Google Maps SEO is essential for helping a business stand out against local competitors. Optimizing a Google Business Profile (previously known as Google My Business) will help it rank higher in Google Maps search results, resulting in higher visibility among prospective customers. Ultimately, to achieve favorable Google Maps rankings, you must make it clear to Google that the business listing is active, engaged, relevant to the keywords it targets, and provides a positive customer experience.
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In this article, we’ll dig into how to generate these positive ranking signals for Google to boost a Google Business Profile listing within the Google Maps search results.
Why is it important to optimize for Google Maps?
Given that 93 percent of consumers search for local businesses online and 28 percent of those lead to purchases, Google Maps optimization should be an integral part of a business’s local SEO strategy (On the Map).
Google Maps is one of the most popular ways for consumers to find local businesses, which is why investing in Google Maps SEO is essential to help target customers find your client’s business.
Additionally, SEO for Google Maps increases a business’s chance of ranking within the Google Map pack, a set of three business listings that appears at the top of any location-based search. Forty-two percent of local searches lead to clicks on the Google Map pack (On the Map). This ranking position represents an enormous opportunity to score impressions and conversions for your client’s business.
Google Business Profile vs. Google Maps optimizations
Optimizing for Google Business Profiles (GBP) and Google Maps are similar for the most part, but with a couple of nuances you should make yourself aware of.
For starters, Google Business Profiles act more as a directory listing that appears in local search results, while Google Maps provides more location-based data, based on where the user is searching from. But for the most part, the data you incorporate in the GBP listing will appear in Google Maps search results.
Additionally, there are additional optimizations you can do beyond the listing itself to help boost its performance in Google Maps searches. For example, creating “off-page” SEO signals, such as building a backlink profile, engaging social media presence, and optimizing the business website for local SEO, will help boost a GBP profile’s performance in local search results.
How Google Business Profile optimization directly impacts Google Maps SEO
The Google Business Profile is a foundational piece of Google Maps SEO, and a fully complete profile gives it a strong chance of appearing in local search results. If the GBP is not claimed or verified, it probably won’t receive as much visibility in Google Maps searches either.
A verified and active GBP (publishing new posts, receiving reviews, and interacting with commenters) will also perform better in Google Maps rankings compared to inactive profiles. Adding in some additional local SEO optimizations (which we’ll discuss in detail below) will give the Google Business Profile the best chance of standing out in Google Maps search results.
Tips for improving your Google Maps SEO
There are several signals that Google uses to determine whether a Google Maps listing is accurate, up-to-date, and active. Here’s how to send positive signals to the Google algorithm to boost your Google Maps SEO.
1. Claim and verify a Google Business Profile
Before making any edits or updates to a Google Business Profile, it must be claimed and verified. If your client doesn’t already have a GBP, follow Google’s step-by-step documentation to set one up.
To claim and verify the Google Business Profile, locate the listing by searching the business name. Click the link that says “Claim this business” or “Own this business?” and follow the prompts to complete verification. Once verification is complete, the only person that can edit the GBP listing is the verified account holder.
The account holder can access valuable insights into the listing performance and tools to help manage the listing more efficiently. Additionally, verified profiles look professional to prospective clients, instilling more trust and thus increasing conversions.
2. Ensure the Google Business Profile is complete and up-to-date
Once the GBP listing has been claimed and verified, you can edit the listing from within the Google Business Account manager. Thoroughly filling out the profile is essential for Google Maps SEO and will give the profile the best chance at ranking in local search results.
Ensure the profile includes the business address, phone number, website link, hours, and a detailed business description.
- Manage NAP information on other platforms. To avoid confusion for customers and the Google algorithm, check that the name, address, and phone number (NAP) information on the GBP listing are consistent on the business website and other listing platforms.
- Use a local phone number. Using a local phone number (instead of a toll-free 800 number) will help increase the listing’s Google Maps ranking because it is another marker indicating the business’s location.
- Be mindful of the category you select for the GBP listing. Choosing the most appropriate category will help Google better understand the nature of the business and surface the listing in relevant searches.
3. Write a keyword-rich business description on the Google Business Profile
Your client’s listing should also include a detailed business description. The business description on a GBP provides both an outward and inward-facing purpose. It lets prospective customers know about the business and its products or services. Plus, the keywords and phrases within the description help Google understand what the business does and how it relates to other companies in the local area. These two factors will affect its ranking position.
As you craft the business description, consider the phrases prospective customers might use when searching for the business and incorporate them into the description to boost the Google Maps ranking.
4. Add professional photos to your Google Maps listing
Professional photos are an important and often overlooked aspect of Google Maps SEO. They help a business listing stand out from competitors and look more authentic in a customer's eyes. Photos also provide context to help prospective customers evaluate the business and identify its location.
On top of these benefits, photos can rank in Google searches. In fact, 19 percent of Google search results include images (Social Media Today).
For the best results, select editorial images consistent with the feel of the business’s brand. Depending on the nature of the business, it makes sense to choose photos of the interior and exterior of the building, as well as products and staff, to help paint a complete picture of the physical location. The visual element of a GBP listing helps a prospective customer determine whether it’s a good fit for their needs.
Photos help drive engagement on the business listing, meaning reviews, click-throughs, and other interactions. If a listing receives consistent engagement, Google will reward it with a higher Google Maps ranking.
5. Gather reviews on your Google Business Profile
Google reviews are valuable for supporting Google Maps SEO efforts and for landing more sales. Reviews are a form of engagement, and the Google algorithm rewards listings that receive consistent reviews. A large number of reviews (and a strong star rating) helps a business appear trustworthy to prospective customers and can increase sales.
Since happy customers don’t always think to leave reviews, the best way to generate them is to request them directly. Get your clients to make review requests part of their customer follow-up strategy. Asking for reviews in email interactions with customers is a good tactic. Another idea is to include a simple link in employee email signatures reminding customers to leave a review if they’re a fan of the business.
Use Google business review links to facilitate review collection
Review links are links businesses can share with customers to make it simple for them to leave reviews. Including a link in emails with customers is a great way to remind them that reviews help the business grow.
Another way to incentivize reviews is by placing a clickable Google badge on the business website. When customers click through, they’ll land on the Google business profile, where they can read existing reviews and leave their own.
Be aware of review bombing
Review bombing is a practice where disgruntled former employees, unhappy customers, competitors, or even individuals without any association with a business will bombard the GBP with a high volume of negative reviews. This can affect a listing’s average star rating and damage its ranking in search results. While this type of activity is usually caught and eliminated by Google’s algorithm, it’s worth noting this practice when monitoring a client’s listing.
6. Respond to reviews regularly
Responding to Google reviews is essential for building and maintaining relationships with clients. Plus, the Google algorithm sees this type of engagement as a sign that a business listing is active, which can lead to higher Google Maps rankings.
Whether they’re good or bad, responding to reviews shows that the business values feedback. The quality of these responses can help prospective customers gauge whether they trust the business. In other words, responding thoughtfully and resolving any complaints could entice prospective customers to engage with the business listing, boosting engagement and search rankings.
7. Publish new posts to the Google Business listing regularly
Creating posts on Google Business Profiles lets your clients publish a variety of promotions and updates such as special events, offers, updates to the facility, and more. Google favors active business listings, so make sure to keep a consistent post publishing schedule to boost your client’s profile’s rankings in local search.
Publishing updates and offers to a Business Profile shows prospective customers know that the business is operational, which leads to increased engagement on the profile and, ultimately, more sales.
8. Create business listings on other online directories
Listing your client’s business across several relevant online directories helps your clients build their online presence and provides positive ranking signals for Google Maps SEO. When a Google search reveals various listings for a company, each with consistent information, it instills trust in prospective customers. A robust, cohesive web presence strongly indicates to both customers and Google that the business is active and engaged.
There are over 100 online business directories that your clients can create to help build our your client’s online presence. Selecting the right directories is vital to getting the business in front of the right people, so think critically about which organizations make the most sense for their business. Start with large directories like Meta Business Manager (previously Facebook Business Manager), Yelp, and Bing, and then drill down into more specific industry associations or local business hubs.
9. Ensure NAP information is consistent across all listings
As mentioned earlier, NAP information is essential for managing listings and consistency is paramount when it comes to local SEO. The business NAP information should be the same across every listing, social media profile, and website associated with the business in question. Search engines use NAP information to corroborate information from across the web, so this info must be consistent on every site where the business is mentioned.
Use local listing management tools
Local listing management can quickly become tedious when multiple listings are involved. Suppose the business website has a different address than the Google Business Profile listing. In that case, the algorithm may not understand that the two pages are related, causing them to rank one or both lower in the search results.
When the information across all the different business listings is the same, Google can quickly identify that the pages are related when someone searches the business name. Consider using local listings management software to maintain consistent business information across web directories, mobile apps, voice search, and beyond to maintain rankings and increase reach.
10. Optimize the business website for local SEO
Optimizing the business’s website for local SEO will reflect positively on a Google Maps listing. If the main website ranks well in local search results, there’s a good chance the Google listing will rise in the rankings too.
Do keyword research to determine what phrases customers use to locate the business. You can find these by digging into Google Analytics for your client’s website and reviewing the search terms the site already ranks for. You might also use a keyword research tool such as SEMRush to find relevant keywords to target.
Once you’ve gathered a collection of keywords, incorporate them into the website wherever relevant. Place keywords throughout the website copy, in meta descriptions on website pages, and image alt-text when relevant to help the site rank for these terms.
11. Embed Google Maps on the business site
Embedding Google Maps on the business website helps confirms the location of the business. The most common place to incorporate the map is on the contact page, but you can place it wherever it makes the most sense. Some businesses include a map in the footer of the website.
Wherever you place the map, not only does it help customers verify the business's location, but it also confirms to Google that the business listing is indeed associated with the website in question, leading to better rankings.
12. Ensure the business website is mobile responsive
Google’s mobile-first indexing initiative means building a responsive website is vital for high search rankings. With over 60 percent of internet browsing occurring on mobile devices (Exploding Topics), it’s undeniable that mobile browsing is here to stay.
When a business’s website ranks well in Google searches, it increases the likelihood that the GBP will rank well in Google Maps, so a mobile-friendly site is non-negotiable. A responsive site loads quickly and contains elements that adapt to any browser dimensions, so the site is fully functional on any device, creating a positive browsing experience for visitors.
Create a positive user experience
A positive user experience for mobile browsers is essential for keeping them on the page so they can find the information they need. If the user experience is poor and the user exits the website, Google considers this a bad sign and will suppress rankings. When a user spends a long time on a website, Google sees that as an indication that the content and user experience are strong and will reward the site with higher rankings.
13. Building local backlinks will boost the Google Maps ranking
Gaining backlinks from local businesses or organizations in your area acts as proof for Google that your client’s business is associated with that general location. For instance, gaining links from the local chamber of commerce, tourism websites, newspapers, or community organization websites all help to prove a business’s location.
Even though these links lead to the business website, they are still valuable to Google Maps SEO because the website performance affects the performance of the GBP listing. Again, the higher the main website ranks in local searches, the better the Google Maps listing will perform.
To gain local backlinks, create a list of businesses or organizations related to your client’s business and then reach out to them with a thoughtful message requesting a link. Rather than simply requesting a link placement, look for ways a link might add value to their website. Does your client has a blog post that could complement some of their existing content? Would it make sense to propose some sort of cross-promotion? Don’t hesitate to get creative here. The more genuine these outreach messages are, the better your chances of securing a link.
14. Leverage paid ads to boost visibility
Google Ads can boost the visibility of your client’s business listing, but they don’t provide the same long-term visibility as SEO does. While not directly related to local SEO, you can use paid ads to help build positive ranking signals while you wait for your Google Maps SEO efforts to pay off.
Paying for ads places a GBP listing at the top of search results. With more eyes on the listing, there’s a higher chance of garnering clicks, reviews, links, and other forms of positive engagement. All of these interactions can ultimately contribute to increasing the listing’s overall Google Maps presence and engagement.
15. Increase profile visibility using social media
Another indirect yet impactful way to improve a GBP listing’s ranking in Google Maps is by creating an active social media presence for the business. Just as the business website can influence Google Maps SEO, so can social media activity.
Interacting with followers on social media accounts associated with the business only adds to the overall web presence, making the business (and therefore the GBP listing) appear more credible in Google’s eyes.
Frequently asked questions
Is Google Maps good for SEO?
Google Maps is a very powerful tool for boosting local SEO. Creating and maintaining an engaged, search-optimized GBP listing is the best way for SMBs to harness the power of Google Maps SEO.
How do you rank #1 on Google Maps?
There’s no guaranteed way to score the number one ranking on Google Maps, but Google’s algorithm favors listings that provide a positive user experience through accurate, up-to-date information.