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March 2010 » The Secret to Google Maps Placement & Getting Service Reviews

Nancy McCord, Owner of McCord Web Services LLC.Dear ${token1},

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.

Best Regards,

Nancy McCord

Connect with me online on Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Plaxo | Naymz


Google Maps Placement | Getting Service Reviews   

The Secret to Getting Google Maps Placement

Google Maps placement.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.

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Getting Service Reviews for Google Maps

Get started contacting customers for service reviews now!If Google Maps placement is valuable to your business it is time to get busy soliciting customer reviews. Google appears to be pulling reviews from these sites and several others: FlipKey.com (for real estate services), CitySearch.com (for restaurants and services), Maps.Google.com, Insiderpages.com (for restaurants and services), Judysbook.com, Tripadvisor.com, Superpages.com, Menuism.com (for restaurants), and others.

Google used to show reviews from Yelp.com, but after their deal to buy Yelp.com fell through Google does not appear to be showing reviews from Yelp. In fact, Yelp didn't come up in a single review I saw as I did my research.

Reviews that you capture yourself by email or direct solicitation and post on your website are not considered by Google. The reviews must be on a third party website or on your Google Maps page itself.

It is very important to note that you have no control over these reviews. If you get a poor review you will have no recourse in regards to removing it. Just as equally if you are not soliciting reviews, readers can still choose to leave a review on your Google Maps page whether you want it or not. Additionally, there is no way to disable the review feature in your Google Local Business account.

So, like it or not, you are stuck with reviews, good or bad. As the number of reviews appears to have a strong impact on your Google Maps placement and you can't disable the feature to show them, it is by far better to work to solicit them from happy customers.

I recommend that after you have provided a service, you provide your clients with a link to post reviews directly on your Google Maps profile page. You may want to encourage review participation by offering a small monetary thank you, or by sending a coffee cup with your business' name on it if the client advises you they have reviewed your services, or by just starting with a personal email asking for comments and reviews and providing a link to your Google Maps page.

Some businesses may benefit by setting up an Internet connected laptop computer near their checkout with a note that says "leave a review on your service today and get 10% on your next purchase" (or some other promotional offer). The staff can check that the review has been added to the Google Maps page and then give the coupon out as the client completes the online review.

Other businesses may be better served by sending a mass email to all customers from the prior week with a link to the business' Google Local Business Center page and asking them to supply a review anonymously. Sometimes just asking is all it takes. If you blog, you can point readers to your Google Local Business Center page and ask for reviews in a round about way as well.

What is important to note is that Google does not differentiate between a good review and a bad review; it is only the number of reviews that make the difference to them for placement.

Reviews can be a double edged sword; they can help you or harm you. My philosophy is, if you do get a bad review the information may end up being valuable to you by encouraging change. By being receptive to customer feedback and then acting on that feedback you may actually make your business better and stronger.

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