Last Updated on November 12, 2020 by Drew Hendricks
Google Maps is a tool that many businesses often take for granted, particularly as to some degree, listings can be created automatically. However, that’s not to say that business owners shouldn’t take charge of their Google Maps presence in 2021. Thankfully, there are a ton of options available to help businesses optimize Google Maps to improve their online presence, generate new leads, and stand out against their competitors.
Behind every Google Maps listing is a highly detailed algorithm that determines how visible that listing is. Taking into account factors such as activity, reviews, the availability of photos, contact details, and more, any business can elevate their Google Maps presence and take advantage of its benefits by understanding how the algorithm works.
So, let’s take a look at the importance of Google Maps to businesses and how they can reap the benefits of this free listing service by caring for their online presence.
The Benefits of Google Maps
One of the most significant benefits of Google Maps is that, of course, it’s owned by Google. With more than 3.5 billion searches flowing through Google every day, and an estimated 46% of those searches being for local information, improving visibility through targeted local search efforts should be a vital part of every business’ digital marketing strategy.
Another major benefit is that Google Maps is a free service that nearly every business can use to elevate their local SEO. While it will take time, and by extension money, to optimize Google Maps and Google My Business listings, this is still often significantly less than businesses can expect to pay with traditional forms of marketing.
Research also shows that following a local search, 88% of users will either call or visit a business within 24 hours. This goes to show that a local search is the first step in the sales pipeline, and local businesses need to make it easier for customers to find and/or contact them. Google Maps listings do exactly that, by not only showing users where a business is located, but also attaching phone numbers, website URLs, email addresses, and social media links to that listing.
It’s also worth noting that local searches often feature Google Maps results near the top of the page, however, only the first three Google Maps results are shown. Taking advantage of this SERP feature is a great way for local businesses to elevate their search results presence without necessarily having to maintain a website.
Key Changes to Google Maps for 2021
The biggest change that’s expected to hit Google Maps and Google My Business is the growth of Google Guaranteed, which is currently in Beta testing in a handful of areas in the US and Canada. This service is currently free, however as it functions as a check-a-trade system with additional financial guarantees for Google users, local businesses shouldn’t expect it to remain free for long. The most significant benefit of using Google Guaranteed is that it will push listings that qualify for this feature to the top of Google Maps results, as well as in other SERP features. This gives local businesses the ability to get their Google Map listing in a more prominent place without having to spend time on other SEO practices.
Google’s also made changes to how local businesses can manage their business profiles. Now, business owners will be able to make changes to their profile directly from their business listing on Google Maps, allowing them to quickly add photos, post updates, and make changes to their listing on the go.
How to Optimize Google Maps Listings for 2021
1: Check For a Google Maps Listing
Business owners should first check that they have a listing on Google Maps.
To check for a business listing, simply search for a business name in Google Maps and see if the business appears in the results. If it doesn’t, Google will prompt the user to create a listing for that business.
Any Google user can create a Google Maps business listing, however they don’t have control of that listing once it’s been created, so don’t worry if the business has already been listed by a third party.
2: Claim Google Maps Listing
Claiming a listing allows business owners to add a ton of information to their Google Maps listing, such as contact number, reviews, photos, social media links, and so on. Google’s algorithm favors Google Maps listings that are frequently updated and have as much information about a business as possible, so listings that are claimed will naturally rank higher than those that were simply created by another user.
For business owners to claim their listing, they need to have a free Google My Business (GMB) account. Signing up for one is relatively quick, but if they already have a GMB account, they can claim the listing by finding it on Google Maps and clicking “Own this business?”/”Claim this business”.
3: Delete Additional Listings
Google’s algorithm is designed to downrank anything that it perceives to be spam or a scam, so businesses that have multiple Google Maps listings for the same location will be penalized by the algorithm. To counter this, make sure to delete any superfluous listings that may exist. This also makes sure that only one listing ranks, so it’s not competing unnecessarily against copies of the same business listing, which reduces the chance of any of those listings having meaningful rankings.
4: Update Information
To add more information to a claimed Google Maps listing, business owners need to go to their Google My Business account and click the Info tab on their dashboard. The more information they can provide about their business, the better. The best rule of thumb to remember about Google’s algorithm is that it likes the same things that customers do, so be sure to keep in mind what information customers are looking for while filling out this information.
Here are a few key things to keep in mind to optimize Google Maps listing information:
- Keep consistent. Make sure the actual business name and the one on the Google Maps listing match, and that this is consistent across all other business profiles on social media sites, owned websites, review sites, and so on. This also goes for the business address and contact details. This consistency shows Google’s algorithm that the business is trustworthy, so it’ll rank higher.
- Keep everything updated. Business owners should set a reminder to check their Google My Business information at least once a month. Particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s ideal to check everything is accurate once a week if possible. By actively updating information, Google’s algorithm sees a business as more trustworthy, which again will push it up the rankings.
- Set the right categories. This helps customers to find the businesses they’re looking for, which will generate more traffic and by extension, improve rankings.
- Use keywords in the business description. This section tells customers what a business is all about, so business owners should use this space to include the keywords their customers are searching for. This not only helps a Google Maps listing but helps a business show up in other searches too.
- Use a local number. Google’s algorithm often downranks businesses that use toll-free numbers as they’re frequently used by spammers. By using a phone number with the same area code as the location of the business, Google’s algorithm sees that business as legitimate, and customers can verify that a business is located where they say they are.
5: Add Photos
In recent years, Google have been developing their photo recognition technology, and this has meant a steady increase in the use of image SERP features for local searches. This also means that the Google algorithm places significant weight on photos attached to Google Maps listing, because users typically want to see photos of a business or what its selling before they make a journey.
With this in mind, business owners should make sure to upload photos to their Google My Business profile regularly. Adding new, high-quality photos at least once a aweek is great for showing the algorithm that the business is active online, but uploading one new photo a day can help drive major growth in local search results.
6: Drive Reviews
As with almost any review system on the Internet, Google’s algorithm will automatically promote businesses that have majoritively positive reviews. While claiming a business listing on Google Maps will open that business up for reviews, many business owners find they struggle to get reviews on Google.
To counter this, business owners need to ask customers to leave reviews on Google, and they need to respond to every review they get. It’s inevitable that businesses will receive bad reviews, but it’s still important for business owners to respond to them and offer a solution. Not only does responding to reviews make businesses seem attentive, but it also encourages more reviews, and can even reduce some of the harm that bad reviews can cause.
7: Constantly Update the Google Maps listing
Few business owners realize that they can create and publish posts to their Google Maps listing to promote events, sales, news, and any other information. However, this posting feature is one of the best ways to signal to the algorithm that a business is active, which this article established earlier is a key factor in Google Maps rankings.
When considering local searches, business owners need to remember that the user is already somewhere down the sales pipeline and they’re actively searching for a solution to their problem. Using posts, business owners can get their offers and events directly in front of a customer as soon as they search for a solution, giving them even more incentive to visit that business.
8: Create Listings on Other Directories
As discussed earlier, Google’s algorithm will check that a business’ details are consistent between its records and those stored on other websites like Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and more. Some platforms will create an automatic listing based on the data Google has about a business, but this may not always be updated frequently. Creating listings on these platforms not only gives businesses more legitimacy in the eyes of their customers, but it also allows Google’s algorithm to read them as a genuine company.
9: Embed a Google Map
Business owners with company websites should consider embedding a Google Map showing their location on their Contact page. When Google crawls that website, it will add further legitimacy to the Google Maps listing for that business, particularly if that Contact page also has the same address, contact information, and other details held on Google My Business.
10: Ask for Help
SEO isn’t an easy practice to master, particularly when it comes to Google and its ever-changing algorithm. This is a big reason why many business owners struggle to optimize Google Maps listings, and why so many appear to be out of date. Google’s algorithm will always favor listings that are regularly updated, but given that it also changes what it favors regularly, it also requires that business owners keep on top of changing trends in the SEO world.
With that in mind, SEO agencies are a great investment for business owners who want to regain control of their time while keeping their digital presence at the top of its game.
Google Maps in 2021: In Summary
Optimizing Google Maps listings is the best way for business owners to take advantage of Google’s vast amounts of local search traffic, but it can be a time-consuming process. Our local SEO services can help businesses to gain greater visibility on Google Maps by taking care of information updates, posting, and responding to reviews on behalf of business owners. So, instead of trying to stay on top of confusing SEO changes and best practices, business owners can rest easy knowing that their Google Maps optimization is in safe hands.
Reach out today to talk with a member of our leadership team to learn more about how we can help your business use Google Maps to build search engine traffic in 2021.
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