Google Maps SEO optimizes your online presence to rank higher in local search results. Higher visibility attracts more customers, drives foot traffic, and increases revenue. Learn expert tips and mistakes to avoid — plus download a free checklist.

Here, you’ll find:

Nearly one-third of all mobile searches are location-based. Users are searching for businesses online in their local areas.

At HawkSEM, we use Google Maps SEO to help our clients build a dominating presence in their local markets and increase sales.

In this article, we’ll explain how we do that.Let’s start with the basics.

What is Google Maps SEO?

Google Maps SEO helps increase your visibility on Google Maps. It makes it easier for customers to find your business.

When people search for a service or product near them, you want your business to appear at the top of those search engine results. Google Maps SEO helps you achieve that.

It’s a part of local search engine optimization that focuses on optimizing and improving your online presence to attract customers from relevant local searches.

There are two main areas where it makes an impact:

1. Google Maps listings

This is your business profile on Google Maps. It includes your business name, location, operating hours, and customer reviews.

Example of Google Maps listing for the search query “best pizza near me”

An optimized local listing helps Google understand more about your business, which makes it more likely to show your listing to potential customers. It can also increase your chances of appearing in the Local Pack.

2. Google Local Pack 

(Also called “Local 3-Pack” and “Map Pack”)

This appears at the top of the Google search result page when someone does a local search. It displays the top three businesses related to the search query, alongside a map.

Example of Google Local Pack for the search query “best pizza near me”

Clicking on “More places” leads to the Local Finder, a more comprehensive list of businesses.

Clicking on any individual listing will show more business details.

An example of a complete Google Listing with business details like name, review, and address

Your Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business or GMB) drives your Google Maps listing and appearance in the Google Local Pack.

You can improve your visibility in these key areas by creating, optimizing, and maintaining your Google Business Profile. How? We’ll discuss that later. First, let’s understand why Google Maps SEO is important for business owners targeting local customers.

How to create a Google Business Profile

A Google Business Profile (GBP) is a free tool to manage your online presence across Google.

You can help customers find your business (and tell them your story) by verifying and optimizing your business information in GBP.

Create GBP from scratch

To create your profile, go to the Google Business Profile website and click “Manage now.”

Clicking “Manage now” on the Google Business Profile website to start creating a GBP

Enter your business name. A drop-down menu will appear with the option “Create a business with this name.” Select it. Add your business category. Click “Next.”

Adding business name and business category on Google Business Profile to create a GBP

In the next few steps:

  1. Select your business type
  2. Add your business website and location
  3. Add contact plage information and other details

Note: The information you’ll be asked for will slightly vary depending on your business type. For instance, a lawyer may be asked for different details than a grocery retailer. Follow the instructions to complete.

Finally, verify your business.

Google lets you verify your business via phone, email, video recording, live video call, and postcard. However, you may see fewer verification options depending on your business type.

List of options to verify your Google business profile

Verify unclaimed Google business listing

You may find a listing for your business already exists. But it’s unverified.

This can happen for several reasons. Such as automatic creation from online data or a previous owner or employee setting it up.

If you discover an existing but unverified listing, you can easily claim it.

Simply go to the Google Business Profile website and click “Manage now.” Enter your business name.

Claiming an unclaimed Google listing by entering your business name

In the drop-down, if you see a listing with your business name and address, click on it.

Follow the instructions to complete and verify your profile.

Claim GBP managed by someone else

Here’s another scenario: Your business listing already exists. And someone else is managing it.

When you type your business name in the Google Business Profile website, you’ll see a message saying someone else owns the listing.

Claiming a Google listing managed by someone else

Click “Request access” and submit the required form.

The current owner will have up to seven days to respond to your request. If they don’t, you can claim the listing directly.

“Setting up a Google Business Profile listing is relatively straightforward, but many brands don’t realize that’s just the starting point,” said Rambod Yadegar, President of HawkSEM.

“To leverage the power of your listing, you need to actively manage it by consistently creating fresh content, posts, and updates. This shows Google you’re engaged and providing ongoing value to your customers and local community. That’s what ultimately helps you rank higher and attract more customers.”

11 tips to improve your local search ranking with Google Maps SEO

Improving your local ranking with Google Maps SEO involves optimizing your Google Business Profile.

This focuses on enhancing your profile with accurate, comprehensive, and engaging information that tells Google’s algorithm your business is:

  • Meaningful to the search query (relevance)
  • Near the user (distance)
  • Well-known in the local market (prominence)

Here are 11 tips:

  1. Provide complete business information
  2. Select the most relevant categories
  3. Optimize business description using local keywords
  4. Add high-quality photos showcasing your business, products
  5. Encourage customers to leave reviews
  6. Publish Google posts regularly
  7. Build local citations
  8. Add relevant service area information
  9. Create a Q&A section
  10. Engage with your local community
  11. Monitor and analyze your performance

Note: To edit and manage your GBP, search “my business” on Google, and you’ll see the options on the results page. Like this:

Google Business Profile dashboard to add and edit business information

1. Provide complete business information

Start by ensuring every piece of information you enter is accurate and comprehensive.

This includes your business name, address, phone number, and hours of operation.

Adding business information on Google Business Profile

Accuracy is critical. Consistent information across the web helps Google verify your business and improves your Google Maps ranking.

If you operate in multiple locations, create a separate profile for each location to maximize local visibility.

Additionally, regularly update your information to reflect any changes in your business to keep potential customers well-informed.

2. Select the most relevant categories

Your choice of categories on your Google Business Profile impacts your local SEO.

The primary category should reflect your main line of business and is a key factor in Google’s decision to display your profile for relevant searches.

Adding a primary category for your business on Google Business Profile

Secondary (“additional”) categories are optional and provide additional context about your products, helping you attract a broader audience.

To choose the most effective categories, research which ones are commonly used by top-ranking competitors and ensure they accurately describe your business.

3. Optimize business description using local keywords

A content-centric SEO approach — starting with a good business description — enhances your Google Maps visibility. This means you should integrate relevant local keywords naturally into your business description and other content you publish.

Use SEO data to identify keywords that potential customers likely use when searching for your products or services in your area. These may include the name of your city or neighborhood.

(Use Keyword Planner, Semrush, or Ahrefs for keyword research.)

Integrate these keywords naturally into a description that highlights what makes your business unique.

With semantic SEO replacing keyword-focused strategy now, you should avoid keyword stuffing in your business description. Google values natural, user-friendly content.

Here’s an example of a good business description:

An example of a good business description on Google

4. Add high-quality photos showcasing your business, products

Good visuals can help you hook the attention of potential customers and stand out from competitors.

Google Business Profile lets you upload photos of your business, products, services, and team.

Adding photos to your Google Business listing

High-quality, engaging photos can make your listing more appealing and provide tangible proof of your business’s quality and atmosphere.

Update your photos regularly to show your business’s evolution and any new or seasonal offerings.

Remember, businesses with photos get 42% more requests for directions on Google Maps. And they have 35% more click-throughs to their websites than those without.

5. Encourage customers to leave reviews

Reviews impact your business’s online reputation and local search ranking. So, actively encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews.

You can do this through follow-up emails, receipts, or in-person requests.

Once reviews are in, respond to them promptly. This shows you value customer feedback and engagement, which can influence potential customers’ perceptions and encourage them to buy from you.

Responses to negative reviews are equally important. They highlight your commitment to resolving issues and improving customer service.

You can manage all your customer reviews from Google Business Profile Manager.

Google Business Profile Manager dashboard to manage all your customer reviews

Additional reading: 8 Effective Ways to Use Customer Reviews in Marketing

6. Publish Google posts regularly

Google Posts lets you share important updates about your business on Google.

It is perfect for announcing your business’s latest happenings, special offers, events, or any noteworthy updates directly on Google.

Frequent posts keep your profile engaging, showing your business’s active involvement and responsiveness.

This can lead to higher engagement from potential customers and even encourage them to contact you.

Here’s an example of a Google post:

An example of a good Google Post

7. Build local citations

Google Maps citations for local SEO are online references of your business’s name, address, and phone number across the web.

They improve your business’s online visibility and get you backlinks that boost your search ranking.

You can list your business on trusted online directories (like Yelp, TripAdvisor, or local chambers of commerce) to ensure accurate information about your business is widely available.

This consistency across the web boosts your business’s legitimacy and enhances its ranking in local search results.

8. Add relevant service area information

Specifying your service area in GBP ensures Google accurately presents your business in search results to users within your actual service range. It directly impacts your local SEO effectiveness.

Adding service area information on Google Business Profile

A precise service area helps avoid confusion, directing your digital marketing efforts to target relevant audiences efficiently.

It reassures potential customers that you’re reachable. This enhances the chances of choosing you over distant competitors.

Remember to update this information regularly if your service boundaries expand or shift, ensuring your business remains visible to the right audience.

9. Create a Q&A section

Including a Q&A section in your Google Business Profile can address frequent customer inquiries.

Answering these questions informs potential customers and builds trust by showing your business’s transparency and commitment to customer service.

It’s a proactive approach to communicating key information about your products, operating business hours, or any specific customer concerns.

Here’s an example:

Example of questions and answers section in Google listings

Typically, other people will ask questions, and you’ll answer. But instead of waiting for questions, you can create a list of FAQs and ask your friends or colleagues to post them from their accounts. Then, you can answer them from your business account.

The objective is to populate your Q&A section and answer common questions in advance.

10. Engage with your local community

Engagement with your local community through events, sponsorships, and partnerships can enhance your business’s visibility and reputation.

Partaking in local events or collaborating with other businesses for sponsorships and partnerships strengthens your connections within the community. It showcases your commitment to local development.

Such activities can lead to positive word-of-mouth, stronger customer loyalty, and increased local foot traffic.

Additionally, highlighting these engagements on your Google Business Profile (and social media platforms) can attract more attention to your business and contribute to a stronger local presence.

11. Monitor and analyze your performance

Google Business Profile Insights provides data on how searchers find and interact with your listing.

It shows which searches bring people to your business and whether they call you, visit your website, or check your location. There are various other insights as well.

This information tells you what’s working and if your existing approach needs refinement.

For example, if many customers find your business through a specific search term, you should use that term (and its related terms) more in your SEO content.

At HawkSEM, we use ConversionIQ to track and analyze our local SEO efforts. It’s our proprietary marketing software that tracks all aspects of a campaign at a more granular level.

This enables our team to identify optimization opportunities and take proactive steps to increase ROI.

All our clients get free access to ConversionIQ, which includes advanced features like PPC and SEO forecasting. The tool helps predict how changes in your strategies can impact traffic and conversions, enabling more strategic decision-making.

Want to learn more? Get in touch with us.

ConversionIQ, a proprietary marketing tool by HawkSEM

Google Maps SEO mistakes to avoid

While you follow the listed Google Maps SEO tips and optimize your GBP, be careful to avoid these common mistakes:

  • Not verifying your GBP and opting to do it “later”
  • Ignoring the alignment of NAP information (Name, Address, and Phone Number) with those on your website and other online listings
  • Not claiming (and optimizing) secondary business locations on Google Maps
  • Ignoring customer reviews or responding negatively
  • Missing out on building citations in reputable local directories
  • Overlooking the Q&A section, leaving customer queries unanswered
  • Failing to use Google Posts to highlight temporary changes (e.g., holiday hours or special safety measures)

Why Google Maps SEO is important

Focusing on Google Maps SEO increases your business’s discoverability to local customers, leading to higher foot traffic and, ultimately, more sales.

Here are several reasons that highlight its importance:

  • Puts your business directly in the path of customers actively searching for your products or services, enhancing the chances of attracting motivated buyers.
  • Offers high visibility on Google Maps and the Local Pack builds trust and credibility with potential customers because they favor businesses that appear prominently on SERPs.
  • Provides key business information like location, operating hours, and reviews at a glance. This aids customers’ decision-making process, and drives higher conversion rates.
  • Allows for direct customer engagement through reviews and questions, offering you the chance to showcase your products and customer service upfront.

Google Maps levels the playing field. Smaller businesses can compete with bigger competitors by focusing on local SEO strategies. This is particularly important for businesses engaged in digital marketing for ecommerce, which drives targeted traffic to their online store.

A Google Maps SEO checklist

Claim and verify your Google Business Profile

Provide accurate and up-to-date business information, including business name, physical address, phone number, website, and hours of operation

Ensure NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) consistency across all online listings

Choose relevant primary and secondary categories

Add service area information if applicable

Write a compelling business description that includes local keywords

Add high-quality photos of your business facility (exterior and interior), products, and team members. Ensure your product photos are accompanied by SEO product descriptions.

Encourage and respond to customer reviews. Thank them for the positive feedback. Address concerns professionally and offer solutions to negative reviews.

Publish Google Posts regularly, announcing events, promotions, or updates using eye-catching visuals and engaging copy

Build local citations on reputable online directories

Set up a Q&A section. Identify common customer questions and provide detailed/helpful answers.

Monitor your performance using Google Business Profile Insights. Track customer actions (calls, website visits, direction requests). Analyze search terms driving traffic to your listing. Adjust your strategy based on insights

Keep your Google Business Profile up to date by regularly reviewing and updating information, responding to new Google reviews and questions, and publishing new photos and Google Posts

Additional reading: Google Maps Ads: Setup Guide, Real-Life Examples + Expert Tips

The takeaway

If your business targets a local audience, Google Maps SEO is important.

Properly optimizing your Google Business Profile can increase online visibility and bring more foot traffic to your physical location.

But it’s not as simple as creating your business listing.

“Google Maps SEO requires a dedicated, ongoing effort to ensure your business information is accurate, your profile is optimized, and you’re actively engaging with your customers,” said Yadegar.

“But the work doesn’t stop there. To truly succeed, your Google Maps SEO efforts must align with core SEO principles and be part of a comprehensive local SEO strategy that’s integrated with your overall marketing plan. You can boost your online presence and attract more local customers by consistently monitoring, analyzing, and adjusting your approach.”

HawkSEM is a leading digital marketing agency. We work with small businesses, and the biggest brands like Microsoft, Nike, Honda, and Verizon.

With a large team of specialists, we offer end-to-end SEO solutions, including national SEO services for businesses planning to expand their reach beyond local markets.

Over the years, we’ve helped hundreds of small businesses dominate their local markets online with Google Maps SEO services.

If you’re looking for more:

  • Online visibility
  • Foot traffic to your local business
  • Sales

Book your free consultation with us today so we can take care of all your SEO needs.

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