Google Map Packs
You’ve seen the “map packs” but may not have realized exactly what they were. When you use Google to find a local business and a few select businesses are at the very top of the results along with a map showing their locations. This is known as the “Map Pack” and is a great place for your business to be! Google initially started with a Map Pack of 7 businesses but has whittled it down to 3, so now only the top 3 local businesses are shown. As an interesting side note to this change by Google, the change from 7 to 3 came as a complete surprise to just about every SEO “expert” out there (us included). This is, and was, a very good example of how everything we do is really best guess – Google tells us nothing.
So you know what I’m referring to, take a look at the below screenshot that shows a search for “pressure washers lawrenceville” (this applies to all businesses, not just pressure washers):
Real quick – the top shows the search term. The first results are paid advertisements (of course). Below that is a map and below the map are the select 3 businesses that are showing as a result of our search.
…does anybody else find it interesting that one of the items in the Map Pack doesn’t even show a website? Patience grasshopper – we’ll get to that.
One critically important aspect of this result is that the phone numbers are shown in the search results without having to click on the link – this leads to internet searches simply calling your business without actually clicking on the link. This is far more effective than it would appear to be as some folks just want a phone number and to have a conversation, not dig through internet listings and web pages.
It’s also very interesting that the top three shown in this Map Pack are NOT the top three search results. If you scrolled down below the map pack in the actual rankings, you’ll find other pressure washing businesses listed at the actual top of the search results page. What the heck is going on here? Again, we’ll get to that.
Below the 3rd business is a link that says “more pressure washers”. Clicking this link will open up a full page of the rest of the businesses that match your search terms. It’s interesting to note that when you click this link, all of the other screen info goes away, which means the paid advertisements as well – odd since Google makes about 98% of the revenue from paid advertisements. I look at this as a clear indication of their focus on showing only the most relevant search results to their users even if it means not showing paid advertisements.
The idea is for your business to show up in the top three so they are front-and-center when the user is looking at the search results. If you’re not in the top three, you have to hope they click the “more pressure washers” link and then scroll through the rest of the results to find you. As with anything related to search results – the higher you are, the more likely it is that the link to your business will be clicked.
So, the next obvious question is, how do you get your business to show up in the Google Map Pack. The next section will discuss this as well as why your business is not listed! So, how to get it listed and what can keep it from being listed – coming right up.
How to show up on the Google Map Pack
To get listed on the map pack, there are several things you should be doing.
First and foremost, as with any other SEO effort, you should have a website that has strong on-page SEO, good content geared towards human users and not search engines, and is easily navigable. These three items are table stakes – nothing new here. If your page is lacking any of these three things then you have larger problems to deal with than making the Google Map Pack – you are probably not doing very well in any area of SEO.
Next, there’s one thing to remember – nobody but a very select few at Google actually knows how Google determines rankings. So everything is best guess – you may have heard me say that before. It’s a very, very educated best guess drawn the empirical study of literally thousands of SEOs around the world but still, it’s best guess. Google also changes things up, often with no advance notice to anybody. With that in mind, this is the general consensus of what it takes to get your business to show up in the Map Pack:
- Your website’s content. Whoops, already mentioned that but it’s so important, I feel good about mentioning it again. In fact, I’ll probably mention it again later because it’s pretty important. Bear in mind Google’s primary focus – to show the internet search the most relevant search results. To do this, they must match the content of your website to the users search terms. So the more closely your content matches what your site is actually about, the more comfortable Google is with giving that searcher your website.
- “Google My Business” page. There’s been a lot of discussion this, but if you don’t have a Google Plus or Google My Business page, then you’re lessening your chances of being listed in the Map Pack. A solid Google My Business page should consist of information about your business, your operating area, phone numbers, website, etc. You’ll have to verify it and then link it to your website. Double and triple check to make sure everything on this page is 100% accurate.
- Local validation that you are, in fact, a business…and a reputable one at that. How does this happen? Think of review sites like Yelp, CitySearch, Bing, Yahoo, Thumbtack, etc. Your business listing should be created/claimed on each of these sites as well with IDENTICAL (very important) Name, Address and Phone Number. This is how Google equates a review on Yelp with your Google Business page and gives you extra credit and higher rankings.
- How local is your business? If you’re in Seattle, you won’t show up in the Map Pack for Atlanta. Remember Google’s focus on delivering the most relevant search results? A person searching for a plumber in Seattle and gets a listing in Atlanta isn’t relevant, so it won’t happen. That would be bad for Google and….ahem…it’s all about what’s best for Google. So when you create your Google My Business page, you have a choice of creating a storefront, a personal page or a brand. You want to create either a storefront or a brand and then select the area you service. If you service only a specific town, then select that town. If you service an area, you can enter a zip code or address and choose a mile radius. Whatever option you choose, that will determine where you have a chance of showing up in the Map Pack for.
How to add your Google My Business Listing
First, create a personal page. This a requirement – you must first own a personal page and from that, you can create a business page. Many business owners choose to create only a personal page and use it as their business page (because it’s convenient) but this approach has a lot of drawbacks – most importantly it will not show up in local search results for the business!! Customers also cannot leave reveiws on personal pages so it’s far better to create a personal page, and then create a business page based on that personal page.
After you create the personal page and then move onto creating your business page, you’ll be faced with the decision to create a “Location” or a “Brand” based business page. For the most part, I recommend using the “Location” page even though it’s more difficult. Creating a Location page requires verification from Google via snail-mail…you’ll get a letter with a verification code you will have to use in about 1-2 weeks. If you create a “Brand” page, the verification is only a text message and occurs immediately. The enhanced verification for the Location page is one reason I recommend it – it greatly reduces the spamability of the page creation as well as reduces the likelihood of duplicate business pages.
So, how exactly do we do this? Follow the below directions:
First, to create the personal page, simply go to the Google+ Account Creation page. Once there, follow the directions to create your personal page. Once that is done, come back here and continue.
When the personal page is created, you’ll see a 3×3 grid on the home page. Click on that and then click on the G+ icon to go to the main settings page:
After that, you’ll be presented with another menu – hit the drop down and click on “Pages” to see what pages you have created so far.
Once you click on “Pages”, you’ll be presented with a page that shows “Location” and “Brand” pages. Depending on which you have selected will determine the menu options available in the drop down menu on the left. As we discussed before, I recommend selecting
“Locations” and then creating a “Locations” based business page.
Once you click on “Add a Location”, you’ll be presented with a large Map search screen where you will be prompted to enter your business name. Go ahead and type it in and look at the results. Most likely, your business will not be listed so select the “add my business” option at the bottom of the search results.
Once you’ve selected to add your business, you’ll be presented with the below screen. Be sure to fill everything in accurately. Note the “I deliver goods and services to my customers at their locations” check box. If you offer services in a given area, make sure to select this box. Doing so will enable a follow on configuration setting where you select your area (city or zip) or your business address + a mile radius. For a local service, I recommend a 50 to 100 mile radius around your major city.
After this is done, you’ll be presented with a Verification screen where your business address is shown along with a note that you will be mailed a verification code within 1-2 weeks. Ensure the address is correct and click the link at the bottom.
Now go back to the first step, where you clicked on the 3×3 grid, then selected “Pages” from the G+ main menu. When you’re on the Pages screen, you’ll now be presented with a list of business pages you have created. In the screenshot below, I show 3 pages – yours should only have a single business which reflects the information you just entered.
There’s a very good chance your new entry will have a status of “Missing Store Code”. Click on the “Add store code” link and give your new business a store code – it is a made up code you select. If you have 100 different locations, you might want to create some kind of format that keeps everything tidy. If you only have a single area, it’s fine to enter something basic. For SnugData, I simply created a Store Code of “SnugData_GA”.
Once you create the store code, you status should change to “Published”.
Now you’ll see your page – from here you’ll want to “Manage” your page and fill in every single item you can…with a lot of detail. This is critical – don’t create it and leave it bare. If you want to show up in the Google results and/or the Google Map Pack, you should ensure this business page contains as much information about your business as you can.
That’s it…well, not exactly. Keep it updated, post to it, check back often. The next step is to ensure other recommendation sites such as Yelp, CitySearch and others accurately reflect your business information. Stay tuned to SnugData for the next blog post that will discuss this approach.