10 Ways to Rank Higher on Google Maps in 2023
What if I told you that your local business can show up higher than a national business in Google search results?
That may seem crazy, but for local businesses, one of the best ways to compete in Google search engine results is to rank higher in Google maps by showing up in the Google Local 3-Pack.
Being local gives your business an advantage over larger companies that have no local presence because you can rank higher in Google maps than a national business.
Google Business Profile (Formerly Google My Business) Ranking is a Secret Weapon for Local Businesses
If you can get your business into the Google Local 3-Pack, it's a shortcut to Page 1 of Google search engine results.
We'll show you the first steps to take.
What is the Google Local 3-Pack?
If you type ‘restaurants’ into Google right now, you will get a list of restaurants in your area of town….the restaurants most relevant to you geographically. These listings are at the top of the page in a special list accompanied by a map.
When does the Local 3-Pack show up?
Any time that Google determines a search has 'local intent', it will show a Local 3-Pack at the top of the results page.
How does Google determine if a search has local intent?
Google hasn't published a definitive list, but generally speaking, the following types of searches have local intent:
- Search phrases that contain a geographic reference such as a city name or zip code (like "Web Design in Alpharetta")
- Search terms that contain the phrase "near me" or similar
- Searches for services that are typically fulfilled by a local business (like "bakery" or "yoga studio")
Google Local 3-Pack SEO can Yield Results Faster Than Organic Alone
When trying to prioritize a digital marketing budget, it can be difficult to know where to focus your efforts.
SEO is a long game, but for local businesses, getting your Google Business Profile (GBP) profile can be low-hanging fruit.
How do I get in the Google Local 3-Pack?
According to Google, they determine local ranking primarily based on 3 factors:
- Relevance: Relevance refers to how well a local Business Profile matches what someone is searching for. Having complete GBP information can help Google determine your relevance for specific search queries.
- Distance: The closer you are to a searcher, or the area they are searching, the greater the chances you will appear in the 3-pack results
- Prominence: Prominence is based on information that Google has about a business from across the web, such as links, articles, and directories. Google review count and review score factor into local search ranking. More reviews and positive ratings can improve your business' local ranking. Your position in web results (organic rankings) is also a factor, so search engine optimization (SEO) best practices apply.
Follow these steps to begin the journey of getting your business in the Google Local 3-Pack.
1. Do this first: Claim or Create Your Google Business Profile & Verify It
Before you can show up in the 3-Pack, you have to have a Google Business Profile. If you aren't sure if you do or don't, it's easy to check if one already exists.
The video below explains how to claim or create your Google Business Profile.
Don't wait to do this....sometimes the verification process can take a while. As soon as you have the permanent local phone number and address for your business, proceed. You can add a 'business opening date' to your profile which will result in your business appearing on Google Maps up to 90 days prior to the official opening.
Ways to Rank Higher in the Google Map 3-Pack
2. Optimize Your GMB Profile (now called Google Business Profile)
Just claiming your profile won't be enough to make your business start appearing in the 3-Pack. We recommend improving your business information as much as possible:
- Enter complete and accurate data on your profile including relevant categories.
- Describe your business by entering unique and valuable information about it.
- Verify your business (see video below)
- Keep your hours accurate.
- Add products and services to your GBP listing
3. Get Involved with Reviews on Your GMB Profile
- Ask for them from satisfied customers and clients
- Respond to them regularly
- Try to see if you can find ways to have reviewers use keywords and city names in their reviews.
I love this one because for most local businesses it has HUGE impact and you don't need any technical help or advice to get it done.
In the recent study of Local Ranking Factors by Local SEO Guide, of the "ordinal variables", variables related to reviews comprise roughly 70% of the top 20 correlations. Focus on creating a standardized way of asking for reviews, preferably reviews that mention your keywords and location.
Our Local Resources Page includes some links to resources to help you in your quest to ask for reviews.
4. Invest in Growing Your Organic Visibility
The organic rankings of your website have a direct effect on your prominence in Google 3-Pack results. Google states that "your position in web results is also a factor" in your ranking in map results.
Local SEO Guide recommends making sure that your owned assets (primarily your website), are "killing it". This means that plenty of factors such as links and organic ranking of your website correlate very highly with positive Google local 3-pack performance.
5. Upload Photos to Google Business Regularly
According to Google, "businesses with photos receive 42% more requests for driving directions to their location from users on Google, and 35% more clicks through to their websites than businesses that don't have photos."
6. Use Google Business Posts to increase Click Through Rate
...which in turn may have impact on your rankings. Currently, according to Joy Hawkins at Sterling Sky, Google Business Profile posts aren't shown to have a direct affect on ranking higher for certain keywords, but they can affect click through rate when a 'highlight' from a post is included in the 3 Pack.
7. Use Structured Data / Schema Mark Up on Your Website
Structured Data is standardized metadata which can be used to provide specific details about your website, content, and business to help Google and search engines explicitly understand important information about your business. The most basic use of structured data is to use it to communicate accurate Name, Address and Phone (NAP) information about your business.
8. Add Services to Your GBP
Why? While GBP Services do not have a direct effect on increasing rankings, they are valuable because Google uses them for "Provides" justifications. Justifications are little snippets that Google displays in local 3-Pack results to "justify" why a particular business is showing up in the 3-pack.
9. Add Products to Your GBP
Why? While GBP Products do not have a direct effect on increasing rankings, they are valuable because they present a fuller picture of your business and its offerings to searchers. They are highly visual because they use images, and they appear in the knowledge panel.
10. Ask and Answer Questions on your Google Business Profile
While the Q and A section of the Google Business Profile is not a direct ranking factor, having a robust Q&A section can help in the conversion (or click through rate) of potential clients viewing your profile. To take advantage of the Q&A section, you need to have questions asked on the profile. This can look a bit awkward if you are asking and answering your own questions, so it's best if you can have other people ask the questions. One previous client of ours asks every new employee they hire to go to their Google Business Profile and ask a question that the business can then answer. If you hire a firm to help you with Local SEO, this may be a service they offer as part of a package.
11. Actively Fight Competitor Spam on the Map
"Spam" on the Google Maps listings can take many forms, but the main types are:
- Listings for Fake / Non-Existent Businesses set up specifically to capture leads and sell them
- Businesses that stuff keywords into their Google Business Profile name...
Probably the most common spam tactic is GBP name spam (←This is an affiliate link to BrightLocal, a tool we use for Local SEO). This is because Google places way too much significance on keywords appearing in GBP business names as a ranking factor. It's a mystery to me why the name of the business is a ranking factor at all. It invites the spam.
- Businesses that set up multiple Google Business Profiles using addresses that do not meet guidelines such as mailbox stores
- Businesses that solicit fake reviews to improve their ranking
What to do if Your Market or Vertical is Really Competitive
Certain markets and verticals are highly competitive... where the 3-pack is already full of heavily reviewed local businesses. In these cases, just publishing and optimizing your Google Business Profile will likely not be enough to get your business in the 3-pack for competitive search terms.
There is no easy fix for this situation except to really step up your organic SEO game.
Local SEO works hand-in-hand with Organic SEO. You will get the best results by having a website that ranks well.
In the same Local SEO Guide study of Local SEO Ranking Signals, the "categorical" variables show that the Organic Ranking of a website has the 3rd highest correlation to Local 3-Pack rankings.
Local SEO Ranking Factors: Categorical Variables courtesy Local SEO Guide
Actively Fighting Name Spam May Help (Frustrating Though it May Be)
One of the fastest ways to move up in a competitive field is to knock down business profiles (that are violating guidelines) that are ahead of you in results. The activity of spam fighting on the map is very repetitive and can feel like a game of Whac-a-Mole, but getting profiles ahead of you removed is a guaranteed way to move up dramatically.
Some Final Thoughts to Consider (from the experts)
- Make sure your owned assets, like your website, are killing it. Lots of factors like links, organic ranking etc show very high correlation with positive local pack performance. Invest there.
- Even though GBP doesn’t have a lot of levers a business owner/marketer can pull, reviews are a huge one. If you aren’t focusing on a review program and working on testing how to get keywords, cities etc in reviews you are gonna be far behind. Like getting involved in your link profile years late kinda behind.