September 01, 2009
How To

Take Control of Local Search Results: 5 Steps to Improve Accuracy and Boost Traffic

SUMMARY: Google Maps can be a prime channel to attract prospects looking for your business’ location and service details. But if you’re not providing the information yourself, the search engine can pull details from third-party online sources that might not be accurate.

Take every effort you can to clear up confusion -- especially when the efforts are no-cost. See how a luxury hotel claimed and upgraded its local business listing on Google Maps. They now receive high placement for target keywords, and are pulling in more traffic.

Sean Reardon, Director Sales and Marketing, The Liberty Hotel, has been with the luxury Boston hotel for almost three years. Soon after the 2007 opening, Reardon’s team wanted to see how the Liberty’s local listing appeared in Google Maps.

They were dismayed to find that the Liberty’s map result -- address and all -- was tied to the location of the Liberty’s pre-opening business offices.

"It was critical. You can’t have 200 people arriving tonight at an office building when they’re supposed to be going to a hotel," says Reardon. "We’re new, and because we’re not a household name -- although very well known in the city -- people need a reference point, not only from a quality standpoint, but a location standpoint."

The team set out to remedy the problem. In the process, they enhanced their local business result so searchers could easily see the Liberty’s prime location and facilities.

- Now, the team is the third local result in Google Maps for the phrase "Boston luxury hotel," and is the sixth result for the term "hotels Boston."

- Although Google Maps only provides about .35% of overall site traffic, visits from Maps increased more than 2,230% from February 2008 to July 2009.

Here are five steps the team took to reclaim their local business listing in Google Maps, and how they’re driving more traffic from that channel:

Step #1. Evaluate current listing

To get a look at your local business placement, type your company’s name, city, and state into Google Maps. If the result does not immediately pop-up on the map, click the most relevant result on the left-hand bar.

Take a close look at the listing and verify that the phone number, address, and details are accurate.

"Sometimes [listings] end up with pictures that aren’t the right pictures, or an address that’s just a number off -- that’s a problem," Reardon says.

Incorrect listings often come from one of three sources:
o Outdated information
o An incorrect listing in an online directory
o An incorrect submission by a team member

If your team has control of your listing, you can log-in and make the necessary changes. If your team does not have access to the listing, you have to claim control.

Step #2. Claim control of listing

Fortunately, you do not have to suffer with an inaccurate description of your business. To claim control:
o Click the result in Google Maps
o Click "edit" on the pop-up box that appears on the map
o The window will ask "Are you the owner?"
o Click the supplied link to claim the listing

The above link will take you to the Google Local Business Center. Log-in if you have a Google account; otherwise you will have to create one. You can then use the Local Business Center to verify your listing through one of two methods:

- Verify by phone

In this faster method, Google provides a pin number and calls you to request the pin. Make sure you are prepared to handle the call when it arrives.

- Verify by mail

If complications make phone verification unworkable, you can request that Google send you a post card with a pin number on it. Then, you can log-in and submit that pin to verify the listing. Mail verification can take several weeks longer than phone verification.

Step #3. Enhance description

Once you’ve verified your listing, you can change major portions of it -- but not every piece.

Google Maps pulls content from several third-party sources, including reviews and images, which you can’t change (more on those features below). But you can provide information to a lengthy list of fields to build your listing.

All the information you add should include your team’s search keywords, such as "luxury," "hotel," and "Boston," for Reardon’s team. Also, the information should be accurate.

"Although it sounds rather straightforward, it is absolutely critical that this information is correct," Reardon says.

The more information you can add to differentiate your business and to enrich your listing’s content, the better. Reardon’s team was able to add information in the following areas:
o General hotel description: two sentences
o Restaurant description, hours, and type of cuisine
o Parking
o Pricing
o Accepted forms of payment
o Room service, Internet access, fitness facility
o And more

- Use a strong title

Google’s terms of service restrict any misrepresentations of your business in the listing. The business’ title should be a direct representation of its name -- but you can add its city, such as "The Liberty Hotel Boston," to help your ranking for regional searches.

Step #4. Add images

The listing also displays relevant images and videos. This content comes from one of two sources:
o Your team’s submissions in Google’s Local Business Center
o From other sources on the Web

It is important that your team upload high-quality, relevant images and video to be displayed in your listing:

- The images you provide will be shown at the top of the image list with the caption "Photos from the business owner."

- Images from the Web are shown below these, and have a caption that describes their source. If your team does not upload content, the only video and images displayed will be from other sources that you have no control over.

Step #5. Monitor reviews

A Google Maps listing displays reviews that Google pulls from multiple sources, and from searchers who type reviews directly into the results page. The reviews on the Liberty’s map listing come from sites such as TripAdvisor and

Although you cannot change the reviews, it is important to monitor them, as negative comments will occur. Try to reconcile any issues that arise through the website hosting the original review. Positive reviews, of course, will do more to help convert searchers than negative reviews.

Useful links related to this article:

Creative Samples from the Liberty Hotel’s Google Maps listing

How to Measure SEO Effectively: 7 Tactics

Google Maps

6s Marketing: Worked on the team’s SEO

Liberty Hotel

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