How to Rank Higher on Google Maps in 2020 [Expert Guide]

You might be thinking – is there room out there on the web for another how to rank higher on Google maps guide?

There sure is.

Why is that? Well, run a quick search on Google for “Google My Business optimization”, and you’ll find a little bit of everything there, from 2018, all the way back to 2015.

Just in Q3 and Q4 of 2019 and the first month of 2020, things have changed quite a bit when it comes to Local SEO. As always with everything Google and SEO related.

If you want to optimize your Google My Business profile in 2020, you have to get with the times and stay on top of recent changes and what’s important.

Looking at the bigger picture, Local SEO is more important than ever.

“Near me” or “close by” type searches grew by more than 900% over a two year period, and more and more search queries are trigerring the Local Map pack.

Local SEO needs to be part of your strategy in 2020, as it can be a crucial key to driving more targeted traffic to your website.

If you’re looking for the TLDR; version how to rank higher in Google Maps, here it is:

  1. Get listed on Google My Business
  2. Verify your account
  3. Fully complete your Google My Business profile
  4. Use a local phone number
  5. Select the correct primary and secondary categories
  6. Write a great keyword-rich description
  7. Collect 5-star Google reviews
  8. Actively post to your GMB profile
  9. Post photos of your business and customer interactions
  10. Consolidate duplicate listings
  11. Ensure NAP consistency
  12. Use Local Schema markup
  13. Embed a Google Map
  14. Build citations

With all of that being said, let’s jump into the nuts and bolts of Google My Business and how to setup and optimize your profile.

The 30,000 Foot View of Local SEO & Google My Business

So really, why is Google My Business and Local SEO so important in 2020?

Now more than ever, Google is showing the “3-pack” or “Local Pack” for what it deems are relevant queries, which looks just like below:

For this particular query “tour guides”, Google is taking a look at your current location, and showing results for that specific area. These results vary based on your exact location, which also plays a role in the entire equation that we will talk more about later in this article.

If you click on “More Places” listed all the way at the bottom of the Local Pack, you’re going to get a full listing of other businesses in your surrounding area.

You’ve probably seen this before when running a search, and maybe you’ve even yourself noticed how frequently local search results are being triggered by your own search queries on Google.

Not only do these results take up more real estate on the search page itself, pushing down the organic results, but they also appear right underneath of the paid ads section on Google.

We know that over 40%+ of Americans use an ad blocker on their desktop device, so you can take a guess what’s the first thing users are seeing when they run a query that causes the Local Pack to appear.

The great thing about Local SEO and getting listed in the Local Pack is that is can be much less competitive and much quicker to gain results versus ranking in the organic results.

Yes, times are changing, and businesses are beginning to realize this and adapt. But there’s still time to optimize your Google My Business profile and make a splash.

The objective here should be pretty clear now.

How do I get my business listed in the 3-pack, one of the first things a search user sees on the Google search results page when a user runs a local search query?

Read on, and let’s cover those items one-by-one on how you rank a business using Local SEO.


Service-Area Business (SAB) vs. Physical Location Business

In the past, you needed an address to become eligible to be listed on Google My Business.

Overall, this put many businesses at a disadvantage, as the ranking factor was based on a user’s proximity to the business during the search process.

You can imagine, a small business that was located in a city with a population of 50,000, who also served tons of customers in Chicago on a daily basis, had no way of competing in Local SEO.

This drastically changed with the release of Service Area Businesses, where a business can claim a listing on Google My Business without having to show a physical address.

These businesses can also define their exact cities which they serve, meaning they can serve both locations in their own state as well as outside of their own state. In total, you can add up to 20 service areas.

Now, that brings a whole lot of other complications to the equation that we will talk about later, but for now, we know it’s possible to compete in multiple locations.

According to Google, a Service Area Business is considered as such when:

The service area feature is designed for businesses who visit or deliver to local customers. For example, it can be used by:

1. A business that visits or delivers to customers, but doesn’t serve customers at its business address (e.g. a plumber or cleaning service).

2. A business that serves customers at its business address, but also visits or delivers to customers (e.g. a restaurant that also delivers food).

https://support.google.com/business/answer/9157481

In my own experience, it is much easier to rank high in the Local Pack when you have a physical address listed on your Google My Business profile.

One of the main reasons for this is being that when you select multiple cities say throughout the U.S., you probably have no real authority behind your name in those locations.

If you want the best chance of ranking higher in Google maps in multiple locations, you’re going to want to have an actual physical address in each of those locations.

In order to have a physical address associated with your profile, you need to have an actual storefront that customers can visit. Otherwise, you’re considered as a SAB in the eye’s of Google.

There certainly are ways to be creative when it comes to this hurdle, but at the same time, Google is cracking down on such listings.

Whatever you do, don’t sign-up with a well known virtual address, as that won’t cut it anymore and you’re going to GMB profile is going to get suspended pretty quickly.


Getting Started: Setup Your GMB Profile

Alright, you’re now ready to set up your Google My Business profile.

If you’ve already got a profile set up, and only wish to optimize further, you can skip this section.

Head on over to the Google My Business Sign-up Page, and type in the name of your business to get started.

First things first – if you plan on setting up multiple Google My Business accounts for different locations, I would suggest adding the city to the actual profile name.

For example, if you have three locations in New York City, Miami and Chicago, you’d create three separate profiles as such:

  • Company ABC – New York City
  • Company ABC – Chicago
  • Company ABC – Miami

This way, you can easily distinguish among these profiles, and you’ll also have the city keyword in the actual profile name itself.

Next, you’re going to want to choose the primary category under which your business falls.

You’re going to want to be as laser-focused here as you can be when selecting your primary category. This is going to play a crucial way in how your business is ranked and listed on the Local Pack.

If your company provides tours in New York City, you’re going to want to select the “Tour Operator” category. You don’t want to choose “Tourist Information Center”, or “Travel Agency”

We can select those additional secondary categories in a later step, but the primary category should be defined in the best way which exact service(s) your business provides.

Time to become either a Service Area Business or a Physical Location Business:

If you have a physical address that customers can visit, select “Yes”. If not, select ” No”

If you selected “Yes”, you’ll enter your physical address:

If you selected “No”, you’ll define a service area(s) which you wish to serve and where you can be found in search:

Almost done.

Let’s define how our customers can contact us:

This information will be public, so you’re going to want to define for starters the homepage of your website, as well as your best business number you can be reached at.

And that’s it, just click on “Finish” and your profile is now setup.


Verifying Your Google My Business Listing

Now that you’ve created your profile, you’re ready to verify your business.

Google will send you a postcard via mail that should arrive within 5 business days. That postcard will contain a 5 digit code that you enter in your Google My Business profile to complete the GMB verification process.

Your listing will not be visible and rank in Google Local until you complete the verification process.

You should also keep an eye out periodically that your accounts don’t become unverified. This can happen if you for example switch from being an SAB to a physical address business. In this case, you’ll need to re-verify so your account is visible once again.

How to Rank Higher in Google Maps: Optimize Your Google My Business

Whether you’ve just set up your Google My Business profile, or you have an existing profile, it’s time to review the steps it takes to fully optimize and give your listing the firepower it needs to rank.

Ranking your business when it comes to Local SEO comes down to a few main factors:

  1. Fully-optimized GMB profile
  2. Citations
  3. Backlinks and authority
  4. On-Page SEO

Optimization is what will set you apart in a competitive SERP listing, so if you follow the below steps closely, you’re going to set yourself apart from the majority of your competition.


Fully complete your Google My Business profile

After the profile setup process, you’re going to want to fill out your profile as much as possible. Click on the Info tab-item on the left-hand side:

Here you’re going to want to fill out this entire section as accurately as possible, including the hours of operation for your business, website URL, appointment link URL, etc.


Use a local phone number

When your build your Google My Business profile, for the best chance of ranking locally, you’re going to want to use a local phone number.

If you’re serving the local Miami area, that means, you’ll want a number with a local area code such as 305 or 786.

If you have a general 1-800 number for your business, I’d suggest checking with your phone provider to see if they can set you up with a local number that routes directly into your 1-800 numbers or the appropriate extension.

Additionally, there’s plenty of providers on the market that will get you set up with a local number in a matter of minutes.

I can highly recommend Open Phone for their clean, easy-to-use interface and quick setup process. They have both a desktop and mobile application, and call quality is top-notch. At $10 a month for a local number in any city in the U.S., you can’t beat it.

If you didn’t originally set up your account with a local number, I’d recommend going back through and updating your profile with a local number once you have one.


Primary & Secondary Category Selection

If you have an existing account, now is a good time to re-visit the category selection process in GMB, for both the primary and secondary categories.

The primary category is going to be crucial in ranking your business. You’re going to want to select the primary category as the one that most accurately describes your business.

You can add additional secondary categories, as well. These should also only be relevant categories to your business.

Secondary categories will help to drive additional traffic to your listing through other relevant search queries.

Don’t go crazy here, and only select relevant categories. Otherwise, you’ll be driving non-targeted searchers to your listing, which inflates your overall statistics but doesn’t do anything to drive new customers to your business.

You can add up to 10 additional secondary categories, so choose wisely.


Writing a Business Description & Keywords

Long-story-short, it’s up for debate what effect keywords in your Google My Business description has on the overall ranking of your business.

Nonetheless, customers see this description when finding your profile and you’ll want to fill it out with hyper-local information both about your business and the location itself.

From the Info tab on the left-hand side, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and click the pencil icon to edit your business description:

When filling out your profile, hit on keywords relevant to your business and location.

If you’re a local tour provider in Boston, you’ll want to mention things like “local Boston tour guide”, “tour provider in Boston”, and so forth.

These keywords should also be touched on with your actual Local Lander page(s), which we will cover later in this guide.


Reputation Management & Google Reviews

Reviews play a big role in the overall GMB equation, and as a new profile, you should aim to collect between 15-20+ 5-star reviews.

The more the better, but to start out this should be a good goal.

Reviews are so important for the following reasons:

  • Reviews help to show customers the quality of your products and/or service, and also help to drive clicks on your profile listing.
  • They build trust in the eye’s of potential customers
  • They help to drive clicks to your listing and make your profile stand out versus others
  • They help to rank your business in Google Maps
  • Keywords listed in the reviews help you to pick-up additional rankings through relevancy

They also play into the ranking equation for Google My Business.

Imagine you’re searching for a local SEO company to work with. You find the following companies listed in Google My Business:

Which one would you click?

Collecting as many 5-star reviews as possible on GMB is an excellent way to beat out the competition. Even if you rank lower than others, your profile is going to stand out when you have an excellent track-record of proven success through your reviews.

Collecting reviews with GMB is made easy.

You can share your short URL with customers from your Google My Business dashboard on your computer or the mobile app. Customers can leave reviews and view your Business Profile through your short URL.

1. In the menu on the left, Click Home

2. In the “Get more reviews” card, you can copy your short URL to share with customers.

https://support.google.com/business/answer/7035772?hl=en

There’s plenty of ways to share your URLs with customers to collect reviews. I’d recommend the following two methods:

  1. Manual method: Create a customized email and send that out to all of your recent past customers, and all new customers once a transaction has occurred for a product or service.
  2. Automated method: Use a third-party tool such as GatherUp to collect reviews for Google My Business and other platforms.

The automated method of using a third-party review collection company is great, as not only can you collect reviews at ease but you can also set up customized forms to collect NPS data, reviews on other platforms, and also easily display those reviews on your website itself (with schema markup):

If you need help collecting more reviews for your business, drop me a line, I’ll be happy to help out.


Creating Posts on GMB

Google Posts are just like when you post an update on LinkedIn – you’re sharing information with your potential viewers:

Posting updates to your Google My Business also certainly helps to provide visibility to certain pages, offers, and updates that are happening with your business and are an effective way to engage potential customers.

From the Google My Business account profile page, click on “Posts” on the left-hand side and then click on “Add Update”:

From here, you’ll be able to craft your own post related to a simple status update, event, offer or product.

At the bottom, you’ll be able to add a CTA which links to a specific page on your website. This is the perfect chance to get customer’s on-site to browse your product/service offering based on the business you’re in.

You should focus on posting to Google My Business at least bi-weekly.

Below are a few good ideas to get you started crafting your own Google My Business posts:

  • If you’re hosting an event, such as a seminar or a webinar, you can promote it using a post along with a link to the registration page.
  • Collected some great third-party reviews? Google Posts are another excellent way to share those with potential customers.
  • Have a new product release you want to get some exposure? Create a new post and link to the product page with a craft description.
  • Upcoming sales for the summer or holiday season? Create a sales post to promote those products or services on sale.

There’s plenty of ways to promote your business with Google Posts. Get creative, and promote your products and/or services to potential customers.


Adding Photos to Your Profile

Adding photos to your GMB profile is a great way to show your customers more about your business, and to show off your products and services.

Having quality photos is another way you can set yourself apart from the competition.

I’d recommend having at least 5 high-quality photos on your profile.

These photos can show off your business space, your team, and even your work with other customers.

Navigate to the Photos tab from the left-hand menu, and you’ll find the area where you can add photos and videos for your business.

You can categorize these photos from the top menu, By adding them to the “Exterior” group, “At Work”, “Team”, etc.

In the best case, add a few photos to each of these sections to really show off your business.

Customers can also post photos during the review process, which will also be added to your profile for all users to view.


Consolidate Duplicate Listings

Whatever you do, you don’t want multiple businesses listed on Google My Business for the same location, with the same phone number, and other information.

When this happens, you’re hurting your rankings for all of these related listings, as it’s confusing to both Google and your customers.

In order to delete duplicate listings, you should follow the below steps:

Before you remove a duplicate:

1. Make sure that you’re not removing the location that’s already been verified, or else you’ll need to verify it again.

2. Update the location you want to keep with any crucial information from the location you want to remove. Once a location is removed, it can’t be recovered.

To remove a duplicate location in your account:

1. Sign in to Google My Business

2. In your “Account summary,” click Duplicate locations

3. Click into the location you want to remove.

4. Click “Delete this listing.”

https://support.google.com/business/answer/4669139?

Name, Address & Phone (NAP) Consistency

You don’t want all of your hard work to go wasted, so this step is extremely important.

First things first, you want to ensure that your NAP is consistent on your website, your Google My Business profile, and on any other third-party websites such as citations.

When I say consistent, I mean a 100% match.

NAP stands for name, address, and phone number.

If you’ve previously built your Google My Business profile, and your address or phone number has changed you’re going to want to start with checking your website and GMB profile to ensure those both match.

Next, it gets a little more tricky. If your business exists on Facebook, Yelp, Bing, etc. you’ll want to ensure all of those also have the correct NAP.

There are two ways of doing this:

  • The painful way: manually log-in to each of your profiles (if you’ve been tracking those somewhere hopefully) and update them one-by-one.
  • The easy way: use a tool such as BrightLocal to check all of your existing citations, and update them for a small fee using this tool.

Whatever you do, ensure you have consistency in your NAP.


Optimize Your Website for Mobile Users

Mobile searches are constantly on the rise, so you want to ensure a great user experience for those who are coming to your website from a mobile device.

We won’t get too into the technical aspect of this in this exact article, but a good starting point for checking this would be:

  • Manually check your website on mobile devices, and eye-ball it for any type of issues across different devices.
  • Check Google Search Console’s “Mobile Usability” tab for any errors

Overall, you’re going to want your website to be responsive so that it displays correctly across different types of devices and to clean-up any slowness in loading times for mobile users.


Local Landing Pages & Structure

Setting up local landing pages for your different locations and services is a highly effective method to helping drive rankings both through Local SEO and from organic results.

Setting up local landing pages is a measure twice, cut once ordeal where you can save a lot of time in the future as your business expands.

Not only can you re-use the page you set up as a template for additional locations and/or services, but you need to nail down the structure based on where your business is currently at and where you foresee it in the future.

If you’re planning to expand to multiple services in multiple cities soon, you’ll want to have the URL structure right from the get-go to avoid headaches later.

First, let’s take a look at what should be included on a local landing page:

  1. Clean URL structure (covered below)
  2. Keyword(s) in the H1 page title and meta
  3. Google Map embed for your location
  4. CTA buttons to drive your audience to take action
  5. Hyperlocal copy about the location, service and benefits
  6. Targeted keywords relevant to the location and service
  7. Special details about this location, including driving directions
  8. Social proof and reviews (GMB reviews and/or third-party)
  9. Mobile-friendly design

You can check out our Pittsburgh local lander as an example.

When taking a look at the structure, again, remember to be forward-thinking in this step. We’re going to cover two situations for the most common landing page setups for the majority of users:

Situation A: If you have one location and one service, you can set up your local landing page on a single page such as domain.com/new-york-city-private-tours

Often times, you can double this page as your main contact page as well.

When you’re building citations, you’ll want to build those to this exact page.

Situation B: If you have multiple locations and one service, you should set up a central “location” page, which links to all local landing pages. This would mean you’d have domain.com/locations linking to all other local landers. This location page should also be on your homepage in the header or footer to pass link authority.

domain.com/locations/boston-private-tours
domain.com/locations/miami-private-tours
domain.com/locations/nyc-private-tours

When building citations for different locations, again, you’ll want to build them to these specific local lander pages, along with the link in your GMB profile.

If you’re planning on operating in multiple cities with multiple services, or have one location and offer multiple services, there’s a whole other tactic for properly setting that up for best results.

With local landing pages, you can really build pages and target those not only at the city level, but down to districts and boroughs and even down to specific streets depending on how competitive the results are and how aggressively you’d like to pursue driving organic and Local SEO traffic.

If you need help setting up more advance local landers, feel free to reach out to us for help.


Local Schema Markup

Schema mark-up is structured data that makes certain parts of your website easily crawlable by Google so it can find the information it’s looking for on a particular page.

You’ll want to mark-up your NAP, reviews and other business information in a format that Google can easily read.

We won’t get too technical with this in this exact article, as this can vary a bit based on your exact website’s setup, but if you wish to read further on setting up Local Schema, check out Google’s Local Business support page.


Google My Business Map Embed

If you have a single location, you’re going to want to embed a Google Map of your business page on to your contact page.

If you’re working with multiple pages, you’re going to want to embed a Google Map of each page on your local lander pages (covered above).

In order to get the Google Map embed link for your business, visit your Google My Business profile and click on the “Info” tab.

Next, on the right-hand side click “View on Maps”

Once you’re on your actual GMB profile, click on “Share”.

Finally, take cick “Embed a map” on the top-bar, and click “COPY HTML”

Now you’ve got the code to your Google Maps listing.

Take this code, and drop it on the correct page of your website. From there, you can edit the map to fit the page accordingly.

Rinse and repeat this for all of your Google My Business accounts for all locations you have set up for your business.


Building Citations & Local Authority

Building citations is essentially the process of listing your business on third-party directories such as Yelp, Facebook, Apple Maps, Bing, etc.

Local Citations play a huge role in showing the authority of your business to Google, and to helping it rank in the Local Pack.

Depending on how competitive the terms are you’re trying to rank, you might need to work harder to achieve ranking in Google maps.

If you have a new GMB listing, I would suggest starting out with building 50 total citations across high-quality business directories.

This is only a benchmark number, and in many cases, if competitive, you’ll need even more.

There are two ways to go about building citations for your business:

  • The difficult and painful road: Manually create citations on each and every website by hand.
  • The easy way out: Use a third-party citation building platform to automatically create these citations for you, such as BrightLocal or White Spark.

The great thing about using a third-party to create these citations for you is that it’s generally not expensive, and will save a ton of time.

They provide you the logins for the different accounts, and you can even use these tools to clean-up existing profiles to ensure NAP consistency.

You should focus on building citations on both the “big name” directories, as well as some niche directories which are related to your business.

Also, if you’re outside of the U.S., these tools will guide you on different directories where you can build citations in the local market.

The one recommendation is not to use the Yext platform to build citations. They’re expensive and will get you locked into paying a long-term contract, where other providers do this much quicker and cheaper.

Top 50 General Directory Citation List for the U.S.

Citation SiteAuthority
maps.apple.com100
facebook.com95
google.com95
yelp.com94
bing.com94
foursquare.com93
local.yahoo.com93
bizjournals.com91
bbb.org90
mapquest.com89
yellowpages.com87
here.com87
angieslist.com85
tomtom.com82
manta.com80
citysearch.com75
merchantcircle.com73
superpages.com71
thumbtack.com69
yellowbook.com61
local.com60
insiderpages.com59
infobel.com59
danb.com58
dexknows.com57
chamberofcommerce.com56
hotfrog.com56
factual.com55
local.botw.org55
brownbook.net55
elocal.com55
ezlocal.com53
showmelocal.com51
cylex.us.com50
salespider.com50
cybo.com50
neustarlocaleze.biz49
citysquares.com47
yasabe.com47
getfave.com46
2findlocal.com46
tuugo.us46
n49.com44
b2byellowpages.com42
threebestrated.com42
opendi.us41
myhuckleberry.com41
tupalo.co39
fyple.com39
bizvotes.com39

Now you have everything to both get started with a new Google My Business profile, and to fully optimize your profile for success.

Local SEO is an extremely effective way to target local customers, and if you’re not competing, you’re missing out on reaching new customers who are interested in your product/service offering.

If you need help getting the most out of your GMB listing, feel free to reach me here.

Ready to increase your search traffic? 🚀

Find out how we can increase your search traffic and grow inbound leads for your business.

how to rank higher on google maps



4 comments

Linda February 24, 2020

Great in-depth guide, thanks for the share Justin!

    Justin Berg July 28, 2020

    Thanks for stopping by!

Criação July 26, 2020

Many thanks for this detailed guide on GMB!

    Justin Berg July 28, 2020

    You're welcome, hope it helped!




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