Google Maps (or Local, or Places, or whatever it is calling itself this month) is the bane of my existence. Well, maybe 3rd place behind Bing and Yahoo PPC platforms…but you catch my meaning.
Inevitably, I can expect at least one phone call or email a week from a client asking why they’re not showing up better on “the map thing” aka – the 7-box, 3-box, or 10-box in Google search results. All of my clients are lodging related in the travel sector – so they think that reviews alone pulled from Tripadvisor, FlipKey or other resources are enough to get them great rankings. Alas, this is not always the case – the wily competitor and a pesky algorithm have some say. Also, we cant count on our competitors to always do things wrong, or call and tell us everything they’re doing on a monthly basis…how inconsiderate.
One mistake is to rely on Google Local (maps…whatever) as your sole local listing source. Getting listings at multiple sites (directory sites, IYP sites, etc.) that list content that mirrors and supports your Local listing information helps Google decide your information is trustworthy. My best advice? Get listed with Universal Business Listing and GetListed.org to start – you can do this before, during, or after you’re claiming and updating your Google Maps listing.
I started a list of things I’ve been noticing the top Google Maps listings within the 10 or 7 box all contain.
- Claim and update your listing (and only one listing) - make it as content rich and targeted as you can. Choose the proper categories, and use your local phone number with area code (don’t use your toll-free as your phone number, but you can include it in the description if it’s important. Verify the listing with the postcard or phone call version as soon as you can.Make sure you add as many details as you can and they’re consistent with your listings across the web. Even though Call Tracking is great, it throws up red flags on your data if Yellowpages.com has a different phone number than Google.com. Google pulls data from many sources, not just what the owner of the business shares. Don’t expect to rank well in the local search box if your address isnt in the city within the keyword. If your business’s address is Arvada, CO – don’t expect to rank well in the Denver, CO local search box. It’s going to be really hard.
- Upload images and videos – and use brand-name-rich file names. Don’t spam it up, just use a keyword to describe the photo. For example, instead of “kitchen” in the ALT tag and “kitchenimg.jpg” in the file name of a photo, try “winter park condo rental kitchen” in the alt tag and “winterparkkitchen.jpg” in the file name. You’re getting keywords in there, and you’re describing the photo. TIP: try these tips when uploading photos to other sites such as Panoramio or Flickr. Alternatively, use your brand name in place of a keyword. Both will show benefit, although for local ranking purposes, maybe the brand would work a little better. Adjust your strategy based upon your goals.
- Cultivate Reviews. This is good for a few reasons, not only do users trust you more if your past users love you, the reviews can give you double the benefit by showing up under “Reviews” and under the “More about this place” section.
- “More about this place” – what the heck? This section used to be titled “Web Mentions” and its basically, a an aggregation of anywhere on the web where your brand name is said, and indexed by Googlebot. Directories, your own website, social network sites, newspaper sites, basically any indexable page of content that has your brand on it can be considered a “web mention.” I’ve even seen branded URL page names this section. So what’s the key to getting more? Getting out there! Some ideas for a large “bang” for your buck, or time spent are:
- Flickr Image Galleries – have your visitors, users, friends, etc upload photos of your location or product and tag them with the brand name title of your Google Maps page, as these get spidered you’ll see the number of “More about this place” listings increase.
- YouTube Channel – Add videos about your product or area, make sure each one is tagged with your brand name, and your channel contains your brand name.
- BOTW.org gives great listings for this section in their Local Directory. Make sure you pay the few bucks to get a listing at Local.BOTW.org. I have one client that has 5 of their 21 mentions from BOTW Local.
- Review Sites will send reviews to your “Reviews Section” in maps, and will count towards your “Mentions”.
- CraigsList listings push to the mentions area also, so if you can list there, do it.
- User Content is basically that – content a user creates that contains your brand name. You’ll get credit here for a variety of sites where users can tag images, maps, videos or just content with your brand name. Some sites I see fairly regularly are:
- Google MyMaps that your customers have created with your brand name in them.
- Maps created at CommunityWalk.com or WeddingMapper.com
- Keyhole listings that allow you to upload KML files into Google Earth.
- Other sites that feature KML files that feed into Google Earth. Here are a few examples from the listings for the Plaza Hotel in NYC
- Flickr Listings tagged with the brand
The more listings you have on these sites with your brand name, the more User Content Google will give you credit for.
Another thing you need to remember: dominating your competition in these areas will not guarantee you the top spot. Like the Google web search algorithm, there are many factors to the local search algorithm. Doing all of these things well gives you the opportunity to rank better and within the 10 box, but they certainly don’t guarantee it.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.