The Many Faces of Google Maps

July 27th, 2010 by Paula Keller French

Google Maps… the Local Business Center… Google Places… so many faces, so many problems. While it brings me great happiness once an issue is resolved, when trying to work them out, it seems like it’s never going to end. In the past, I’ve used a puzzle as an analogy for local search. I never really did like puzzles, and if Google Maps was a puzzle it would be a 2,000 piece box full of 1 inch pieces, 50 of which have been eaten by your kitten and thrown about the house by your children.

So, being that I’ve spent countless hours digging in the sofa cushions for lost pieces of the puzzle, so to speak, and still haven’t gotten them all laid out on the table, I can imagine small business owners often have the same issues.

Here’s a rundown of some of our latest challenges of Google Maps:

1. Disappearing Citations

Disappearing citations = drop in rankings. While citations aren’t essential to beating our your competitors in some markets, in others it can make or break you. When a client came to us for help with Maps rankings on particular search phrases, he was ranking for a number of “money phrases,” despite the listing breaking numerous quality guidelines. We rapidly cleaned everything up on our quest to come out in the end with a clean, strong listing. Then, numerous citations were disassociated with the listing – what! We followed the rules and the listing was ultimately penalized.

2. The Importance of a Clean Listing – your listing as well as your competitors’

It is true, the success of your listing can be dependant upon the cooperation of your competitors. In particularly competitive markets, we see a lot of keyword stuffing in titles and all throughout the listing. We’ve learned that the more muddled up the market gets, the less Google trusts the information businesses are including in their listings, and in some cases, penalizes the whole market by removing the map results from the SERPs.

Let’s use the market of hair salons, Frisco, TX:

About a month ago, this is the map that was being pulled by the search “Frisco hair salons”

and now, about a month later:

As you can see, there’s been quite the mix up of whose listings Google is favoring.  Your best bet is to stick with correct information and avoid anything spammy in order to maintain a strong listing.

3. Duplicate Listings

While the recommended strategies have changed over time, one thing is clear: duplicates are bad!  It’s likely that when you search your business’s phone number, you see more than one listing –  they may or may not have correct information, and in either case, you should address the extra listings in order to reinforce your own. For this issue, Google has handed us a couple of pieces to the puzzle, and let us on to the best way to deal with it. First, only claim your main listing. For all others, you should “report a problem” and tell Google that “This Place has another listing.” While it won’t be instant, this should help clean up your market’s cluster of listings AND help your customers find you and your real information more easily.

So, whether you are a single location of a business that’s moved a few times, or Matt Dillard Hair Salons, Frisco, TX, Google Places could be your best friend, or it could make you crazy trying to put together all the pieces of the puzzle.

Thanks to plasticrevolver for the great kitty image!