google maps seo

Master Google Maps SEO: 7 Proven Steps to Improve Local Rankings

Google Maps SEO is the key to unlocking the full potential of your site.

In the competitive world of local business, Google Maps has emerged as a crucial platform for driving growth. 

By optimizing your website and your Google Business Profile, leveraging local keywords, and harnessing the power of customer reviews, you can get serious traction.

This article will guide you through the essential strategies and best practices of Google Maps SEO, empowering you to stand out in local search results and grow sales.

Let’s start with a definition.

What is Google Maps SEO? 

Google Maps SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of optimizing your business’s online presence to improve its visibility and ranking on Google Maps. 

When users search for local businesses or services on Google, the search results often include a map with listings of relevant nearby businesses. 

The goal of Google Maps SEO is to ensure that your business appears near the top of these search results, and has a high rating, making it more likely for searchers to patronize your establishment. 

Before we get into practical steps, let’s review what local search results are and how they’re laid out.

Understanding Local Search Results

Search results for local businesses look different from, say, results for informational queries. 

This display is triggered by a local search term.

Local search intent: When you search for things like pizza delivery, dry cleaners, or a plumber, Google knows you’re looking for a local business. 

And that triggers a local search results display

Local search results: At the top are ads (if any are running on that search term). These may include Local Services Ads.

example of google local services ads

After that you’ll see the Local Pack: a display of 3 businesses next to a map. 

business listing google maps seo

Clicking on the Local Pack opens a new display. This one features a scrollable list of businesses on the left and a map on the right. 

local business search results

At the top are filters to refine your search.

Blue links: Below the Local Pack are website listings. Often business directories, like Yelp, will rank high, which provides an incentive to get listed there. 

example of local search results

People Also Ask: Some queries may display the People Also Ask section, a collection of commonly asked questions about the topic.

example of people also ask questions

Statistical Insights and User Behavior

  • Nearly one-third of all mobile searches are related to location, showcasing the importance of good local search strategy.
  • 85% of searchers consider the overall average star rating of a business to be “important” of “very important.”
  • Some 76% of people who search on their smartphones for local businesses, visit that business within 24 hours and 28% of those visits end with a purchase.

Key Factors Influencing Local Search Rankings

My approach in this article will be to rely on Google’s own recommendations for improving your local search ranking

So all of the recommendations will be relevant to local SEO. You can’t really separate Google Maps SEO from local SEO. What you do for one will influence the other.

I’ll also bring my experience doing SEO for local businesses to play in my recommendations.

How to Optimize for Google Maps SEO 

Let’s start with a tool recommendation.

1. Use All in One SEO to Optimize Pages

According to Google, how your business website ranks can impact your overall local rankings in Google Maps. So it’s crucial to optimize your site for better SEO. 

WordPress site owners can use an SEO plugin to automate and simplify much of on-page SEO

I recommend the All in One SEO (AIOSEO) plugin. This is an established plugin with thousands of 5-star reviews on 

It’s easy to learn to use the plugin. In fact, you’ll learn by doing. 

For each page analyzed, AIOSEO will provide clear action steps to improve your SEO. 

aioseo homepage

All in One SEO includes many tools of benefit to local businesses. These include: 

  • Author SEO: Easily broadcast the experience and expertise of your authors. This can impact EEAT.
  • WooCommerce SEO: Optimize your product titles, descriptions, categories, and more.
  • Video sitemaps: Click 1 button and you’ve got a video sitemap that will help surface your video content in Google search results pages.
  • Local business schema: Schema markup is code that helps Google understand your page better and rank it for relevant keywords. With AIOSEO, all you have to do is click some buttons and fill out some form fields.
  • Other schema types: In addition, you can add specific schema types to web pages. For instance, product reviews schema, product schema, video schema, and events schema. 

2. Create and Optimize a Google Business Profile

This step is crucial. Google’s own advice on ranking higher locally, emphasizes setting up an optimized Google Business Profile. 

Getting a Google Business Profile is simple. First, do a search for your business name. Google may have already set up a basic Profile for you. If that’s the case, click “Own this business?” to claim your profile.

example of unclaimed google businesss profile

Above: This individual is a wood turner, not a doctor. He hasn’t claimed this Google Business Profile.

If there’s no Profile for you to claim, you’ll create one from scratch.

Then follow the steps outlined in How to Use a Google Business Profile to Boost Local SEO

Pay careful attention to:

  • Choosing the right categories for your business
  • Fully completing the profile
  • Implementing available buttons where relevant (such as those for ordering takeout or booking appointments)
  • Adding photos and content
google business profile for restaurante

Above: This local restaurant uses Order Pickup and Order Delivery buttons in their Google Business Profile. This makes it easy (and fast) for searchers to order from them.

Content can be as simple as announcements, sales, or a new photo.

example of google business profile

Above: Your Google Business Profile will show up in Google Maps in addition to regular search results.

3. Make a Plan to Get More Google Reviews

Google Reviews is the most trusted review platform, according to research by BrightLocal

Your Review ratings will show up in many places, including in the Local Pack.

review ratings in google maps

And in Google Maps searches, when users mouseover a pin.

example of google reviews in google maps

Also consider:

  • 73% of local shoppers are swayed by the presence of recent reviews of a business.
  • When comparing businesses, 76% of searchers consider which one has the higher average.
  • 85% of searchers consider the overall average star rating of a business to be “important” of “very important.”

So managing Google Reviews should be part of your regular routine. 

  • Create a plan for asking customers for reviews
  • Respond quickly to reviews 
  • Work to increase your average star rating 

Learn more in Managing Google Reviews for Improved SEO.

4. Get Listed in Business Directories

Next, get your business listed in online directories. These sites, like Yelp and Thumbtack often rank high in local searches. 

example of yelp page
Above: Example of a Yelp business listing.

My preferred way to do this is to use BrightLocal’s Citation Builder. You’ll pay a flat fee. 

  1. Simply create an account.
  2. Add your business details
  3. Click Start Campaign

Note: You’ll see a purple button at top for “Buy Credits.” I recommend avoiding this. You’ll only see options to buy packages worth $1,000 on up, and that’s confusing.

Instead, click on the green Start Campaign button next to a business you’ve added. 

brightlocal citation builder start campaign buttons

You’ll see a screen like this, where you can choose the number of citations you want to purchase and whether you want the BrightLocal team to remove existing listings with inaccurate information.

brightlocal citation builder

Select how many citations you want. My favorite is the 25 citations for $80. It’s not the number of citations that matter as much as the quality of the sites chosen. 

I recommend also selecting Data Aggregator & Network Submissions. 

Simply scroll down the window to see your options.

Here I’ve selected Neustar and the GPS Network. It’s fine to select all 5 if you like.

brightlocal data aggregators

You should, at minimum, select Neustar. But I recommend adding the GPS Network, because you want your business location data to be vetted and distributed to vehicle navigation systems. 

car gps map display
Submitting your site to a GPS data aggregator will ensure you show up in vehicle navigation systems and that your map information is correct.

For one Manhattan client I consulted with, the addition of Neustar alone, before any directory listings went live, was sufficient to propel him up many notches in search results.

The examples above come to a grand total of $143.50

After you’re listed in business directories, you’ll notice that other sites learn about your business and list yours for free

Other local citations you can pursue include:

  • Creating a personal blog where you discuss your niche.
  • Writing guest posts for relevant sites in return for a dofollow link back to your site.
  • Joining your local Chamber of Commerce. 

6. Keep Your NAP Updated

Once you have your directory listings, it’s important to keep your NAP consistent across the web.

NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone number. But it’s understood to include other business details like operating hours (crucial for Google Maps SEO), website URL, and email address. 

Remember: Google Maps offers filters for local searches. For example, if someone’s searching for “late night diner” they’ll be offered filters, including for restaurants that are open 24-hours a day.

If a restaurant changes its operating hours from 24-hours a day to, say, 9am-10pm, but doesn’t update their information on their Google Business Profile, Google may suppress your rankings. 

After all, they don’t want to send customers to an establishment that’s closed

Indeed, they may do that if your NAP isn’t consistent across the web. But it’s not worth obsessing over. For instance, if your business is listed in one place with “LLC” after the name, and on another website without the “LLC,” that small difference isn’t going to affect your rankings.

Avoid SEO NAP Scams

In fact, SEO scammers love to target small businesses with calls about such minute variations in NAP.

These scammers often claim to work for Google. Only later in the call will they also say the name of their business.

My mechanic, before he retired, was targeted by such a scammer. This mechanic owned his own garage, which had a minute NAP variation like the one I described above.

The caller became insistent, saying “The way to make these calls go away is to sign up for our service.” Sounds like an SEO mafia!

Of course, these scammers want to sign you up for a monthly fee, just to watch for NAP variations. The scam is: you don’t need their services.

Sadly, the scammer convinced my mechanic that they really did work for Google. And I couldn’t talk him out of that perception.

Take a Common Sense Approach

So, avoid scammers. Keep your NAP accurate in your Google Business Profile and social media pages. Maintain accurate hours of operation.

And if any part of your contact or location information changes, log into BrightLocal’s Citation Builder and ask them to update your listings with the info.

Learn more about the importance of consistent NAP.

Now, let’s look at local content opportunities.

7. Create Content Around Local Keywords

Local businesses can create content around local keywords by:

  • Identifying relevant keywords that include the business’s location, such as “best pizza in [city name]” or “[service] near me.”
  • Incorporating these local keywords naturally into website content, blog posts, product descriptions, and other online content.
  • Creating location-specific pages on their website, such as “About Us” or “Contact” pages, that mention the business’s address, phone number, and other local information.
  • Encouraging customers to leave reviews on local directories and social media platforms, which can help improve the business’s local search rankings.
  • Partnering with other local businesses or organizations to create locally-focused content, such as event listings or guides to the area.

By consistently creating high-quality, locally-relevant content that incorporates targeted keywords, businesses can improve their visibility in local search results and attract more customers.

11 Things That Can Ruin Your Google Maps SEO

 No article on Google Maps SEO would be complete without listing things to avoid.

Here is a concise list of things that can harm your Google Maps SEO.

  1. Keyword stuffing in business name or description
  2. Fake or spammy reviews
  3. Failing to ask for and get customer reviews
  4. Lack of recent customer reviews
  5. Absence of business categories or incorrect category selection for Google Business Profile (GBP)
  6. Lack of regular updates and posts on Google Business Profile
  7. Ignoring customer questions, messages, and reviews on GBP
  8. Paying for spammy backlinks.
  9. Inconsistent listing information across different online directories
  10. Violating Google’s guidelines for local businesses
  11. Falling prey to SEO scams that target local businesses

Q&A on Google Maps SEO

How can I embed a Google Map on my website? 

Go to Google Maps and click on the pin marking your chosen destination. In the overlay, select Share.

embed google map

Then click Embed a Map

Click Copy HTML and paste the code into the web page where you want to display the map.

copy html google map

In WordPress, you’ll select the HTML block, then simply paste the code in.

How can I check my ranking in local search results?

To discover your rankings in local search results use local search grid tools. These take into account ranking factors like proximity of the searcher to related businesses. 

local search grid
Above: Example of a local search grid, showing location-based rankings of a business for a particular keyword. Searches conducted further away from the business’s location (marked by the blue pin), tend to rank lower. Competitor locations and their SEO also affect these results.

In addition, you can see, on the grid map, local areas where a competitor is outranking you. And you can track keyword performance across local areas.

After Google Maps SEO . . .

Now that you understand how to excel at Google Maps SEO, what’s next? 

Check out our master guide to Local SEO. And learn how to avoid SEO scams. Unfortunately, these often target small businesses.

Then make sure you’re set to capture leads. Explore these lead magnet ideas and be sure to use mobile-friendly forms

Come join us on our YouTube Channel. And follow us on X (Twitter), LinkedIn, or Facebook to stay in the loop.

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author avatar
Sherrie Gossett Content Writer
Sherrie is an SEO analyst based in New Hampshire in the United States. When she’s not busy researching, implementing, and writing about new SEO developments, she can be found hiking and playing guitar.

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