Why Ranking On Google Maps Is Important For Your Local Business
by Mike Khorev
If you are a business that is selling your product or service to a local audience, appearing in the top-3 spots of Google Maps listing can significantly improve visitations, phone calls, sign-ups, or any other desirable conversions.
For example, if you are a restaurant in New York, specifically on Broadway, you would want to rank on the top-3 spots when people in Broadway is searching for “restaurants near me”.
In the past, Google shows 7 results when people are searching for Google Maps-related queries (queries with specific location and “near me” queries), or when people are directly searching on Google Maps. However, as we can see today, Google only shows 3, and we would need to click “more results” to see the others.
Obviously, the businesses on these top-3 spots—or the 3-pack— will get more exposure compared to those below them. The audience will perceive that these businesses are more credible, more relevant, and hence are more likely to purchase from them.
Since more and more people are now using “near me” queries—whether by typing or using voice search— on their mobile devices when looking for local businesses, appearing in this local 3-pack is very, very valuable. Let us take a quick glance of key benefits in ranking on the top-3 spots of Google Maps.
Key Benefits of Ranking in the Google Maps 3-Pack
- 88% of consumers who searched for a local business on their mobile will visit that business within 24 hours.
- According to Google’s report, 28% of these local searches result in a purchase
- People are now making purchase decisions based on whether they can easily find/contact/visit your business and whether others are saying positive things about you. In a Google Maps listing, the audience can easily find these pieces of vital information
- Google Maps results are interactive, where people can find the directions to your business with just one click and make a phone call directly from the search results. According to Google’s study, 70% of mobile searchers use this click-to-call feature.
Key Factors In Determining Google Maps Ranking
Since Google Maps results are mainly based on the searcher’s location, there are two main factors in determining how high your listing will rank:
- Visibility and Credibility
The more credible your business is, the more likely it will rank higher on the Google Maps listing. There are many factors that can determine your local visibility from mentions from other sites, mentions on social media especially from influencers, etc. Having more citations on local directories (Google Maps itself, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook Places, other local directories according to your niche) will also play a big part.
- Positive Reviews
Google took account of the number of positive reviews you have as a strong ranking signal, and we should encourage more positive reviews not only on Google Maps, but also on other important platforms like Facebook Places and Yelp among others. Positive reviews can also build your credibility to encourage more conversions, while negative reviews can ruin your reputation and might give a significant damage to conversion rate.
Top-3 Spots VS Paid Advertising
Technically, the 3-pack is not the topmost results we see on a Google Maps results page, but rather the paid ads (when there are actually businesses paying for the advertised spots). So, we can cut through the local SEO efforts and get these top results instantly.
The question is, which one is more beneficial?
To answer this, we should understand the very basic principle of any marketing efforts. Local SEO, which is ranking organically on Google Maps listing, is an organic marketing effort. Meaning, you will need to spend less money to execute this campaign.
The thing with organic campaigns from blog posts (content/inbound marketing), SEO, and others including local SEO is that they will take more time before you can see any significant results, while a paid campaign will get you to the same place in less time. So, you are technically buying time.
In general, paid vs organic campaign is usually a case of time vs costs. Paid advertising will obviously cost more, but will guarantee short-term results. However, is that also the case with organic Google Maps ranking vs paid ads? The thing is, more and more people are resisting Google ads, especially on the search results page. According to a report by Search Engine Watch, 60% of local searchers prefer the top-3 results, and only 10% trust paid ads. Again, here we see an advantage if we can get that 3-pack spot.
Pair that with the fact that search ads can be extremely expensive when not managed well, and the average CPC (Cost-Per-Click) of Google Ads is increasing with each and every year. Popular keywords in popular location can cost you more than $50 per click, and pair that with the fact that Google Ads has a pretty low CTR of 2% and below, it is hard to maximize ROI. Simply put, this average CTR of 2 to 3% will translate to just 2 or 3 visitations or phone calls in 100 clicks, a pretty abysmal number.
What about ranking in the 3-pack? What’s the average phone calls per 100 views? The good news is, the average conversion is very high at 44% according to a study in 2015 by Moz. We can see that getting that top-3 spots is far more valuable.
There’s also another factor causing this phenomenon: in Google Maps results, we can directly see the star rating on the result, which as we have mentioned above, a huge factor in influencing conversion rate. Businesses with more positive reviews and a higher star rating will simply get more views and clicks. There are cases where the number 3 spot get more calls and views than the topmost, simply because the business in the number 3 spot has more reviews and a higher rating Let us discuss this a little deeper.
The Importance of Positive Reviews
In this age of social media and transparency, everyone is checking for online reviews for just about anything. Your online reputation and especially the number of positive reviews your business has can literally make or break your business.
72% of customers don’t take any action—much less making a purchase decision— before they read reviews. So, a lack of positive reviews on your Google Maps listing, as well as other important aggregators like Yelp or TripAdvisor, can hurt your revenue. On the other hand, 40% of customers go to competitors when they read bad reviews, another important fact we should notice.
So, how can we leverage online reviews to our advantage? Here are some key principles:
- Encourage positive reviews from your existing customers. If necessary, you can offer incentives like special offers or discounts when they leave a positive review.
- Understand that there are two different types of negative reviews: those coming from actual customers with real issues, and those coming from fake customers with malicious intents. Noticing the difference is the key.
- If the negative review is valid, handle it quickly and politely. Don’t deliver false promises, yet on the other hand, don’t give the impression of unprofessionality. If you don’t have the answer, you can simply say “we will get back to you as soon as possible” (and do get back to them).
- If the bad review is fake, you can report it to Google Maps or the respective platform, provided you have sufficient proofs. You might want to take legal actions depending on the severity of the case.
- Bad reviews can be rooted on actual issues within your product/service or even your business. In these cases, you will need to treat these underlying issues as a long-term solution, or else, you’ll keep getting the same negative reviews related to this issue.
We have also mentioned that the number of positive reviews is an important ranking signal for Google Maps, so by having more positive reviews, you are killing two birds with one stone. On average, a customer reads between 2 to 10 reviews before making a purchase. However, 7% of customers can read between 11-20 reviews while 6% will read more than 20. In short, aim for at least 11 positive reviews, since 13% of the total buying population will read that many before making any purchase decisions.
Higher Star Rating=Higher Conversions
Above, we have briefly mentioned how a high star rating can dramatically improve the conversion rate of your Google Maps listing. On average, a listing with a 5-star average rating will get 69% of the total attention on the 3-pack. The number will drop to 59% for those with a 4-star rating, and 44% for those with a 3-star average.
Importance of Reviews on Third-Party Aggregators
While Google never really confirmed it, there is common speculation that reviews on other review aggregators (Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook Places) and local directories will also affect your ranking on Google Maps. This speculation is partly confirmed by a Forbes article, stating that Google do use information from third-party aggregators and directories.
Google uses third-party reviews to determine trending businesses, as well as social media mentions. We should also remember that the more reviews we have on all kinds of sites and the more mentions we have on social media, the more people are aware to your business, and hence it can increase conversions. Reviews are time-stamped, so Google’s (and other search engine’s) crawlers can easily track customer engagement and trends.
We definitely can’t neglect the importance of user reviews for both the benefits of improving your Google Maps ranking and conversion rates. As mentioned, online shoppers nowadays always check for reviews before making a purchase. The more positive reviews you have, the better the chance you’ll also rank in organic SERP and Google Maps ranking (even better, the 3-pack).
In the early years of the internet bloom and e-commerce, people are relying on websites to decide on an online purchase. Back then, we can simply have a good, informative website, push it with SEO and the sales will come. Now, in the era of social media and online transparency, that is no longer possible, as more and more people will first turn to online reviews.
Here are just some of the stats showing the importance of online reviews;
- According to Spiegel Research Center, displaying reviews can increase conversion as high as 270%, while displaying reviews for higher-priced products can increase conversion rates by 380%
- According to 3D Cart, with available reviews, 71% of customers are more comfortable in making a purchase decision
- Zendesk concluded that 88% of buyers are influenced by reviews
- According to BrightLocal, 87% of American consumers will only buy from businesses with three or higher star rating.
How will this affect your local business? You will need to encourage more of your existing customers to leave positive reviews. Also, if you are working with (or looking to work with) a digital marketing consultant, make sure that the agency understood the importance of online reviews and social proofs. Many digital marketing companies are focused on ranking high in the organic SERP or placing Adwords, but they won’t bring much value when you don’t have enough visibility, trust, and attention that are provided by local reviews and ranking in the 3-pack.
Ranking in the top 3 spots of Google Maps—or the local 3-pack— is a very important step to attract your ideal prospects: encouraging people to make a call, request for directions to your business, and in the end, bringing more revenue to your business.
So, it is very important to develop a local online marketing strategy or hire an expert or subscribe to local SEO services that are focused on getting that Google 3-pack presence, as well as getting more positive reviews from your consumers.
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