How to rank higher on Google Maps: Even if you’re a new business

Ever wondered why that random hair salon you’ve never heard of shows up before your go-to barber in a Google search? They’re doing something your favorite spot isn’t, and we will share a local search engine optimization checklist to help you show up on Google Maps.

Local businesses rank higher on Google Maps based on their relevance to the search query, how close they are to the searcher’s location, and how well-known they are among people or organizations based in that location.

Google Maps ranking factors according to Google and Local SEO experts

google maps ranking factor table

1. Complete your GBP account with accurate and relevant business details

Google Maps displays data from your Google Business Profile in response to relevant search queries.

So, when you update as many sections as possible with information, you provide Google with the details it needs to identify your business’ relevance and rank it for related queries.

“Relevance refers to how well a local Business Profile matches what someone is searching for. Add complete and detailed business information to help Google better understand your business and match your profile to relevant searches.”Google

If you have an existing Google Business profile:

Lokal - screenshot showing GBP homepage to manage profile for local SEO
  • Choose Edit profile.
screenshot showing GBP Edit your profile icon to update GBP account and rank on Google Maps
  • Or Visit Google Maps
  • Click on the three horizontal lines at the upper right of the screen
  • Choose ‘add your business’
screenshot showing how to add your business on to boost Google Maps ranking

This will lead you to a page to start building your business profile.

GBP profile building page screenshot
  • Update your business name to include keywords that describe your primary category

Local SEO experts ranked ‘keywords in GBP business name’ the 2nd Local pack and local finder ranking factor. When you create a GBP account, use the business name on your legal documents. If possible, include the keyword or category you want to rank for in your business name. However, avoid keyword stuffing.

When you create a GBP account, use the business name on your legal documents. If possible, include the keyword or category you want to rank for in your business name. However, avoid keyword stuffing.

screenshot showing GBP business name dialog box that you can update to rank on Google Maps

For example, Carini Home Services’s business name includes ‘Home Services’, one of the keywords they hope to rank for.

screenshot showing Carini Home Services’ Google Business Profile as an example of optimizing your business name to rank on Google Maps

Add primary and secondary categories:

Though Google permits up to nine categories, recent research shows that HVAC companies with about four categories rank the highest for some HVAC keywords. Choose a primary category and add up to four secondary categories describing your services.

screenshot showing primary and secondary GBP categories that you can optimize to rank on Google Maps

Install the GMBeverywhere extension to glean from your competitors’ GBP strategies.

screenshot showing GMBeverywhere Chrome extension to help you audit GBP profile and find strategies to rank on Google Maps

Click on its category finder to see related secondary categories or competitors’ secondary categories and the monthly search volume of each.

screenshot showing GMBeverywhere category finder tool find secondary GBP categories to improve your Google Maps ranking

Services:

Add services you offer. If some of your services are not included in the categories, consider adding them here.

GBP categories screenshot

Location/Address:

Include the exact location of your business. Ensure this also aligns with the location you pinned on the map. Accurate business addresses increase your credibility and ease the verification process.

screenshot showing GBP location settings that you can update to rank on Google Maps

Service area:

This will be optional if you have an office location. Fill in this section to identify your service areas. If you don’t have a physical office, it’s mandatory to fill this section to show the areas your home service business covers.

screenshot showing GBP service area settings that you can update to rank on Google Maps

Phone number: 

Include your main business phone number. If you want to place a different phone number here for attribution, include it as the primary one. Then, add your standard business phone number as an additional phone number. This keeps your business phone number connected to your GBP account and avoids Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP) inconsistency. 

Alt text: screenshot showing GBP contact settings that you can update to boost Google Maps ranking

Website: 

Include a link to your website. Ensure it is mobile friendly, the location pages should be about 2-3 clicks away from the home page.

screenshot showing GBP website link settings that you can update to rank on Google Maps

Set operating days and hours: 

Choose your operating hours. This should align with when you are available to prevent customers from calling and not reaching you.

screenshot showing GBP operating days and hours settings that you can update to improve your rank on Google Maps

Business description: 

Share your business’s mission, history, products, services, and any other useful information your customers may need. Avoid sharing offers or linking to your website here. Save these for Google posts.

screenshot showing GBP business description settings that you can update to rank on Google Maps

Business photos: 

Share actual photos of your business instead of stock photos. Google posts that contain images that are not stock photos get 5.6x more clicks.

Alt text: screenshot showing GBP photo settings that you can update to rank on Google Maps

Google posts: 

Share regular posts about discounts, special offers, and updates with calls to action.

screenshot showing Google post options that you can update to rank on Google Maps

Q&A: 

Google’s Q&A section allows you to answer user-generated questions or questions a business asks and replies because their customers ask it often. This helps you manage your presence on Google. 

Add frequently asked questions and answers to the Q&A section of the business profile. Click the like icon three times to let the question show on the business profile. Also, monitor for questions from prospects and respond to them.

screenshot showing Carini Home Services GBP Q&A as an example of optimizing  Q&A settings to rank on Google Maps

2. Build a sustained flow of positive reviews and high-star ratings

Google uses review signals like high Google ratings, the number, quality, and consistency of reviews, and keyword mentions in reviews to rank local businesses.

Most results for “Best X companies in [location],” have 4.0+ star ratings. It’s the Map pack ranking factor most Local SEO experts rank 6th out of 149 other factors.

Search results for Best HVAC companies in Dallas

A continuous flow of positive reviews and high-star ratings from local customers shows Google that you are known and loved by people in a location. 

Solve your customers’ pressing problems to get high ratings from satisfied customers: 

Customers with a good experience will likely leave high ratings on your profile.

Audit your reputation:

Since Google cares about what people say and feel about you to rank your business on Google Maps, you should invest in your online reputation.

  • Open an incognito tab. 
  • Search your business name and assess your GBP account’s reviews, comments, and ratings.
  • Create a list of the sites where you can update your business details, like Angi, Yelp, Home Advisor, and your social profiles.

List and Prioritize tasks:

  • Write the next steps for each channel your brand appears on. For example, you may need to respond to a negative comment or generate a shortened review link.
  • Assign review platforms to specific team members. Agree on how often they will respond to reviews (ideally less than two days) or assess customer sentiment.
  • Create response templates for common questions and agree on your brand’s tone of voice.

Encourage customers to leave reviews:

  • Moz discovered that 86% of its survey respondents write reviews. So many customers are willing to write reviews if you ask them to. 
  • Collect as many reviews as possible on your GBP and other review sites.Train your technicians to ask for reviews and reward technicians who get reviews. A regular inflow of reviews on your GBP account signals Google that your business is still active and providing solutions to customers in its service area.
  • Share links to leave reviews on your website, newsletters, and other communication channels. Google encourages local businesses to request customer reviews without rewarding them and to reply to all reviews.
  • Don’t ask employees to write reviews, or pay people to write reviews. These can reduce your brand’s credibility and attract penalties.
  • Encourage customers to mention keywords in reviews, Google may feature this in Justifications – A review snippet on the local pack.
GMP built trust snippets  screeeenshots

These snippets build trust in local searchers, increasing the likelihood that they’ll click through to your landing page and convert.

Observe best practices

  • Respond calmly to negative reviews. Attempt to pacify and help the aggrieved customer.
  • Reply all reviews.
  • Encourage them to leave details like the problem they faced, their service area, the technician’s name, etc. 
  • Learn the policies of each platform to avoid penalties.

Tip! As you manage Google reviews, remember to manage third-party review sites like Yelp, Home Advisor, Angi, HomeOwner’s Circle, and Air Conditioning Professionals too. They all count towards your Google Maps ranking.

Backlinks from your location and industry niche websites weigh more than generic websites with high domain authority. 

Google’s local algorithm prioritizes local inbound links because backlinks tell Google that other people and brands in your service area know and consider you as an important part of the community. So you’ll need to approach link building differently. 

Recent research shows that to rank on the map pack or local finder, you should keep the following things in mind:

  • The number of inbound links: Get as many relevant inbound links as possible.
  • The quality of backlinks: Links should be locally and topically relevant.
  • The diversity of referring sites: Attempt to get links from different sources. Don’t get many links from a handful of sites. Instead, grow your links from different sources. 

The local relevance of the referring domains: Build backlinks from websites linked to people or organizations in your location or service area.

List local businesses with Google Maps

The best local links are based on real-world relationships, are easier to get, and are more powerful. Google Maps is very helpful for finding local organizations and building local links.

Pull up Google Maps and create a list of local institutions you can build relationships with. You can search for service area brands like

  • Local schools
  • Local businesses
  • Local religious centers
  • Local restaurants
  • Local clubs
Screenshot showing Google Maps - Schools in Dallas-Ft Worth, TX

Local sponsorships, charity donations or giveaways:

Find local sponsorship opportunities within your budget to leave your mark in your service area and get online mentions and inbound links. Gift HVAC systems or services to families or vulnerable groups in your community. For example, In November 2023, Spencer Heating and Air gave a free HVAC system to a local family in need.

screenshot showing HVAC giveaway example to boost local backlink building and Google Maps ranking

Volunteer opportunities:

Volunteer in your community and do something they care about to make a difference, build strong relationships, and gain local backlinks. For example, some HVAC contractors participated in Southeast Michigan ACCA’s Senior Service Day. They offered free carbon monoxide alarms, furnace safety inspections, and equipment replacement.

Screenshot showing HVAC contractors participating in Southeast Michigan ACCA’s Senior Service Day, an example of local participation that can boost Google Maps rankings

Calendar page of local events:

Add your upcoming events to your county’s online centralized community calendar of major events. This puts your link on a locally relevant page online. This calendar below lists upcoming events in Anchorage, Alaska.

screenshot showing local community calendar to which you can add your local events and website links to build local backlinks and rank on Google Maps.

Local meet-ups:

Visit meetup.com and offer your office space to local groups looking for a meeting area. This fosters more local relationships and gives you room to ask for backlinks in the future.

Screenshot of meetup.com where you can meet local business partners and build backlinks to rank on Gooogle Maps

Local business associations:

To find relevant niche local associations, consider searching Google for these queries

  • [Province/State] + HVAC + association
screenshot showing TACCA as an example of a local business association that you can join to boost Google Maps ranking
  • [Province/State]+home service + business association
  • [City/Metropolis] + HVAC + association

You can also ask fellow professionals for popular local professional bodies in your city. For instance, Anchor City Plumbing recently joined Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, a local plumbing professional body.

screenshot showing  Anchor City Plumbing recently joined Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562 as an example of joining professional associations to boost local engagement and Google Maps ranking.

Local Chamber of Commerce:

Become a member of your local Chamber. They’ll publish your NAP and web details on their website.You can also visit the US Chamber of Commerce directory to build relationships with local brands and request backlinks to your website when it makes sense.

screenshot showing Detroit regional chamber listing to register on for backlinks and to boost Google Maps ranking.

Guest posts and writing on hyper-local topics:

Write guest posts and offer your expertise on local news or blogs. Mosquito Authority CEO wrote a guest post for Forbes Guest post and earned a backlink.

screenshot showing Mosquito Authority CEO’s guest post on Forbes -an example of link building to boost Google Maps ranking

They’ve built a strong backlink profile from many topically relevant sites too.

screenshot showing Mosquito Authority website’s backlink profile - an example of how to build links building boost Google Maps ranking

Also, write on hyper-local topics. At times these topics have almost zero search volume because they are specific to that locality, but it matters to the people in that location. 

Remember that you should serve the customers beyond positioning your brand to rank on Google Maps. After all, they are why your brand exists and the people you want to see your adverts.

Local industry resource pages:

Create resources other websites can link to. To find resource pages, type the following in the search bar,

  • inurl:resources.html [City] [organization type] 

For example: inurl:resources.html Dallas homeowners association

  • inurl:resources.html Dallas Texas HVAC

For example, inurl:resources.html [City] HVAC

  • Add MozBar chrome extension to your browser. It allows you to measure the domain authority of the sites you find.
  • Visit the sites and list those you think may be willing to share relevant resources you have created.
  • Find emails with Hunter.io

Use Hunter.io to find the emails connected to that domain and ask them to share your resource.

Ready to Boost Your Google Maps Ranking?

4. Include location-specific content, photos, reviews, and case studies on location landing pages

Location pages make great GBP landing pages for multi-location HVAC businesses and boost your Google Maps ranking. Having relevant location keywords in the title, headings, and copy of your GBP landing page can boost search ranking on Google Maps, the local pack, and the local finder. 

Some local SEOs have experienced it too.

“I’ve done plenty of tests where we changed the link to go to a page that did not target the city we wanted to rank in, and the Local Pack rankings suffered. We switched it back, and the rankings recovered.”

Andrew Shotland (CEO, Local SEO Guide)

The 2021 Google Vicinity Update ranked businesses that were closer to searchers’ locations higher. Smaller and newer local businesses with higher proximity ranked higher. The update seemed to prioritize proximity above relevance.

Carefully choose your office in different locations and include important information about the location in your location pages. 

You can position your business to rank on the map pack and increase the chances of leads converting if your location pages show

  • How close your address is to the point of search 
  • If you have a physical address in the city of search
  • How close your address is to the city’s center 
  • Proper map pin placement
  • content with relevant location keywords 

Create local landing pages

To rank for a location on Google Maps, link your Google Business Profile to the location pages of the area you want to rank for.

Say your HVAC business has 15 branches in Massachusetts. Local searchers will want to find out about the branch closest to them. You’ll create 15 location landing pages for each service area.

Screenshot of Peterman Brothers’ location pages icons as an example of creating and linking local landing pages for better Google Map ranking

Add unique information to local landing pages

Your location pages should include the following,    

  • The address of your physical office 
  • If you offer 24/7 or emergency services in that location
  • Bios of the technicians in that location
  • Ongoing special offers 
  • The phone number of that specific branch
  • Details of services and products you offer in that location
  • Actual real-life examples of projects you’ve completed in that area
  • Testimonials or reviews of customers from that location
  • Engaging videos or before and after photos of your work in that location
  • Days and times you are open (Note the holidays you observe.)
  • Location-specific FAQs
  • Page Optimizations like meta description, Title tag, Headings, etc.
  • Embedded Google map
  • Driving directions
  • If there’s a parking lot or not

The idea is for searchers to not have to visit another page to find the information they need.

Screenshot of Peterman’s location pages icons as an example of creating and linking local landing pages for better Google Map ranking

5. Use listing management tools to ensure name, address, and phone number (NAP) accuracy on citations across the web

Google depends on the information it finds on your GBP, website, review sites, citations, and other sources across the web to ascertain that the business details it shares with searchers are trustworthy and accurate. 

Ensure that your name, address, phone number (NAP), and other relevant details are the same on all citations and websites online to rank on Google Maps.

The local search ecosystem is intricately connected. Managing citations for a single-location HVAC business is demanding and could be tedious for Multi-location HVAC brands.

A wrong listing on a directory or review platform can spread fast to other platforms, leading to inconsistent business details, lack of credibility, lower Google map rankings, and loss of potential clients.

Screenshot showing Whitespark’s Local Search Ecosystem that home service owners can ensure NAP accuracy within it to improve Google Map rankings

Imagine Google finding four different phone numbers linked to your brand online. Which one is it to show searchers? Such inconsistencies discourage Google from ranking your business as it’s uncertain which contact is accurate.

Local experts ranked consistency of citations on Primary Search Engines (Google Maps, Bing Maps, Apple Maps) as one of the top 30 factors that impact Local pack ranking.

Since how close your business address is to searchers can affect rankings, NAP consistency helps Google identify your business as one of the few it should rank on the local pack or local finder.

Run a Citation audit of your online presence

You can use tools like Bright Local citation builder, Semrush Listing Management tool, Whitespark Local Citation Finder, and Moz Local to monitor and manage mentions of your local business across the web. 

Here’s an example of Semrush’s audit for a local HVAC business.

Screenshot showing an example of citation audit with Semrush’s listing management tool to help you find and update local listings and build Google Maps ranking

Claim and update existing accounts

  • Claim and update the accurate details of your business wherever it is inaccurately listed.
  • Use the same name, address, and phone Number (NAP) all through.
  • To add a different number for attribution, include your standard phone number as an additional contact so that Gooogle associates it with your brand.

Bonus: Recent Google map updates that can impact your rankings and next steps

Openness Update 2023

On December 15th, 2023, Google confirmed what Joy Hawkins of Sterling Sky described as the ‘Openness Update’. 

Businesses with closing hours that ranked on the Local pack were replaced by businesses that were open for 24 hours, especially at night when others were closed.

Screenshot showing Google SearchLiason’s response to Openness update on X (formerly Twitter).

Image source

Google discouraged local businesses from adjusting their hours to 24 hours open when they are indeed closed. 

Doing this can lead to bad customer reviews and poor ratings, lowering your Google Map rankings.

Though it seems hours have become a ranking factor with the Openness Update, remember there’s more to ranking on Google Maps than open hours.

So, what should you do?

  • Track your rankings during normal business hours. This helps you see your actual search performance.
  • Don’t change your open hours to 24 hours if you have closing hours. This will give your prospects a bad experience. Plus, Google can change the algorithm at any time.
  • Track when you get the most calls and emergency requests and make provision for those that come in at odd hours if possible.
  • Focus on optimizing your GBP profile and landing pages for ranking factors too.

Vicinity update 2021

The Vicinity update ranked businesses that were closer to the searcher higher. It emphasized distance as a ranking factor for local search. Local SEOs noticed significant changes in the Local map rankings as Google updated the local search and map pack algorithm. 

So what should you do?

  • Choose your office location wisely. Your physical address is fixed, and you can’t control searchers’ location, but you can choose an address that is close to homes and residential areas.
  • Create unique location pages with information about your address and operations in that specific service area.
  • Ensure your address is accurate on your location pages and across all citations online.

The bigger picture: Providing a great user experience

The endpoint of keyword ranking is to attract qualified leads and increase your bottom line. 

To get the most out of a high Google Maps ranking, you need to do three things:

Create a positive customer experience: Offer your customers an experience that solves their problems, and makes them happy. This forms the foundation of a solid online reputation, increased sales, and a growing bottom line. 64% of company leaders in Zendesk’s survey agreed that customer experience impacts a company’s growth and customer retention.

Create a great user experience: Beyond optimizing for algorithms, ensure that your website and GBP account offer clear and relevant copy, social proof, easy navigation, and real-life images or videos of your business. This also improves rankings and encourages prospects to come back.  

Observe Local SEO best practices: Keep to general SEO practices, as these affect your website’s ranking. Optimize your site for mobile, use internal linking, add meta descriptions, and improve your website’s page speed.Lokal partners with local businesses to effectively manage their Google Business Profiles and optimize their websites for search. Beyond ranking on Google Maps, we work with you to grow your revenue. With our help, you can position your brand to rank on Google Maps and attract the qualified leads you desire.

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