How to Troubleshoot: Good Organic Rankings, No Google Places Rankings

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Do you rank page-one in the organic results, but seem locked out of the Google Places (AKA Google+ Local) results?

If this situation looks something like yours…

…then you might have what I call “detached” local rankings.

In other words, you’ve got an organic ranking right above or right below the “7-pack,” and you’re wondering why you don’t also have a ranking in the 7-pack.

It used to very difficult to have both – long story – but now you usually can have the same page rank both organically and in Google Places.  (Emphasis on “usually”: something may be busted, or it may not even be possible in your case.)

It’s a common problem.  Business owners ask me about it all the time.

Here are what I’ve found to be the most-common explanations for why you may have good organic rankings but no Places / + Local / “7-pack” rankings:

Explanation 1:  Your business is too far from the city where you want the Places rankings.  There may be nothing you can do about this except to apply the best-practices I’m always harping on.

Explanation 2:  You show up in the Places results for other queries – just not the one you typed in.  This one’s complex: Why you’re showing up in Places for some queries but not others depends on factors like point #1, whether you include the city name in your search term, where you’re physically sitting when you’re searching, and how many local competitors you have.

Explanation 3:  Your Google listing has been penalized.  Make sure you’re kosher.

Explanation 4:  It’s too soon.  If you just created your Google Places page, just wait a couple weeks.

Explanation 5:  Your Google listing may have the wrong categories.

Explanation 6:  You may not be presenting your NAP info correctly on your site.

Explanation 7:  Your site may have no NAP info at all.

Explanation 8:  The “URL” or “website” field in your citations may be empty on some of your listings, or it may contain wrong or inconsistent URLs.

Explanation 9:  Your business may have no citations – or too few.

Explanation 10:  Duplicate Google Places listings.  Often these are caused by having messy citations.  (Hat tip to Linda for bringing up this point in her comment, below.  Also, check out this forum thread.)

Do you have any experience with “detached” rankings?  What worked for you?  Or do you have them now, and you’re stumped?  Leave a comment!


  1. Hey Phil, this is a great topic, and you nailed it with the reasons.

    What is interesting is that it might be possible to achieve better CTR with your website’s search result. Imagine a theoretical situation where you have:
    – Authorship set up properly = big picture showing up next to your search result
    – Video mark-up set up properly = having a thumbnail of a video next to your search result
    – Reviews mark-up set up properly = having 5 stars show up under your search result
    – Everything local-specific set up properly = local plus box (

    And there is obviously the positive of having full control over your title tag and meta description (well, not entirely full in terms of what Google would decide to display, but you still have more control and flexibility than over your G+ Local listing’s title).

    • Thanks a bunch, Nyagoslav!

      Great point. Sometimes it does make more sense to have an organic result, if it’s a choice between that and a Places result. But at least now, it’s usually possible to have both. (Obviously, that’s not news to you. So I may be missing something.)

  2. It’s absolutely the best possible scenario to have both, Phil. But as you mentioned in the post, in some situations this would be impossible (for instance in explanation 1). So it would not be necessary to freak out, because there is always something you could do even just with an organic search result.

  3. Hi Phil, great stuff. Explanation #3 is one that has always interested and perplexed me. Sometimes it can be very obvious if a G+ Local page has violations. However, sometimes it’s not clear. It would be very cool if Google reported to the business owner on this, like how they do with manual link penalties for organic.


  4. I had a personal injury lawyer that was detached and just broke back into the 7-pack last week. It’s kind of a long story and things have fluctuated over the last couple of years, but…

    When he came to us, he was ranking high (1-3) organically, but it seemed to be hit-or-miss in the local results. Most of the time though, his pure organic ranking was above the pack, but he wanted to be in the local pack. At the time, I don’t think it was possible (or at least all that common) to rank the home page in pure organic and local pack…but he insisted that he would rather be in the local listings, rather than the organic, even though he would essentially be lower on the page. Oh…and he also just changed his name (added a partner) and moved into a new building at a new address 🙂

    I started off on the organic ranking and obtained an authorship photo, so now he was ranking usually #1 for ‘personal injury lawyer’ + city with an author photo, but he still wanted to be in the local results instead. I just started slowly updating citations and continued to improve on-site factors, and in the meantime, I believe Google started to allow the same page to rank in pure organic and local pack. So, to make a long story a little bit shorter, eventually everything lined up I guess and Google put it all together and he now ranks #1 in pure organic (still with author photo) and #1 in the local pack, for ‘personal injury lawyer’ + city.

    There definitely didn’t seem to be any one magic thing that I did, just consistent effort to get everything cleaned up and optimized. I don’t know how many times I told him that “we’re doing everything we can, but it’s probably just going to take a bit more time…could be any day now”, but I’m just thankful that Google was able to come through for me.

    • Great story, Eric. Thanks for that. As you say, it usually is just a matter of going down the checklist and seeing what you can cross off.

  5. Hey Phil, great topic!

    I teach a whole section on how to troubleshoot “detached” listings and I think I’ve posted a couple times in the forum about how to diagnose the problem too.

    I have a whole section in the video training where I explain and show the process I use to go back and forth to try to isolate exactly where the problem sits. I use this method all the time in consulting when SEOs come to me for help diagnosing ranking problems. One of these days I’ll try to convert that whole video section to writing and do a step-by-step at the forum.

    2 additional reasons I teach for why listings become detached.

    1) Dupes to me is the most common reason listings get “detached”. Duplicate confusion almost always causes ranking problems and can often knock you out of the pack. (Even allowed dupes like multiple practitioner listings at the same address usually cause a problem unless you know how to manage them.)

    2) NAP confusion – This can happen a variety of ways. Mixed NAP for 3 locations all on the same page of the web site. Then throw in a couple practitioners at each location. If all G+ L links are going to to the home page, now we have 12 Place pages all going to the same home page. She gets confused, can’t make the match and boom – drop out of the pack. OR Local phone is on the G+L listing and 800# is the only # on the site. OR there are a lot of other variations of this theme.

    • Hey Linda, thanks!

      I knew I’d seen a forum thread a while ago about detached rankings. Couldn’t find it, though. Thanks for digging it up.

      Great points – especially about dupes. I’ve added that as Explanation #10.

      Would you believe it if I said I’d wanted to do this post for literally two years?

  6. Here is one of the threads I wrote that goes into more detail about how to I troubleshoot the problem in case anyone is dealing with the issue. Hope you don’t mind Phil. Just think it expands on the solution a tiny bit.
    I just shared your post in a new thread at my forum, where I’m sure it will help lots of folks, so thanks so much for bringing it up and for the great insights. Much appreciated!

  7. Good stuff, Phil. Your blog is a great resource for both learning about local SEO as well as learning how to write a blog post that’s informative, engaging and easy to understand. I’m always impressed by how clearly you present the information. Thanks.

  8. This may be me-but does it really matter as long as you can get to Page 1? I find its easier to rank in organic search or at least that’s what I’m more experienced in. Seems to me however you can get to page in a white hat way is fine. The times I’ve done it, I guess local listings were not an issue.

    • In some cases it doesn’t matter. In others it does. Like if you’re #3 in the organics, and are right below the 7-pack. Just converting that into a Google Places ranking might move you significantly higher up the page.

      You bring up a great point, though. If you have detached rankings it’s always worth thinking about whether you’re already in the ideal situation. This is what Nyagoslav was alluding to.

      • Yes I saw that, and I agree. This is a great conversation you get on your blog. And congrats on the inclusion in a roundup post on one of the big search blogs, don’t remember now if it was SEL, oh it’s SearchCap.

  9. Hey Phil, grey post as always!

    One of my clients was ranking #1 in Maps, but not in organic results, about 7 months ago we got him a new domain, and I 301’ed it. But i never changed his URL in Google places dashboard, few weeks later he started ranking #1 in organic results. Since then I still haven’t changed his domain name in Google places dashboard, so as of now he’s #1 in Maps and #1 in organic results, as well. Just wondering if I update his domain in Google places dashboard will this affect local rankings?

  10. Phil I have a question, and perhaps this will help other new business owners who are very small business (you’ll see why.) I”m basically restarting my business, I had worked with few folks setting up websites and over years teaching myself SEO (organic search,) on my own properties. Now trying to make it more “official” but I dont’ yet have a DBA- probably like many I have my website name and a home office based. OK-so a lot of the citation building that one should do for local- I can’t set up–can I just use my website name? Ultimately I do want to use the name of website as business name without the dot com.”m gonna “out” them on this. In my area many folks put SEO terms in place of business name like “SEO service “location,” yet when I tried it and got I really good review they flagged me and said you have to show us DBA to use a term that is not your exact business name. Multiple phone calls and up the hierarchy, I went-showing them companies doing same thing-one business name (seen via website info) and totally different clearly SEO optimized title listing in They refused to budge, I even said can I put “SEO Services+”my legal name” and supervisor came back with NO. They were like ok so report those guys to our other division-and Im thinking well you are not forbidding them-I actually think a competitor flagged me as I was suddenly at top of a bunch of listings-I had filled out my free ad “really well, and more thoroughly” then he had ever seen said the ad salesman, so that’s probably why I soared to top of listings thereby sparking this slap down. I honestly dont’ have money to do the DBA right now, so I feel stuck. So on YELP same thing-but much more nice- I just put my personal name-Oh but then all citations should match- uggghhh. If this feels too “legal” to answer, don’t worry but any ideas would really help.

  11. Hi, I’m running a small business and have the same issue. I’m ranking high #1 with most main keywords on the organic search, but on Google maps I’ number 4, 5, 6, and some of the keywords even spot 11.

    The funny thing is, that with all the main keywords outside my city and state I am ranking #1 on the maps and the organic as well. It seems like the organic search isn’t changing but the maps is my issue.

    What do you think I should do?



  1. […] at the forum. Phil Rozek just did a great post outlining many of the reasons this can happen. How to Troubleshoot: Good Organic Rankings, No Google Places Rankings Head over to take a read. Phil goes on to explain many of the reasons this can happen. I added […]

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