I am choosing to expand on a topic I blogged about this past month in this e-newsletter.
For the first time in a number of months I have been able to identify a clear trend in how Google Maps is showing results. I felt the topic was so important I wanted to flesh it out more fully in this special edition e-newsletter.
Although I don't feel that I have a 100% handle on how Google Maps determines placement order, I feel that my insight may be very helpful in helping you to improve your own placement on Google Maps using your Local Business Center listing. These important links appear above some location specific organic search results on Google.com just to the right of an area map.
I am starting to see a few trends in Google Maps that can be leveraged for placement and wanted to share them with you. It is important to note that I am not seeing this specific trend appear across all market sectors for all of the searches that I have done, but have seen them in many cases. I consider the information noteworthy.
First, it is important to note that not all businesses will really consider a great position in Google Maps valuable. However, if you sell services and products in a location specific area, Google Maps placement can be crucial to your business' success. Some types of businesses that will generally want or need excellent Google Maps placement are restaurants, dentists, pest control firms, lawyers, plumbers, roofers, and local brick and mortar stores.
For this article, I have particularly studied several pest control firms up in the New York City and New Jersey areas. Here's what I see in regards to who owns the top spot and on down. My comments below are based on what I see for the New York City search query linked above, but have been observed with the New Jersey listings as well.
1. Typically the business with the most number of reviews will be placed first. These reviews are pulled from maps.google.com reviews as well as other third party (non-Google) review sites. Check out my article below on getting service reviews for some of the sites that Google appears to be using to supply reviews. In my test, the New York City reviews were being pulled from NewYork.CitySearch.com. For actual placement, all the business locations with the city name in the query with reviews are listed first and in order, with the one with the most reviews listed in the number one position.
2. Google Maps then appears to pick up adjoining cities alphabetically with the business with the most reviews listed first. In the NYC link above the first city was Astoria. The first business listed had nine reviews.
3. Any businesses that had no reviews were then listed with the city that matched the search query first and then additional cities were listed in alphabetical order. So in this case the first listing without a review had a Manhattan address (as Google understands that this is New York City). The second business was in Astoria and also had no reviews. The next listing without a review was for Brooklyn.
Additionally in this case, Google shows a listing over another if it has a coupon. So if you have no reviews, but you offer one or two coupons, your listing will most likely appear in a higher position than others without reviews and with no coupons.
It is easy to create coupons. You do so by logging into your Google Maps or Google Local Business Center account. Click the coupons tab on your Google Maps page and create one. Getting positive reviews is harder. Read our next article for tips on how you may want to handle getting reviews to improve your placement.
The trends I mention are the first real indicators that I have been able to see in regards to how Google handles who gets placed where when it comes to Google Maps.
It is important to note that not all Google Maps results appear to be as clear cut as the example I mention above. In some cases there still appears to be no rhyme or reason as to who places where.
Here is a good example of the "crazy mixed up issue" using the search term lawyer Waldorf, Maryland. In this case no lawyer has a review or a coupon. The results do not appear to be sorted clearly by location; they are not sorted alphabetically, and are not sorted in regards to their proximity to my location (the person doing the search). The listings just appear jumbled and not in any specific order. Where no listings have reviews or coupons, a savvy business owner who adds them may possibly be able to move to the top spot. Remember, I said "may". That being said, it clearly does not hurt to try to improve your position with reviews and coupons whatever type of business you have.
Additionally in the middle of February Google snuck in a "tweak" and one you may have missed that allows you to buy placement on Google Maps. For $25 a month billed to your credit card from within the Google Maps control panel you could purchase an enhanced Google Maps listing. The listing was guaranteed to appear in the first page of Google Maps and had a small yellow thumbtack with the listing as well as a small note that said "Sponsored". This listing appeared mixed in with the organic Google Maps listings. This new service appeared in the Google information database for about three days and then was removed. For more information and a screen shot of this new feature please visit this article on Search Engine Land.
For now, Google is stating that these "enhanced Google Maps listings" are now only available in certain areas and markets. It will be incredibly interesting to see if Google decides to roll out enhanced listings and if the jumble of results that has become common place in Google Maps is simply a tactic to encourage participation in a paid Google Maps vehicle that is clearly in the planning. Whatever the approach, we'll keep you posted here in our future e-newsletters.