Driving traffic to your local business website often feels like an uphill battle.
Paid ads are expensive and it can take six months to a year (or more!) to rank organically in the search engines.
So what do you do?
Try doing Google Maps SEO!
Getting featured on Google Maps can act as a shortcut to getting featured on Google Search, significantly increasing your search engine visibility and targeted clicks to your website.
A heat map study by Juris Digital found that 31.5% of searchers clicked on Google Maps results, with the remaining clicks going to paid ads and organic search results.
So, instead of trying to rise up the ranks of organic SERPs (which often takes a while), you could steal a sizeable amount of that traffic by ranking your local business on Google Maps.
Google Maps SEO: 5 Surefire Steps to Rank Your Local Business
Google Maps results typically show up at the top of SERPs, above the organic results.
If your local business was displayed here when someone searched for what you’re offering, you could drive a ton of targeted local traffic to both your website and physical store.
Follow these five simple steps to start ranking in no time!
1. Add your business info to major local aggregators
One of the most important steps is get links and citations for your local business. Links and citations help your business rank in the search engines, both in the free organic listings as well as on Google Maps, because they increase the trust and authority of your domain.
There are literally hundreds of sites where you can submit your business information for free citations, but the good news is that you can get most of them by simply submitting your information to the four major local business data aggregators:
These companies supply business data to Google, Facebook, Yelp, Apple and many other companies. Adding your business info to these sites can get you hundreds of easy citations and links because many sites purchase their data from these sources.
Just follow the instructions on each page to submit your business.
2. Submit your business to directories
You should also submit your business to major local directories, which can provide you with additional links and citations and give you a better chance of ranking in Google Maps.
You can also take a look at this list of 50+ local business directories by Local SEO Guide, and use Whitespark’s Citation Finder to find more places where you can get citations for your local business.
A couple of tips for submitting your business profile on these sites:
- Use keywords in your business name if possible.
For example, a friend of mine once owned a dance studio called “Take the Lead.” Instead of submitting “Take the Lead” as the name of his business, he could submit something like “Take the Lead Ballroom Dance Studio” so that his site will show up when people search for keywords like “ballroom dancing.”
Check out this article on how to do keyword research to quickly find keywords that searchers are using to find your business.
- Make sure that your name, address and phone number (NAP) is consistent across all sites that you submit to.
Being consistent with your NAP will make it easier for search engines to display the correct information about your business and properly credit links and citations to your business.
Plus, Google (and Google Maps) is a stickler for accuracy and consistency—if your business is listed with three different street addresses, Google won’t know which one is correct, and so may not rank you at all.
3. Claim your Google My Business listing
Another very important step to showing up on Google Maps is to claim your Google My Business listing.
You can do this by visiting Google My Business, clicking “Start Now” and following the instructions or calling the phone number listed on the page.
Google will ask you to enter information about your business including the business name, category, phone number, business hours and location. They’ll mail a postcard to your address with a code so that you can verify ownership of your local business.
Be sure to enter the correct business info on your Google My Business listing because this is what will be displayed on Google Maps.
You should also upload high-quality photos of your business and write a compelling business description to make your local business listing as enticing as possible. This can increase the number of people that click on your listing, which can increase your visibility and rankings on Google Maps.
Here’s an example of a good Google My Business listing for Giordano’s, an Italian restaurant. Notice that it has a clear description, contact information, hours of operation and photos of their restaurant and food.
It’s also important to check your Google My Business page periodically to make sure it’s up to date and accurate.
People are able to suggest edits to your business page, so even if you don’t make any changes yourself, you should check for updates by other people as well as for new reviews of your business.
Which leads us to the next step.
4. Get reviews
Reviews have always been an important factor for ranking on Google Maps, and in recent times are becoming even more important because review sites are well moderated, which makes it harder for people to give and get fake reviews.
As an ongoing SEO task, be sure that you’re proactively getting reviews for your business.
Notice how in the example below, the Google Maps results showing up on the map have a lot of reviews (146, 132 and 50).
Having lots of reviews lets Google know that your business is popular and that other people might want to go there. So, you have a greater chance of appearing in local maps results.
As an added benefit to helping with SEO, reviews also help potential customers trust your business.
A survey conducted by BrightLocal found that 73% of customers trust businesses with positive reviews more, and that 85% of customers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations.
So how can you get more reviews for your business? Here are a few ways:
- Link to review sites like Yelp and Google reviews from your website and social media accounts. This makes it easy for people to get to these sites and leave a review.
- Simply ask customers if they’ll leave a review for your business. According to the same BrightLocal survey, 70% of customers said they’d leave a review for a business if asked.
- Invest in reputation management software. Agencies and consultants who manage multiple clients should consider using programs like Reputation Loop, Get Five Stars or Vendasta to automate the process of getting and monitoring reviews.
5. Get links from other sources
Getting backlinks from quality sites increases trust and authority to your website and therefore increases your organic rankings. Furthermore, local SEO studies also confirm that links can also improve Google Maps rankings for the same reason.
There are many ways to get more links, but here are a few particularly valuable methods for local businesses:
- Submit press releases to local media. This is an option worth considering if your business has something newsworthy to share, or if you’re participating in an event that might generate media interest.
For example, entertainment-related businesses are often interesting enough to get local media coverage for openings and other events. Just take a look at this ballroom dance studio that got featured in the Philadelphia Tribune.
- Reach out to local review bloggers. If you’re featured in a review, you’ll typically get a link or two back to your website.
You can quickly find such bloggers by doing a search for who’s reviewed your competitors.
As an example, let’s say you run a sushi restaurant in Gainesville, Florida, and one of your top competitors is Dragonfly Sushi. You’d just have to google “Dragonfly Sushi reviews” to find websites that reviewed them.
The search turned up this review on Jax Restaurant Reviews. You could then reach out to the owner of this site, let them know about your restaurant and ask if they’d consider reviewing you.
- Find out where your competitors are getting their links from. If you really want to dominate your local competition, you can use Monitor Backlinks to find out all the sites that are currently linking to your competitors as well as receive notifications when they get new links in the future.
This makes it super-easy for you to get the same links they’re getting!
All you have to do is add your competitors’ domains for tracking, and then Monitor Backlinks will give you access to their full backlink profile. The links highlighted in green are ones that you already have, so you wouldn’t need to pursue them again.
Once you have a list of your competitor’s links, you can visit each site and decide if you want to reach out to them about also getting a backlink.
Getting your business displayed on Google Maps can increase your search engine traffic significantly, whether or not you’re ranking in organic search.
So get out there and put these five steps into action. You’ll be pulling in targeted search engine traffic for your business in no time!