Ranking in the Google map pack

Late last year, Google updated their search results to prioritise local results, or the “map pack”. What are the top things businesses should and shouldn’t be doing to get one of those vied-for map pack listings?

Late last year, Google updated their search results to prioritise local results, or the “map pack”. The map pack now comes above all other organic results – which is great news for local businesses that face strong competition from comparison or third party booking sites, such as banks and hotels.

The bad news is, where there used to be seven map pack results, there are now only three.

There are a number of ranking factors in local search; and, as with any other SEO goal, no single formula for ranking. This is why it’s best to have an SEO expert on your marketing team! But what are the top things businesses should and shouldn’t be doing to get one of those vied-for map pack listings?

Key Local Ranking Factors

DO review your local NAP data, and keep it CONSISTENT

Your NAP data (or, according to some sources, NAPW data) is your business Name, Address and Phone number, and this is how Google and other search engines categorise your local business information across the Internet.

Here’s the information that needs to be agreed for each unique location:

  1. Name – “Your name should reflect your business’ real-world name, as used consistently on your storefront, website, stationery, and as known to customers,” according to Google’s guidelines.

  2. Address – preferably in Royal Mail format for UK businesses

  3. Phone number – this should be a local number

  4. Email address

  5. Link – each location should have a unique landing page on your website (single location businesses can use the home page)

  6. Categories

  7. Description

DO create a Google My Business account

Your Google My Business account connects your business to a variety of Google products. For local businesses, the most important product is Google Maps – this is where the Map Pack rankings are generated. Additionally, your My Business account will connect your business with Google Maps, and create a Knowledge Graph result in search. Make sure you enter your correct NAP information for each location, and don’t forget to verify each listing.

DO build CONSISTENT local citations

Consistency is key here! “Local citations” refer to listings for your company in local directories online. Local directories often don’t include a link, meaning the only way for Google to assign a local citation to your business is by aligning your NAP information.

There are five types of local citations available according to Whitespark:

  1. Data-aggregators

  2. Horizontal directories

  3. Industry-specific directories

  4. Region-specific sites

  5. Local sites such as bloggers or local news sites

Building a natural local citation profile takes time and effort, but it’s worth it! If you don’t have time, you can always ask some clever folks like us to help – click here to get in touch.

DO create well-optimised location pages on your website

We’re wading into technical waters here. As mentioned, each of your business locations should have a dedicated landing page on your website. Products and services available at each location should then be filed in sub-folders for those pages.

All of these local pages should be optimised with keywords relevant to the location, as well as including code for Google publisher and schema mark up. It should go without saying, but the general SEO on these pages should also be wonderful!

DO create a fabulous review profile

It’s still disputed whether Google reviews are a ranking factor in the local snack pack. However, consumer behaviour has always been (and probably always will be) a ranking factor for Google. A star rating next to your brand’s search results will encourage clicks; and CTR (click through rate) is a key indicator to Google that your website is of value to users.

Common Local SEO Mistakes

Are you keeping up? Before you get started with your Local SEO strategy, check out these common mistakes to avoid.

DON’T optimise for where you want to be

This one seems so simple, and yet is one of the most common mistakes. If you have a local business in East Kilbride – optimise for East Kilbride! If your optimisation is focused on Glasgow, you won’t rank in East Kilbride. But, because the Map Pack is based on local map results (clue’s in the name), you’ll never rank well in Glasgow either.

DON’T rebrand, or change NAP data, unless it’s totally necessary

Okay, this is more a “proceed with caution” than an absolute “don’t”. Once you’ve verified your maps listing on Google, optimised your location pages, created your local citation profile, and collected some lovely reviews, it is possible to go back and change your NAP. But it’s a total pain. Updating citations takes longer than creating them, and you might see a drop in rankings until Google trusts your new brand, location or phone number.

DON’T keyword stuff your NAP data

I know. It’s really tempting to use “Totally Awesome Hotel in Glasgow West End Scotland Dinner Bed Breakfast Boutique Hotel Book Now” as your brand name. But don’t. “Totally Awesome Hotel”, maybe with a single local signifier if you have multiple branches under the same brand, is perfect. Perfect can’t be improved!

DON’T neglect keywords in your description and categorisation

You didn’t think we’d ban you from using key words at all? All those keywords that you can’t go in your brand name should be included (naturally!) in descriptions. Service keywords (e.g. dinner, bed, breakfast) can also be included in your categories, but try to avoid local keywords here.

Perfect Your Local SEO Strategy

Now go forth and implement your wonderful Local SEO strategy! Unless you’re suffering information overload and don’t know where to start. In that case, get in touch with our local SEO experts for some advice and help – just click here.

by Stacy Nelson, SEO Manager