Playing the Google Maps ranking game can be frustrating, because sometimes businesses that don't deserve to be at the top seem to find their way there anyway. What are the tricks to achieving one of those top ranking spots? Is there a way to boost your rankings without breaking the rules and risking penalties? Here are a few things you can do to outrank your competitors the right way.
1. Nail the basics. Filling out your Google My Business profile may not be the most exciting task ever, but it makes a huge difference in your ranking, more than any other element. Be as thorough and accurate as possible - not just with your contact and location information, but also with a list of your products and services, photos of your business, and your opening hours.
2. Don't skimp on categories. Your primary business category on GMB is one of the most important factors in how Google Maps understands what you do, and what you should be ranked for. If your business does more than one thing, you can also supplement with additional categories to help the algorithm be more accurate. The more you can hone in on the exact things your business does, the better Google will understand which search results you should be featured in.
3. Understand your competitors' categories. When you look at a competitor's GMB page, you can clearly see their primary category, but not the secondary categories that might be helping to boost their rankings, as Google hides those from view. However, there is still a way to see the full list of all categories - developer George Nenni has created a handy free Chrome extension called GMBspy that lists not only the primary categories of your competitors, but all the additional categories as well. Looking through these categories can be enlightening, but make sure you only list your business for categories that reflect the services you actually offer.
4. Report fraud. If you can clearly see that there are highly-ranked businesses in your top categories who are gaming the system by keyword stuffing and breaking the rules, Google has created a business redressal complaint form where you can report the violation. Although response times from Google may vary, eventually they do get around to correcting the listings in question, which can really help your rankings if a particular business in your category keeps dominating the listings with unfair techniques.
5. Strengthen your authority. Your GMB listing is not the only source for Google's rankings. The algorithm also looks at the quality of your website, the strength of your social media accounts, and your perceived authority in your niche. Backlinks and business citations are essential to developing authority. Quality backlinks come from established institutions such as local newspapers, the Chamber of Commerce, or even area schools and universities. Business citations are more readily developed, as you can create them yourself by listing your company in local business directories and well-known review sites.
Ranking highly on Google Maps requires a little bit of magic and a lot of strategy. If you want some help understanding the mix of factors and how to fine-tune your listing for peak performance, contact us for a free consultation to start moving in the right direction.