Google Maps Reviews Now Include “What Do You Like About This Place?” Prompts

In what is at least a test, Google now asks Google Maps reviewers to select attributes they like about the business they’re reviewing.  When I went to post a review yesterday, Google asked how I liked the “Quality,” “Value,” “Responsiveness,” and “Punctuality” of the business.

I haven’t been able to replicate that for other businesses, including for other businesses I’ve reviewed since that review.  So I also don’t know whether there are other attributes (e.g. “Reputation,” “Convenience,” etc.) that may show up under the “What Do You Like About This Place?” header, or why certain prompts might show up for one business and not the other.  I’ll need to see more to say more.

The prompts are very Yelp-like.  For many years Yelp has asked reviewers structured questions like those (e.g. “Price” or “Good for Groups”).  Google could use that info in all kinds of ways, most obviously in the search filters in Google Maps. It’s also possible that Google doesn’t care much whether reviewers click the attributes, as long as they see the prompts. In that way, maybe Google simply wants reviewers to sprinkle in more crunchy bits of detail.

Regardless of whatever way(s) Google wants to use those prompts, it’s probably a good idea to have your reviewers spoon-feed that stuff to Google.

Have you seen the “What Do You Like About This Place?” questions when you post a Google review?  If so, when did you first notice it?

Any theories on how Google is most likely to use reviewers’ answers to those questions?

Leave a comment!

The Local SEO Data Jackpot You Missed: Google Analytics – Search Console Integration

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If you’ve never done so, log into Google Analytics, then go to “Acquisition,” “Search Console,” and “Landing pages.”  There you’ll find a mashup of (1) Google Analytics data on landing pages and (2) Google Search Console data on how specific pages perform in the search results.  Whether you do local SEO yourself or you do it for clients, you’ll the usefulness of that data in pretty short time.

You’ll need to integrate Google Analytics and Search Console first, but that’s easy, and you may have done it already.

I haven’t heard my fellow local SEOs talk about this tucked-away area in Analytics.  Not sure why.  (Maybe they did and I missed it.)  It’s an area I overlooked until more recently than I’d like to admit.  People outside of local search have discussed the Analytics – Search Console tie-in a bit (and Search Console alone to a greater extent), but not how it can benefit your local SEO campaign.

Click to enlarge

In case you’re wondering, the info you see in Search Console is not the same.  You can see a page’s click-through rate and number impressions in Search Console (“Performance” -> “Pages”).  But those metrics aren’t paired with the useful page-specific metrics you see in Google Analytics, like bounce rate, pages per session, and conversion rate, etc.   You can get similar insights by looking at Search Console and Analytics separately, and not using the integration, but that’s a hassle.

The big, obvious benefit of the Analytics – Search Console mashup is that the metrics are in one place: you don’t have to flip between Analytics and Search Console.  That’s convenient.  It also lets you sort and filter your data easily, if you want or need to.  That’s good whether or not you do local SEO.

But the GA-GSC integration is uniquely useful if you do local SEO, for reasons that include:

  • You can see how many queries contain a city name or other place name. That means less speculation on which terms your visitors typed in, and gives you a better sense of where they’re located.
  • You can identify which specific pages are chopped liver in the search results. (High impressions + low CTR.)  That will tell you which title tags and description takes may need a facelift.
  • You can tell whether your “city pages” amount to a hill of beans, or not even that. You’ll determine whether to continue or scrap that strategy.
  • If you’re multi-location, you can see which “location” page gets the most or fewest clicks (and impressions). Of course, you can map that to whatever you know about which location does worst or best in terms of getting new customers.
  • You can compare what you see in the Analytics-Search Console mashup to the data you see elsewhere: AdWords “search term” reports , Google My Business “Insights,” and any rank-trackers you might use, to name a few examples.
  • You can see how many of the queries that get people to your landing pages in the organic results also cause the local 3-pack to show up. Do you appear both in the organic results and on the map for that term?  If not, should you make your GMB landing page a little more like the one that ranks in the organic results?  Lots of questions to ponder, depending on what you find.
  • It seems to have more-complete data than what Search Console alone has. If you go into Search Console (under “Performance” -> “Pages”) you may see performance data only on a few pages.  Whereas the “Search Console” -> Landing pages” VIEW in Google Analytics may pull in data on more of your pages – more pages than you’d see data on if you just stayed in Search Console.

By the way, here’s another fun area in Analytics: “Acquisition” -> “Search Console” -> “Queries” -> “Term cloud” -> “Impressions.”

We all know Google’s propensity to kill off useful features and to make useful data harder to get at, so feast on this while you still can.

 

Anyway, you don’t need more advice from me on why you’ll find that data useful, or on what to do with it.  Just go check it out.  Again: Google Analytics -> “Acquisition” -> “Search Console” -> “Landing pages.”

Any useful resources other people have written on this (especially from a local SEO angle)?

When did you first stumble into the Analytics – Search Console integration?

What are your favorite insights to dig out?

Leave a comment!

Hardest Truths of Google Maps Spam

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It’s hard enough to keep a lid on competitors’ Google Maps / Google My Business spam.  That’s even harder if you don’t know what to expect, or or if you give up because you assume you’re doing it wrong. It’s easy to get your spirits crushed.

As with Google reviews, you know Google isn’t too concerned about Maps-spam in general.  You probably also know at least the basics of what I call spam patrol: You identify competitors who have violated the Google My Business “quality guidelines,” and you submit edits in Google Maps, in the hope that Google will correct or remove those competitors’ spammy listings.  (As I always say, if competitors are to outrank you, might as well make them work for it.)  The post I linked to describes the basic process, as does this great guide.

You’re probably less clear on what to expect if you start or continue an anti-spam effort.  How long will you need to do it?  How often?  Will it get easier?  When will Google approve your edits? What will Google tell you?  When are you wasting your time?  And so on.

Here, in no particular order, are a few things I’ve observed about Google Maps spam and the kind of anti-spam effort you might undertake:

1. Google has crowdsourced pretty much all of its quality-control to you, me, and any oaf who can set up a Google account.  Anyone can lay a hand on anyone else’s page.  We’re all prisoners in gen pop.

2. To the extent rules ever are enforced, Google also has crowdsourced most of its enforcement to Top Contributors / Product Experts at the Google My Business forum.  Those people are volunteers, with the patience of oysters.  I suspect more people have set foot on the moon than are paid to keep Google Maps clean.

3. Google will never approve all of your edits, no matter how right you are. You’re lucky to get a third of your edits approved.

4. Google never seems to take leaps of faith on edits submitted by users who have consistently submitted edits that Google ends up agreeing with.  The spammer gets the benefit of the doubt.

5. Google won’t tell you when your edit is rejected.

6. Google won’t tell you why your edit was rejected.

7. Google won’t tell you when to expect a decision on your edits.  Sometimes it takes 30 seconds.  Sometimes it takes 2 months.

8. Google doesn’t automatically or instantly approve edits it had already approved before being counteracted by a spammer.  If I keyword-stuff the name of my business, and you get the keywords removed, and I add the keywords back, you may have to wait again for Google to approve your edit (assuming Google approves it again).

9. There’s no discernible penalty for repeated offenses on the same Google My Business page.

10. Nothing prevents the same offender from putting up the same spammy page in a different Google account.

11. Google doesn’t give you a way to dispute a rejected edit.  You can plead on the GMB forum, but again, that’s staffed mostly by volunteers, and competitors can crank out spam faster than those volunteers can review it and possibly take action on it.

12. Google doesn’t give you a “comments” field or another way to provide evidence to back up your edits.  Google does give you the option to upload photos as evidence, but those photos will be publicly visible under whatever name you use on your Google account.  Also, maybe you just want to provide a link to the business’s state Secretary of State filing, for example.  No can do.  (There is this new-ish form, but I have not seen or heard that it helps at all.)

13. Google doesn’t tell business owners and other spam patrollers that their edits are anonymous. Because of that, many business owners don’t send in edits that they’re right to submit, for fear of reprisals.

14. By the same token, if you’re NOT spamming and competitors submit malicious edits on your Google My Business page, you won’t know who’s done it.

15. You don’t have much or any extra sway if you use AdWords to advertise on a phrase that’s being spammed by competitors. Determined spammers often can get for free what you have to pay for.  Whether they get any customers out of the deal is another question.  The spam often doesn’t pay off.  Just the same, Google lets them step on your Capezios.

16. In my limited and imperfect testing, advertisers are more likely to get away with Maps-spamming.

17. If you fix a keyword-stuffed or fake name of a business, the performance-enhancing effect will linger. The page will still rank – at least for a while, if not long-term.  My hunch is that if a Google My Business page with a spammy name ranks for long enough, it gets enough clicks from searchers that Google concludes it must be a relevant result.  There’s a fake-it-’til-you-make-it effect here.

18. The less info is on or associated with a GMB page, the harder it is for Google to determine whether your edit is correct, so Google is even less likely to fix the page. That’s especially the case when the “website” field is blank.  Google’s bots or staff can’t look at the site to confirm or falsify what’s on the GMB page, so you’ll usually end up with a hung jury.

19. Google seems not to know or care what kind of address a given address is.  To Google, nothing is inherently odd about a personal-injury law firm that shares an address with an Arby’s, or an excavation company with a fleet of 12 Komatsus in a high-rise apartment building.

20. In your Google My Business dashboard, you can’t reject edits definitively or easily. When you log in, you may see Google’s “suggestions.” Often those are from other users’ (probably competitors’) edits on your listing. You can reject one at a time, but they keep popping up. That’s a royal pain, especially if you manage many GMB pages. (Thanks to Justin Mosebach of Improve & Grow for mentioning this one in his comment.)

21. Review spam is the least-monitored of all types of spam, and often the most damaging.  Spammy Google My Business pages may outrank you, but they can’t tell lies about you.  Unpoliced Google reviews can do that and much more.

22. You’ll need to patrol the map and make edits for as long as you’re in business.

Any first-hand experience you’d like to share?

What are other hard truths you’ve observed about Google Maps spam? (I know I forgot something.)

Leave a comment!

10 Basic Parts of an Effective Local SEO Audit

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There’s no shortage of info on the “ultimate” local SEO audit, and on all the checklist items big and small that people insist should be in your audit.  But there are two intertwined problems:

a. Good SEOs aren’t necessarily good at doing audits.  Most audits are overblown and disorganized.

b. Their audits often are tough for clients to act on, mostly because of how the recommendations are presented.

Whether you do your own local SEO and want to check everything out for yourself, or you’re in-house, or you’re a full-time professional SEO, your first concern should be whether you’re looking at all the moving parts.  An excruciating checklist for the website is fine, but not if you skip (or skimp on) the other parts that matter.

If you want to bake a pie, the place to start is not necessarily with granny’s super-secret recipe that took 50 years for her to perfect, if only because it’ll probably take you 30 years to get it right (if you ever do).  You’d probably prefer just a solid, straightforward recipe that you can make well today and tweak until it becomes your secret recipe.

I’ve done a lot of local SEO audits, and more often than not my clients act on the recommendations and get results.  In either case, they always understand my recommendations, partly because I structure my audits in a simple way.

Here are the 10 basic sections I usually put in a local SEO audit:

1. General comments.  Exactly how it sounds.  Any commentary you have that isn’t an action item should probably go here.  My “general comments” section is maybe half a page long.  In it, I also specify any quick wins, to the effect of, “If you do nothing else today, here are the 5 most-urgent suggestions to do.”

2. Google My Business.  Where you give your recommendations on your client’s GMB page(s), and maybe on features you think he or she should use (e.g. “Posts“).  Here’s also where you should identify any duplicate GMB pages and tell your client what to do about them.

3. Other listings (AKA citations).  I put the citation audit in a separate spreadsheet, separate from the main write-up, so this section is pretty lean.  I include any color commentary here.

4. Anti-spam.  I identify specific competitors who are spamming the local map, I explain what they’re doing, and I offer general suggestions on “spam patrol.”

5. Reviews.  In a separate spreadsheet I’ve got a “review audit,” which shows the top 8-12 review sites that matter to the specific client.  The spreadsheet also outlines my suggestions on where to focus on getting more reviews and on how to prioritize.

6. Link opportunities & strategy.  My audits include research into specific link opportunities that are realistic for the client (based on his/her answers in a questionnaire I send), and I include those link-opps recommendations in a separate spreadsheet.

7. Website: site-wide and technical.  This is where I put my suggestions on internal linking, standardizing title tags, site structure, how to improve page speed, and much more.  My audit includes several sections of website recommendations, and this the first section.

8. Homepage.  I’ve found that the homepage is important enough to call for a whole section of the audit, partly because I tend to have a lot of suggestions on the homepage.

9. Other pages.  Here’s where I put any recommendations on existing pages other than the homepage: “Services,” “Products,” “Locations,” “Service Area,” etc.  I also weigh in on concerns like whether the site has blog posts that would be better off as pages.

10. Pages to create.  This tends to be a long section, because most businesses’ sites don’t have nearly all the pages they should have, so I end up recommending many specific new pages.

Most audits I do consist of those 10 sections – give or take one or two, depending on the business.  As you can see, I didn’t tell you all the things I suggest go into each bucket, but rather the main buckets I suggest.  What you put in each bucket depends on what works for you.

Also, I always include a follow-up call to discuss any recommendations my client may want to discuss more.  I don’t consider that a section of the audit itself, but it’s an important part of the service.

Any sections I missed?

How do you structure your local SEO audits (either for a client or when reviewing your own SEO campaign)?

Leave a comment!

Your Bunker Plan in Case Google My Business Pushes the Pay-to-Play Button

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It may not happen soon – or suddenly or permanently – but the chances are good that sooner or later Google will monetize more of the Map.  Maybe all of it will become ad space, or maybe certain features of your Google My Business page will require you to load quarters into them.  Probably a little of both, plus something we can’t foresee.

If and when that happens, you’d better have your pants on.  One leg is to determine how willing you are to pay for any aspect of your Google Maps visibility.  The other leg is to be in a good enough position that pay-to-play is optional for you.

I first pecked out some of the advice in this post in 2015, when Google took the advertising shoehorn to the map.  If nothing else, that should tell you that even Google’s most-obvious plans can take years to unfold, and that the local map probably won’t change overnight (as some SEOs and others might have you believe.

Some of my advice here may be obvious to you.  Some of it you should do anyway, regardless of Google’s moneymaking schemes.  But I’ll always be a Boy Scout, so my advice always is “Be Prepared.”  I hope this post serves as a checklist of things you’ll do before the shotgun wedding.

1. At least try every Google My Business bell and whistle and get a sense of which features (1) you might use longer-term, and which features (2) seem to help your business in some way. That’s good to do in case Google monetizes only some features in Google My Business, and not the whole thing. I’m not saying you should carve out a lot of time for Google’s knickknack du jour.  I’m saying that if you haven’t used a given Google My Business feature when it was free, you probably won’t try it if and when it’s paid. Don’t cut it too close.

 

2. Decide now whether you’ll become more specialized any time soon. The time to start trying to own a more-specific niche is not after you’ve been squeezed on some of your more-competitive local search terms.

3. Copy, paste, and save your Google reviews, and note down the names of the customers who wrote them. That’s always been a good idea, but your reviews are not safe if they all live in one of Google’s data centers. If a major change is on the way, Google’s even more likely to leave your reviews in the cargo hold and let them freeze to death on the flight.

By the way, if you have so many Google reviews that saving them all sound tedious, don’t you suppose it will be even more tedious to ask everyone to review you again?  You’ll be lucky if 40% of them follow through.  Pack ’em away.

 

4. Take a screenshot of what shows up in the knowledge panel you see on the right-hand side when you search for your business by name. If you’ve got multiple locations, take a screenshot of what you see in each location’s sidebar.

5. Grab a few Google Analytics reports, or at least take screenshots. Get a sense of your organic-only traffic , referral sources, and maybe pull a “Geo” report. If you can sock away data for the last few years, great, but get recent intel at least.  If Google monetizes more of the map, your traffic will probably be affected in one way or another, and you’ll want to understand how (if possible).  You’ll also want to know if Google’s potential pay-to-play move doesn’t affect your visibility much.  You’ll be in a better position to know those things if you know what your baseline is.

6. Cultivate other sources of traffic: not only non-Google Maps visibility (especially organic rankings), but also non-Google visibility. That’s just common sense, bordering on “Duh” advice. So rather than explain what may be obvious, I’ll point you to these two posts: “Local SEO without the Local Map: What Is It?” and “Relationship between Local and Organic SEO: a Simple Diagram.”

7. Consider tracking every Google My Business URL field with UTM codes. I say “consider” only because I don’t bother doing that for clients, because it doesn’t change our action items or other decision-making. Still, you might find it useful to know more about who clicks where, so you can see what effects a more-monetized map might have.

8. Get familiar with AdWords (sorry, “Google Ads”), if you’re not already into it. At the very least, just run a quick-and-dirty campaign with a small budget, maybe with a focus on your more-niche keywords. Unless you’ve got good PPC chops, you probably shouldn’t expect to get many or any customers from it, but you will get useful data.  You can find out the exact search terms people use, exactly where they search from, what calls-to-action they respond to, and other insights that can affect your local SEO strategy.

9. Get cracking on Google Maps “spam patrol” before your spammy free-visibility competitors become spammy advertisers, and possibly even more entrenched.

 

 

What’s part of your “bunker plan” for possible paid or freemium Google Maps results?

Has the pay-to-play possibility changed your local SEO/visibility strategy in any way (and if so, how)?

Leave a comment!

Does Google Look the Other Way When a Local Pack Advertiser Spams the Google Maps Results?

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For better or for worse, you can “buy” your way to the top of Google’s local 3-pack if you have a Google My Business page that already ranks OK, and if you use AdWords, enable location extensions, and meet a few other criteria.

It appears that’s also how you can buy wiggle room to spam the Google Maps results.

I say that for one simple reason: I’ve had one hell of a time getting Google to approve edits to Google My Business pages that spam blatantly and that show in the “paid” 3-pack.  So far, Google has approved my edits much less consistently than when I’ve made the same kind of edits to non-advertisers’ listings.

The two kinds of anti-spam edits that Google – in my experience – is most likely to approve are (1) changes to spammy business name, and (2) the removal of listings that use fake addresses or are for fake businesses.  Recently I submitted edits to the keyword-spammy names of 15-20 Google My Business pages that showed up in the paid section right above the local 3-pack.

Google only approved 2 of my changes, and it approved those instantly.  The other 15-or-so changes were rejected after only a few hours or by the following night, when I checked.  Google usually approves more of my edits to business names  – I’d estimate about 30-40% – and leaves “pending” for days or weeks the changes it may or may not accept in the end.  (For other types of edits I’ve got a good track record, but Google doesn’t approve them as often.)  Google made the wrong decision more decisively than usual.

By the way, most of my edits were to moving companies, and to a lesser extent to keyword-spamming dental practices.  I found it strange that the only edits Google approved were to the dental practices, and not to the moving companies.  The latter is much more notorious for spam, because there’s much more spam in it.

My “test” (if you can call it than) was anything but scientific.  It’s also a work-in-progress, because I’ll continue to nibble at spammy advertisers and non-advertisers alike.  If I learn anything new, I’ll update this post, or do a follow-up, or both.  There’s a lot I don’t know yet.

So far, about the only thing I can say with confidence is that Google doesn’t scrutinize local-pack advertisers more than it scrutinizes businesses that don’t run ads.

Maybe the easiest way to wrap up my quick, in-progress observations is with a quick Q&A:

Q: Is there Google Maps spam in the paid 3-pack results?
A: Yes.

Q: Is there more spam or less spam in the advertiser’s slot above the 3-pack?
A: About the same.

Q: Can you get edits approved on AdWords advertisers’ spammy listings?
A: Yes, occasionally.

Q: Is Google as likely to approve an edit to an advertiser’s listing?
A: No, apparently.

Q: If the business stops advertising, is Google more likely to approve the edit?
A: I don’t know.

Q: Does Google hold advertisers to higher standard?
A: Sure doesn’t look that way.

Q: Is Google likely to fix the spam situation in general?
A: Good one.

 

I’ve never thought the “paid” slot above the 3-pack is inherently bad – as long as it’s clear to searchers that it’s an ad, and as long as it doesn’t gobble up the whole page.  AdWords often is a good way in for businesses that aren’t ranking well, and the free results often are a good way in for businesses that aren’t dominant advertisers.  There can be a balance, and I think there should be a balance.

My concern is businesses can spam their way into the 3-pack, flick on AdWords, and possibly be more likely to get away with that spamming.  AdWords shouldn’t create even more of a temptation to spam the map.

What’s been your experience in dealing with Google My Business spam by businesses in the “ad” section of the 3-pack?

Leave a comment!

Google Expands “Suggested Review” Google My Business Posts

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I always like when Google drops a subtle hint about what it wants you to do.

If you haven’t done a Google My Business post recently, and if you have a good-sized pile of Google reviews, there’s a good chance Google will auto-generate a “Suggested Post” that quotes one of your Google reviews.  (As of this writing, I call this feature “Suggested Review,” because the only type of post Google seems to suggest is a somewhat-bland excerpt of a review.)

You may see it when you log into your Google My Business dashboard.  It will look something like this.

The “suggested” review seems to be an offshoot of the “Small Thanks” program, in which Google tries to charm you into making your Google reviews more visible on Google.

I’m not the first to spot this.  Cordell Crowley posted on this at the Local Search Forum last month.  I hadn’t seen the “Suggested Post” feature then.  Because I haven’t heard anything about it since then – or seen this new kind of GMB post in the wild – I assume most other people also haven’t seen hide or hair of it in their Google My Business dashboards.

If you’ve done a Google My Business post recently (within the last 7 days, or you used my workaround), you won’t see the “Suggested Post” option.  Likewise if you don’t have many reviews (I’m trying to get a bead on the number), or if you see a “suspended” message in the GMB dashboard.

It doesn’t appear there’s a way for you to see Google’s “Suggested Post” if you have been active in posting to GMB, which is a shame.  Apparently, there’s also no way to pick a different review for Google to excerpt.  The spirit of Henry Ford lives on.

Not a game-changer feature by any means, but a handy new capability.  Hope it stays around for long enough to determine whether it’s useful.

Do you see the “Suggested Post” option in your dashboard?

Have you tried it out?

Leave a comment!

One Good Reason to Offer Google My Business Post Offers

https://www.flickr.com/photos/squeakymarmot/5111828526/

Two problems with Google My Business posts are (1) they’re not too visible anymore unless someone searches for your business by name, and (2) people without itchy mouse-fingers only see a tiny preview of the post in the sidebar.

Those are valid concerns.  Though you can use my hack to keep Google My Business posts from becoming a big time-taker, you still might wonder whether you should bother with them at all.  Or you might figure that if very few people see your posts, you might as well load them up with keywords, in case that helps your rankings on the local map.

Those also would be legitimate reasons not to do a Google My Business post for a coupon or other special offer.  “You want me to offer coupon nobody will see?  No thanks.”

What if your coupon showed up in the Google Maps 3-pack, like this?

(Thanks to Anas of Batteries Shack for the tip.)

That coupon is from a Google My Business post.  As you may have noticed, Google often grabs the content of GMB posts and sticks them in the 3-pack results, when the content of a given post is relevant to the search term someone typed in.

You can get your offer to show up in the Maps 3-pack if you create an “Offer” type of post, but it doesn’t need to be an “Offer.”  It could also be an “Event” post, for example.  Google can grab the content from any species of post and stick it in the Google Maps / 3-pack results (Brodie Clark briefly mentioned that fact in this great post he wrote with Joy Hawkins.)

Most of the benefits of that are obvious.  But I would assume that a compelling offer in the 3-pack also may help your rankings when people type in a search term, see you ranking for that term, and click on your listing because your offer is relevant.  Just a hunch.

Anyway, I suggest you try putting out a coupon or other special offer in a Google My Business post.  You may or may not get any takers, but at least your offer won’t be relegated to sidebar Siberia.  People will see your offer whenever you pop up on the local map, and for search terms relevant to the offer.

For tips on creating a solid Google My Business post, check out this post from Ben Fisher.

Have you used Google My Business posts to put up offers?

What have you noticed?

Leave a comment!

The Easiest Way to Get a Google Maps One-Box Result – without Spamming

https://www.flickr.com/photos/29233640@N07/32750963358/

I’m talking about a local search result like this (click to enlarge):

Local “one-box” results (as they’re called) show only one Google My Business page, alongside some organic results.  It’s good for your business to have a one-box result any time you can nab one, because of how visible you are on the page: You’re the only business on the map (on the right), and you’ve got an organic ranking (off to the left).

A one-box only pops up for a business that have a Google My Business page.  If you’re a customer/searcher, you’ll usually see a one-box result pop up in one of four scenarios:

Scenario 1: You search by name for a specific company near you.

Scenario 2: You search for specific company that isn’t near you, but that has such a distinctive name that Google knows you want to see search results for that company.

Scenario 3: Google falsely assumes you wanted to see results for a specific company, when in fact you searched for a term broad enough that you thought several local businesses would show up.

Scenario 4: Google concludes there’s only one business near you (or in a specific city or area you search in) that provides the service or product you’re looking for.

Scenarios 1 and 2 aren’t relevant to this post.  In those cases the way you show up in the one-box results is just by having more people search for the name of your business, and that’s just a matter of “brand-building.”

I won’t be talking about scenario 3, either, for two reasons.  The first reason is that one-box visibility is a fluke in that case (Google incorrectly assumes people are searching for a specific company by name).  The second reason is that usually the only way to try to confuse Google into giving your business a one-box on the local map is to use a fake name for your Google My Business page, or to stuff keywords into the name.  Neither strategy is one you want to bank on.

Scenario 4 is a card you can play: If you can appear (to Google) to be the only business nearby that offers certain services or products, you can engineer more one-box results for your business.

How, exactly, do you go about that?

Some have speculated it’s a matter of getting reviews, or of general “on-page optimization,” or that it depends only on what the search term is  But based on my experiments and dissections, I’ve found that all you need to get a Google Maps one-box result is:

1. Create a separate page on your site about each specific, preferably “niche” service or product you offer. I don’t mean a page on something broad or that’s saturated with local competitors, like “Personal Injury Law” or “Riding Mowers.” I mean you need a page on “Banana Peel Injury Law” or “Duffer 9000 EZ Riding Mower,” or on whatever is the most specific way to characterize your service or product.

2. Point some internal links to that page: maybe one in the main navigation, another in the footer, one on the homepage, one on the main “Services” or “Products” page, and wherever else seems appropriate. Don’t go crazy with the internal links, but err on the side of more rather than fewer.

3. Mention that product or service on the landing page you use for your Google My Business page. (Preferably you also link to your dedicated page on that product or service, rather than just mention it.)

That’s it.  Of course, not much will happen until Google has indexed your page, but steps #2-3 may help expedite that.  Though I doubt you need search-term-relevant links or reviews to get one-box results for niche services or products, scaring up some reviews and links wouldn’t hurt, and is a good idea anyway.

A few notes:

  • Is it possible other ingredients go into Google’s one-box sausage?  Sure.  It’s also possible that Google’s rhyme and reason will change later.  But in my experiments for clients and observations on others’ businesses, the above 3 steps are all you need to do.
  • What if you want to get a one-box for more-competitive, non-niche search terms?  That’s a tough putt (even if you take a spammy approach), because Google knows of other businesses relevant to those search terms.  In that case, you’re vying for 3-pack rankings.

  • Any Google Maps one-box results you get will be in addition to – not instead of – your organic rankings for those products or service.  It’s not an either-or deal.  Local SEO is mostly organic SEO in disguise.
  • A bonus: even if you don’t get a one-box result, but you show up alongside local competitors in a Google Maps 2-pack or 3-pack, you’ll get the “Their website mentions [service or product]” snippet showing up under your name on the map.  That may help get you more clicks from the right searchers, among other benefits.

I’ve long said that you need a page on every distinct service or product you offer – preferably in-depth pages, and preferably on your more-niche offerings.  When clients and others have asked why they should bother, my reasons have always been (a) “You’ll convert more of the people who are looking for something very specific, and (b) “You want to show up in the organic search results, especially when there’s no local map.”  But these days, more so than I’ve ever seen before, creating a solid page on each offering will also grab you more visibility on the map.

 

 

Have you tried rustling up some one-box results?  If so, what did you try, and how did it go?

Do your competitors have any one-box results you just can’t figure out?

Leave a comment!

Google My Business vs. Bing Places in a Nutshell

https://www.flickr.com/photos/spencersbrookfarm/3139409835/This example is from one of my clients, who’s got a seasonal business and had a great winter.

Two screenshots up the difference between Google visibility and Bing visibility.  The screenshots are of those two search engines’ “dashboard” stats.  I doubt either source of intel is Swiss-watch accurate, but each can give you a rough sense of how many people see you on that search engine’s local map.

Bing Places dashboard stats:

Nice spike.  Reflects how good business was.

Notice the high-water mark of 957 impressions.  Add up all the times the Bing Places page showed up in the local search results in February and you’ve got a few thousand impressions in a month, which is pretty good.  Who said Bing doesn’t matter?

Now, Google My Business stats, from a somewhat different range (more on that in a minute):

One thing you’ll notice is a high-water mark of almost 9000 impressions in a day on Google My Business, compared to high-water mark of a tenth of that in a whole week on Bing.

My little comparison is far from scientific.  You may notice the date ranges aren’t the same.  Bing’s doesn’t capture most March, which had a good amount of action.  That’s because Bing’s data is about two weeks old and doesn’t reflect more-recent data, and neither Google nor Bing lets you pick a custom date range.  The result is an apples-to-oranges comparison.

Still, based on the parts that overlap, impressions on Google outnumber those on Bing by at least 10 to 1.  (Probably more like 20 to 1.)

“Hey Phil, party foul.  That’s still an unfair comparison.  Google has so much more market share than Bing has, so of course Bing’s local traffic is a gnat.”

Exactly.  It’s a good thing that Bing Places is pretty hassle-free to set up and manage, because my advice is not to lose sleep over your Bing rankings.