agreed, that's why you should make sure your website and business listings mention the areas you cover. Until companies can find a cheap and reliable way of defining the coverage area of a business this will remain a problem.
Google are looking at this problem, and defining such coverage areas can certainly be done for local advertisers (I have to confess that I don't know if it's the same with Maps/Local for non advertisers).
It's one of many problems that need deep data to solve.
Google local maps is the best thing ever, Sorry to say but SEO's go burned on that one, there are certain ways around it but it requires some serious investment, but if you have to dominate, then it's time to spend money.
simple trick is to invest in mailbox store, register a site to that location, and create a local target site. fill out the Google form, 3 month later, bang, your up, works real good for certain keyword set, others it sucks.
I'm fascinated by the conversation here, specifically the comments by dxl who referenced that even while being in maps, albeit not amongst the top 3 for (probably the most common searches for his/her community) the site doesn't get traffic due to the insertion of maps into organic searches.
In my experience the algo's to google maps are simpler by far than google.com. I'm starting a study with several others to try and assess the impact of items we think seem to impact rankings within maps.
From my observations g maps inserts into organic search has an astronomically large impact upon visibility of local businesses and is well worth understanding.
As referenced above obtaining a center city location is one alternative to getting better rankings within google maps. I'm pretty sure there are others.
The traffic value of high rankings can't be overstated. I agree with some of Inbounds comments as to other items that could impact rankings within G maps. I'd just suggest people look hard at the situation.
I was just about to bitch about why it is that South Africa's always the last country to get Google updates and why the hell Google Maps is not working in South Africa as yet (business listings) and low and behold, they're up and running.
So for those of you from S.A. it's working!
I've just listed, will give you all some feedback as soon as I have some results. Lets see...
DXL and BouncyBunnies comments were/are headknockers to me.
The inability to show high in google maps can have a devastating effect on a local business/service.
I had let the map visibility to Yahoo Local slide and recently got it from "not among the top 3" to first for relevant city searches for my business.
It will be interesting to see the impact on Yahoo for relevant local searches, even as its traffic component is far smaller than google.
Assuming one can't relocate a business, and might not make the effort or won't establish a center city address or mail drop off point I'd focus on several areas that might be helpful with regard to these map/local algos:
1. Get reviews
2. Get local citations/links to ones site
3. Get the site listed in the dominant IYP in the region.
Any or all of those attributes seem to have some impact on Google maps.