Google Maps Local SEO Guide: Drive Traffic to Your Local Business

google maps

Before we dive in here, I’m going to hit you with some incredible stats:

mapping apps

Yes, that is correct! There are well over 154 million monthly Google map users as of last year.

That is just about half the country and rising.  

According to Wordstream:

  • Nearly a third of mobile searches are related to location.
  • Location-related searches have been growing 50 percent faster than mobile searches overall in the past year.
  • Over a billion people now use Maps.
  • Google searches (on and Maps) guide consumers to 1.5 billion destinations every year.
  • 84 percent of consumers conduct local searches.

I know, pretty insane right? 

If that didn’t convince you of the importance of being seen in maps I have lots more!

Why is it important to optimize in google maps?

Is your business prominent in the Google Maps listings?  If not, then you are missing out on tons of potential traffic, customers, calls etc.

Whenever someone searches for a local service online, Google shows us a local map area at or near the top of the page. 

More specifically they show us what is called the Google 3-Pack. Somewhere back in August of 2015 it was a 7-pack that got trimmed down to the 3-pack that we all see today. 

So for example if I were to search for “NYC restaurants” I would see this 3-pack result:

google 3 pack

So as you see in this example above the user will first see these 3 restaurants only before having to select “more places” to get the expanded Maps results.

This provides you with a huge advantage, It is well-documented that getting in the 3-pack on Google maps can be very profitable for your business. So, let’s jump in to the fun part!  Google Maps Optimization

7 Steps to Google Maps SEO Success

1 – Google My Business – Create Your Business Page

Google My Business or [GMB] is a free tool allowing you to create and promote a profile page for your business on Google Search and Maps.  GMB allows you to post photos of your business or products and the ability to respond to reviews.  

It is very important to have accurate information on your Business profile, so that when your customers search for you your GMB profile appears with all your info.

Here is an example:

Google search

According to a recent Moz study Google My Business Signals (Proximity, categories, keyword in business title, etc.) accounted for 25.12% of the ranking factors for the local pack map rankings. That has a pretty influential effect on optimization and yet many business owners haven’t even claimed their free Google My Business account.

The process to creating your GMB account is pretty easy to set up.

verify listing

After you receive the postcard that was sent to your business address just submit the code that was provided and you’re all set. 

Now it’s time to optimize don’t just do the minimum required. 

2 – Optimizing Your Google My Business

First things first, fill out all of your information in order to create a complete profile.

Let people know what your business does, the location, and how people can get in contact with you. Creating a complete and accurate listing will help you appear in more relevant search results for your business.

Accuracy is very important when it comes to filling out your business profile and 3 of the most important areas are:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone Number

      This trifecta is also known as NAP and plays an important role in local search engine ranking.  Google takes this information into account when determining which companies to show for Geo-targeted searches.

Don’t be afraid to add keywords in the description similarly to the way you would optimize your website.  

Categories – When it comes to selecting your business category be sure to get as specific as possible.  There are  2,395 types of businesses Google has listed as “categories” for local businesses!

Add Photos – Filling out your GMB listing with complete and accurate info is great but without photos you’re really missing out on the visual engagement with your audience.  People want to see your business in action and what it is that you do and what makes you better than the next business listing they will go to.  

If I’m looking up restaurants, what will capture my attention more than pictures of their delicious entrees 

google business pictures

The use of pictures can be very powerful especially to new potential customers and clients.  

Respond to Questions – One absolutely great GMB feature often forgotten is the questions and answers (Q&A) feature(Example in image below). The questions and answers are basically crowdsourced by people (potential customers) who ask questions they would like answered about your business. 

Many businesses are not even aware that Q&A’s even exist! I have seen it so many times, questions being asked by potential customers that go unanswered.  

Remember anyone can answer these questions about YOUR business, so make sure you are the source otherwise any user can post inaccurate answers for everyone else to see.

questions and answers

As you can see there is plenty of info to fill out, but the work doesn’t stop there.

Track progress with Google My Business Insights – Insights is an invaluable tool giving you a behind the scenes look at how people interact with your GMB listing. 

Google’s official definition of Insights is that it “focuses on how customers find your listing on Search and Maps, and what they do after they find it.” 

So here are some things Google My Business Insights can show you:

  • How customers find your business (direct vs. discovery searches)
  • Where exactly on Google people are finding your listing (Search vs. Maps)
  • The actions of your visitors (Visiting your site, clicking on directions, browsing the photo gallery, calling your business)
  • Areas that your customers are living (based on direction searches)
  • Total number of phone calls and the times at which customers are calling

Here is a look at one of the features in insights:

google insights

All of this info can be used to track the conversion path of your visitor and provide a better understanding of their journey prior to reaching your website.

3 – Local Citation Building

creating citations

Local Citations are the backbone to any local search engine optimization campaign.

So what exactly are local citations?

-A local citation is any mention of your business on the internet.  

A complete local citation should have the company name, address, and phone number, which is also referred to as your “NAP”(which we discussed earlier). If a citation does not include all three of these it can sometimes be referred to as a partial citation.

Here is an example of a local citation from Yelp: 

Yelp reviews

*If you would like to find more local citation opportunities here is a list of the top local citation sources by country.

A lot of these websites and directories show up on the first page of web results.  Having your business listed on all of these will get you in front of more potential customers. 

When it comes to these citations accuracy and consistency is the name of the game.  Every mention of your business from trusted websites such as with accurate NAP info matching your Google My Business profile helps build trust with Google. All of these mentions and accurate citations will increase the confidence Google has in the information that you have provided making it more likely for it to show your business in it’s search results.

4 – Local Link Building

local link building

image source: AdviceLocal

Inbound links play a big role in a website’s rankings, whether it’s a brick-and-mortar business or a local service.

But how do you find links for these types of local businesses?

Local links are built with the intention of building relevance to your website toward it’s locality.  

Here are a few ideas and strategies that you can use to create backlinks for a killer local link building campaign:

  1. Building relationships with local businesses and influencers
  2. Business associations and chambers of commerce
  3. Creating research-based content 
  4. Donations and sponsorships to local charities and organizations 
  5. Creating resources with a local focus 
  6. Event based hosting community events 
  7. Enter your business for local awards 
  8. Search for any online mentions

As you can see there are a ton of strategies you can follow to get local links.  In the end it all comes down to getting the most authoritative and relevant links possible.  I know, easier said than done but with a little time and effort the links will come.  

5 – Local Content Marketing 

local seo content marketing

We all know that a great content strategy is one of the building blocks to a successful SEO campaign. For a local business you can’t just write general pieces of content and expect to engage your local audience.

Your local content needs to be relevant and informative. Every piece of content has to have a reason for being posted on your website.

Fortunately you can easily improve your local search rankings by making just a few changes to your content marketing strategy.

Now let’s talk about a few ways to optimize your local SEO content marketing.

     1 – Find Relevant Local Keywords

Just like any scale of optimization keywords are just as important for a solid local SEO plan.  

The ideal keywords to rank for are the most relevant, highest search volume with the least amount of competition. 

In order to find these golden keywords some solid research is required.

The simplest way to create local keywords is to compile a list of business-specific keywords and then create combinations with your location based keywords.

In this example you simply add your “city + industry”

google search query

There are a ton of keyword research tools to use for this process.  Some are free but as is usually the case the most helpful ones are paid. 

Here is an up to date list with 15 of the best keyword research tools according to Brian Dean.  

     2 – Publish Content on Local Sites and Guest Posting

It’s not enough nowadays to just create posts on your own blog you should be creating content offsite and submitting guest posts as well.

This strategy allows you to reach new audiences and cast a larger net.  

You can showcase your expertise and establish yourself and business as a local authority in your niche.  

Here is an extremely helpful resource on what search operators to use in order to find these content opportunities. 

     3 – Create Local Content

Now that you have created a great list of keywords it’s time to put them to good use and infuse them into your web content and blog posts.

In a lot of local industries it might be difficult to write localized content but you just have to get creative.  

Let’s say you are a car dealership in New York, you can write a post about “The Best Cars to Drive in New York” or create list posts like “The 10 Best Car Washes in New York”.  

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your local content! 

Also make sure to promote this content on your social media platforms.

6 – Social Media Engagement

Social Media can have a great impact on your local business.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more give you another platform to build an audience besides your website.  

As far as SEO goes and the impact social media has on rankings there are differing opinions.

There is a debate on the actual influence of social media on rankings.  In my opinion Google rewards authority sites and sites they trust. 

Social Media can only help in those two aspects and besides the effect it may or may not have on rankings it is beneficial to you business anyways so it’s a win win.

Social Media can give you a greater opportunity to receive links.  The more shares on social media you have, the more opportunities people have to see your content and link to it. 

We also know the importance that click-through rates can have on search rankings. Social Media engagement assists in building brand awareness and an audience which can increase the odds that searchers will click on your business’s content in the Google search results. 

Here is a visual on how social media can support your seo efforts:

SMO for local businesses

7 –  Online Reviews and Ratings 

business reviews

Last but certainly not least are getting local reviews and ratings. 

There are many platforms to get and monitor reviews from.  For most businesses the main platforms to monitor will  be 

  • Google My Business (duh , no brainer)
  • Yelp
  • Amazon

There are many more industry specific review sites such as healthgrades for doctors and avvo for lawyers.  

According to one recent survey, 84% of shoppers said they trusted online business reviews as much as a personal recommendation from friends or family.

When it comes to reviews here are some tips to follow:

  • Encourage and ask for reviews
  • respond to reviews whether positive or negative
  • Accept responsibility for bad reviews and offer to make things right
  • Never go back and forth with an unreasonable reviewer

People take notice of how a business responds to reviews.  Taking the right approach can help build more trust and win over more potential customers. 

Combining all of these strategies will tremendously help your Local SEO and Google Maps rankings.   

I realise things can quickly get overwhelming but just focus on 1 thing at a time and before you know it you will be seen as an authority in your local niche.