GMB A-Z Ranking Guide: Google Local SEO Tactics Derived from 1000’s of Ranked Listings

Google My Business Ranking Guide

Table of Contents

Read First

No one likes lengthy introductions, but I implore you to read through this one as it will offer some assistance with reading through and digesting this guide. This freaking thing grew to over 20k words. I am happy to assure you that there isn’t any fluff here. It’s just lots of information. So, consuming might seem like a daunting task, which is why I am going to help out a bit.

First, we added a table of contents so you can move around the guide a bit easier. Some of this might be a review, and there may be some areas of interest for you and your team, so you want to dive deeper into a section without perusing 5-10k words about something for which you consider yourself adept.

Second, if you are an audio/visual learner more so than someone who can read articles and develop action plans from the text and images, then go ahead and check out the FREE Local SEO course, which inspired a large portion of this post. Small note: you have to register for the Local Client Takeover website and then once again for each course. There are currently 90 up to date videos in there for you guys to enjoy. 

Lastly, we reference a lot of lists of links, directories, templates, workbooks, etc. in this guide. All of these tools have been consolidated into Local Viking’s Local Marketing Toolkit and is available for free download. You will see this referenced throughout the content as well. This beast contains a ton of resources to assist with your GMB optimization efforts, and there is no catch. Opt-in for the toolkit, and we will shoot you a link to your email so you can download everything mentioned in the guide.

A special thanks go out to Chaz for his GMB insight, which helped immensely with the composition of this content. If you want to connect with Chaz, he can easiest be found in the Local Client Takeover Facebook group offering tons of free advice and helping people troubleshoot their campaigns. You can also catch him on the SEO Vault once a week for some informal conversation on what’s new in the SEO world and other news with the brands of which he is a part. I happen to be the handsome gentleman to his right in those videos :-).

Thank you to Allen Levings, my dear friend, and account manager at one of my agencies who wrote the Introduction to GMB section. Allen has helped troubleshoot extremely complicated issues with Google My Business and is a champion of our Local SEO division. He does not puff his chest out as the alpha and omega of GMB, but he is knowledgeable and works with a great team that provides kick-butt results.

There is one final thing before we begin. We run multiple successful agencies and manage thousands of GMBs for clients. So, while there are very few absolutes in the realm of local SEO, everything we write about we implement on our campaigns. It comes from a lot of testing and data observation. If some of the tactics do not fit your philosophies or business model, that is fine. Still, our tactics are battle-tested, and I believe even the most seasoned local marketers can take a lot away from reading this guide and downloading the toolkit.

Without further adieu, please enjoy the content and let us know if you have any questions or input.

Click Here To Get The Local SEO ToolBox Free

 

Local Ranking Factors

Local Ranking Factors

If we were to simplify what Google looks at to determine the ranking of Google My Business Listings, the formula could be broken down into three main factors. Relevance, prominence, and proximity. Depending on where you find yourself in your GMB education, they may either seem evident to you or, you could be left scratching your head.

Regardless, we are going to take somewhat of a deeper dive into what these factors mean. Doing so will also set the scene for the optimization activities to come. As we start building our plan of what it’s going to take to rank on Google Maps, you will remember back to these factors, and a lot of the steps we are taking will give you an “aha!” moment and make more sense.

Relevance

The concept is simple enough. I know there has been a lot of chatter around the “super synonym system” or the neural matching process that relates words to searches. Still, not much has changed with the core philosophy of relevance as it pertains to Google Maps SEO.

In the most elementary of examples, Google wants to match user queries as close to relevant results as possible. If you type “roof repair” into Google, then they want to display a list of roofers to satisfy the intent of the search. At the end of this section, I will give you an action plan to increase your relevance score in the eyes of Google.

Prominence

In this context, let’s use prominence synonymously with authority. Google uses prominence or how well known your business is as a factor in determining rankings. If we want to get serious about our SEO for local businesses, we need to build authority for our brand, listing, and brand documents.

Referencing Google’s GMB Support documents, they lay out some of the obvious things we should look at when establishing and improving the prominence of a listing. At the end of this section, I am going to help you by providing an action plan that builds on Google’s ambiguous help documentation.

Proximity

The proximity, or distance from the user performing the search and the business itself, is the final piece of the Google My Business optimization rank factor puzzle. Google is continually refining how they deliver their GMB results to give users the best experience possible.

The closer someone is to a business; logically, it could benefit them more to reach out to that company as opposed to an establishment that is further away.

This mechanism can get as granular as Google attempts to detect that you are walking, thus serving a Thai spot that is a block away rather than on the outskirts of downtown when you Google “Thai food near me.” This process can also create some geospatial issues with listings being served as outlined in this post, https://blog.localviking.com/why-your-rank-tracker-sucks/.

This is actually my favorite to talk about as well because relevance and prominence are simple. These are the two factors that are easiest to digest as a local SEO. They are easy to influence.

The distance between a business to someone searching is not quite as simple. You cannot move the address of the company dynamically to appease this piece of the GMB algorithm.

So, how can a local business influence the proximal portion of GMB?

Well, it looks like we should jump right into an action plan to get your local search rankings off to the best start possible.

Google Local Rank Factors Action Plan

Outline For Ranking Locally

Discussing Google ranking theory or local SEO “what ifs” can be a lot of fun. I know you beautiful ladies and gentlemen came here for some hard-hitting and actionable Google Maps optimization tactics, so that is what you are going to get.

Firstly, let’s cover some ways to influence:

Prominence Influencing Action Plan

Social Accounts

Make sure you have your brand social accounts built out. I know, I know. Basic stuff here. We categorize these sites by two artificial groups at my agencies, essential social profiles, and secondary profiles. Your essential social accounts are the big ones. The obvious ones. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin. Secondary social accounts are lesser-known and utilized profile sites like Square Cash or an Academia.edu profile.

Citations

Build more citations and directory listings.  Don’t get me wrong, gone are the days that we can build more citations than the competition and we will rank. Yes, that used to be a very real thing. Now, we have to consider citation indexation and if they are not indexing because of quality issues or platforms. We have some posts on using citations for local SEO, so if you would like to deep dive into that topic, I would rather have that be somewhat separate from this higher level guide.

Reinforcing Backlink Graphs of Brand Documents

Build Backlink Graphs of Connected Website, Brand Properties, GMB Listing, etc. I promised to cut through some of the ambiguity that comes with the advice, “build links”, and I am going to try following through on that by giving you guys a monster list of links you can build to boost your local SEO. You can find that by downloading the local marketing toolbox.

Google loves links. This statement remains true no matter how much the “links are dead” crowd has tried to downplay their importance. The more quality links you build, the more authority your properties gain. It is that simple.

Reviews

The importance of reviews as a ranking factor is debated. Still, we ran some pretty thorough tests on the subject and have found that in the grand scheme of things, they have much less effect than a lot of the other activities that can be done to boost your Google maps ranking.

Our review test did show 50% of the test pool had minimal increases in rankings from a review generation campaign. This test aged a bit, but we still have the same philosophy about using reviews as ranking mechanisms — not the alpha and omega of Google my Business SEO.

In the grand scheme of local SEO, we want and need reviews. There has been plenty of evidence of them increasing the trust Google has for a listing during some of our more grey hat testings and considering Google tells us they look at reviews as part of the overall prominence piece to their rank determinations, this makes a lot of sense.

Having reviews on third-party platforms is excellent for establishing brand ubiquity in the eyes of Google as well.

These are four high-level strategies to start building your GMB prominence. Let’s move right along to:

Relevance Influencing Action Plan

Increasing your relevance is easy. There are two pieces to what Google is looking for in terms of relevance. One is geographical, and the other is the niche of the business relating to the query users perform when searching on Google. When a user queries “roofer in Baltimore,” Google wants to make sure they are serving a business in Baltimore that performs roofing as their or one of their flagship services.

GMB Content

GMB Content should be keyword optimized. This is pretty simple. Do not stuff keywords into the content or make it read in a spammy or unnatural way, but take some time and make sure your services are articulated well, and you are intelligently using synonyms and LSI. Some people even use different tools on the market to ensure their keyword densities, and term frequencies are in parity with the ranking competition — food for thought.

GMB Categories

GMB Categories should be topically correct. We will cover this more in the category selection section, but make a note of this now, and we will revisit later in the guide.

JUMP TO THE CATEGORIES SECTION

Geo-Identifiers

Increasing the number of geo-identifiers like zip codes, neighborhoods, GPS coordinates in supporting content, the more we increase the geographic relevance of our campaign.

Optimize the Location Page for both Keywords and Geo

You might have heard of blended and disjointed results in the local SERPs. For a lot of queries, it was crucial to have a well-ranking website in order to perform well in the maps results. The importance of having an optimized URL connected to your GMB never really diminished, and intelligently optimizing said page is essential for optimal performance, still to this day. We have a section dedicated to this in the website optimization section of this guide.

JUMP TO THE ON-PAGE OPTIMIZATION SECTION

Optimize your Photos and Media for both Keywords and Geo

These two are pretty self-explanatory. We have two sections in this guide covering image optimization. The first is a manual process that covers how and why in great detail. Our second contribution to this topic is using automation and some really cool programmatic workflows inside of Local Viking. 

JUMP TO THE IMAGE OPTIMIZATION TUTORIAL SECTION 

JUMP TO THE IMAGE OPTIMIZATION AUTOMATION SECTION

Create Relationships Between Related Entities

This does not have to get any more complicated than interlinking your brand profiles, adding other places to find you links in your general link building, etc. Google deprecated social profile markup for the knowledge graph, but consistently interlinking your brand documents is a sure-fire way to start building that relevance and authority.

Proximity Influencing Action Plan

Influencing proximal factors is tricky. There are a lot of things we have tested and will continue to experiment. We talked a lot about this in our 50 minutes GMB State of the Union Video. I would either bookmark that or take a break from this post and run through that training to see some ninja things are doing to try and push the geospatial boundaries with our Google listing SEO.

We need to convince Google we are eligible to be served further outside our typical radii of visibility and that video will give you a few strategies to try out.

Click Here To Get The Local SEO ToolBox Free

Local SEO Ecosystem

The Local SEO Eco System

Alrighty, we spent the first section familiarizing you with the overview of what factors Google looks at for GMB ranking. In this portion of the guide, we will be taking a bit of a deeper dive into the nuts and bolts of what pushes us to follow the systems we do to rank in Google maps.

Over the next few minutes, you will see a lot of links to Google patents that support some of the local SEO theories we tested to determine if they were going to be part of a repeatable ranking process for our GMBs.

One last thing. Just because you read something in a patent does not mean that it is the law of the land when it comes to SEO for local businesses. We use material found from patents to TEST the theories we gather from reading them. Never blindly follow patents. Google owns so many. Just because they patented a concept does not mean it is currently being used or ever will be.
Let’s begin.

Document Scoring

Document Scoring Google Algorithm

In this patent, we begin to learn how Google handles document scoring. Surprise, prominence is explained, and geo-relevance is discussed. If you peruse that paper, you will also have some conventional SEO notions validated.

Google is looking at the number of documents referring to the entity. These are our links, profiles, citations, local blog backlinks, etc. We know they are also looking at the documents backlink graph.

The authority of the document is essential. It is not unwise to have some campaigns in mind to boost the backlink graphs of your top tier links pointing to your entities’ assets. A lot of times, tier two link building is considered spammy, but that only rings true when you try and pinch pennies or cut corners. Just like we talked about in the prominence section above, reviews also strengthen prominence.

This document also talks about Google looking for keyword relevance in the documents by checking to see if the commercial terms are in the title, content, or category. This paper reinforces the work we laid out above. This advice comes tried and true, tested, and verified to be pretty spot on and to work for local SEO.

Geo-Relevant Documents

Geo Document Scoring

This patent on indexing documents, according to geographical relevance, will validate a lot of the work we are doing during our GMB campaigns. It seems Google is separating the map into a hierarchical triangular mesh in which references to addresses, postcodes, and lat/long are defined against the mesh of a geographical area.

The main takeaway we got from this many moons ago was to liberally insert the location data of our campaigns into as many documents as possible. It only makes sense that if we are doing SEO for Google Maps that we have a lot of information about our business location.

We are inserting the NAP (name, address, and phone number) into as many links as we build as possible. This tactic turns our links into unstructured citations for our entity. Structured citations are also essential.

We also add location signals into web pages, backlinks, GMB posts, etc. Local signals could be the address of the business, GPS coordinates, and even driving directions. If you attempt a controlled test and add driving directions to a bunch of documents referencing your brand, I am not suggesting your rankings will shoot through the roof, but it is like slowly filling up a cup of water with a dripping faucet. The more we let drip in, the more effective our local SEO campaign will be.

Authority Documents

Algorithm For Determining Authority

This patent about authority is as simple as it gets. Google is looking for documents that are associated with a location and then identifying signals associated with those documents and determines the authority of the findings based on those signals, as mentioned above.

When you build links, make sure you are associating that document with your entity. I mentioned above that you should be adding the NAP of the brand. Add links to the other documents related to your entity, so Google crawls the page and hyperlinks to the next doc and continues building the web of pages that are relevant and linking to your properties.

As stated above, one of the biggest things to boost the overall authority of a document or page is the number of referring links and the strength and relevance of those links.

Geo-Relevant Signals

Determining Geo Relevance

geographic location identifier included within a first web document in the set of web documents may be identified. The identified geographic location identifier may be assigned to a second web document in the collection of web documents based on a relevancy of the first web document to the second web document.

Including addresses, phone numbers, and geo terms in the page continues to ring true as you dig through this paper. Something we have not talked a lot about is the anchor text used when link building. We know Google can use anchor text to increase the confidence score for a geo-token apparatus potentially. Anchor text usage and the entity information in the content surrounding it is still vital for influencing local SEO.

Semantic Geo-tokens and Nearby Locations

Semantic Geo Token Scoring

Semantic geo-tokens help provides more relevant search results to the end-user. These tokens operate off of a confidence system. This information makes it apparent that the key is to make sure any documents that you want to be associated with a particular token should have as much defined information about that geo as possible.

The semantic token apparatus does not just rely on the information within the content of a document. It is also capable of using off-page signals to determine geo-relevancy. For example, it will see if any geo-tokens in the content like addresses, city names, neighborhoods, popular destinations, etc. exist. But, the apparatus will also read the anchor text and see if city names, zip codes, etc. are located within.

Our advice is to ensure you are using geo-tokens in your content and also utilizing geographical identifiers in your anchor text.

Trusted Sources and Spam

Determining difference between trusted sources and spam

To put this in the simplest of terms, Google is always working toward labeling sources of information as trustworthy or spam. When business information is retrieved, Google looks at the source to determine if it is a trusted source or not. If it is not a trusted source, it will run through a scoring system to determine if the information retrieved is to be trusted or not.

Reading through the nitty-gritty of this paper can deliver some exciting thought pieces. For example, the author states using subjective terms like “best” and “cheap” can trigger potential spam classifications. There was also mention of adding commercial modifiers in places where they usually do not belong.

Getting listed on trusted platforms and making sure you are using natural language, keywords, and LSI is essential. It is probably the biggest and most apparent action item we can take from this patent.

Local Search and Universal Search

Joining Search Result Types

Do not let that busy image scare you. This patent does not cover an unusually complex idea. This patent discusses merging search results, and it essentially explains how entities might be scored differently by two different search engines (maps and organic). When the query justifies a merger, Google can combine them and rescore using the second algorithm.

An authoritative, well-ranking entity in one search may positively affect its status in another. A few years ago, we talked a lot about blended results and disjointed results for queries that triggered a map pack. A lot of queries demanded websites to be ranking well organically to perform well locally.

While that might not be as much of the case now, it is still best practice to assume that the more authoritative your entity is, the more benefit you will have across search engines.

Structured Data for Entities

The time has come to discuss generating structured information, briefly. Quite simply, Google acquires structured and unstructured data about entities from data providers, directories, other websites they crawl, etc. and stores that information in their knowledge graph.

Make sure information about your entity is updated and thorough across the web. Ensure when you create content about your brand that you are giving as much information about your entity as possible. Easy.

Term Frequency for Entity Knowledge

How Google Uses Term Frequency

Google has a neat patent on assigning terms of interest to an entity. Let’s unpackage this paper. What we are looking to take from this is that the more a word is used in association with the entity, the more Google will learn that the term is related to the brand.

Collect all of your keywords and categories at the start of your campaign and sprinkle them throughout the content that will reference your entity. Some theories suggest this data is also learned from queries and user data, as well.

Google has vehemently insisted they do not use user metrics like dwell time and CTR to influence rankings directly. Still, signals like that indirectly affecting rankings through systemic processes, as discussed in the patent, could be viable.

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Introduction to GMB

According to studies, 59% of people use Google to search for a local business at least once per week, and 69% of people search for a local business at least once per month. Other studies from 2019 suggest that 64% of consumers used Google My Business to find contact details for a local business. 84% of searches were “discovery” searches, searches in which a consumer was searching via keyword, and not looking for a specific business.

These statistics and others show the importance for a business owner to be on Google Maps and in the Local Finder, otherwise known as the Snack Pack or 3 Pack. This is the set of Maps listings that typically appears just under the ads on Google search results, and above the organic results.

Introduction To The Snack Pack

Because of the prominence of the Local Finder results, most clicks for local business searches happen in the 3 Pack, and that is growing every year. Between the end of 2017 and the end of 2018, clicks from GMB listings increased by 29%. These clicks aren’t just going to the website, either. Calls from GMB results also grew 22% in the same period.

GMB Insights Study From BL

These numbers indicate users are relying more and more on Local Finder and Google Maps results to find local businesses in which to give their money.

Local business owners can no longer afford to not be on Google Maps and ranking in the snack pack. That’s where we, as marketers, come in.

This course is designed to help you optimize our and clients’ GMB listings to give us the best chance at crushing the competition and taking the top spot.

So, without further adieu, let’s get started.

Setting Up Your GMB Listing

Adding your business to Google is the first step in getting a Maps listing and ranking it. While the process is relatively straightforward, some nuances can help you get the phone ringing and the leads coming in.

Gather Your Info  

The first thing you will need to do is get the business’s information for which you will be setting up the listing. We commonly refer to this information as NAP, which stands for Name, Address, Phone.

For this section, we will be using this NAP:

Las Vegas Low-Cost Handyman

4709 Arial Ridge St, Las Vegas, NV 89147 

725-400-7190

Verify The Address

(If using a fake address or suite number)

If you are using a fake address or adding a suite number to an address that doesn’t have suites, verify the address to make sure it validates. You can do this by going to https://www.melissa.com/v2/lookups/addresscheck/address/ and looking up the address there.

If your listing gets suspended or goes under review, Google will check that the address validates, so this is an important step.

You results should look like this:

Verifying Your Address With Melissa data

If you don’t have an address or location yet, go to Google Maps and try to find an address near where your competitors are located. Proximity is a ranking factor, and being near the centroid can help with rankings. 

Choosing A Centroid Address

The Setup Process

To get started creating your listing, go to https://business.google.com. If you are using an email address that has other GMB listings associated with it already, you will be taken to the dashboard where you can add a new location:

Setting Up Your Google My Business Listing

If you are using an email address that has no listings associated with it, then you will be taken directly to being able to add your listing:

Enter your business name and select the primary category of your business. We will add more relevant categories in later based on competitor research, so just pick the broadest category for your business right now.

How To Choose Your GMB Category

You will be asked if you want to add a location at which people can visit you. This answer will depend on your business. In this case, our handyman will go to a customer’s location, and there is no reason a customer would come to him so that we will select no. We will then need to put in 

If yours is the type of business that can’t go to a customer, like a grocery store or gas station, then you will select yes. The next screen will ask you to enter your address.

Sometimes, a business will do both. This is called a hybrid company, and we will cover this later. For now, you can choose either yes or no. It doesn’t matter which.

Choosing Your Service Areas

If you are a service area business (SAB) and you go to your customers, then you will need to select the areas you serve. You can only enter up to 20 areas, so depending on the size of the area you serve, you may need to adjust your strategy a little bit.

When selecting your areas, I like to select them in this order:

  1. County
  2. Surrounding Counties
  3. City
  4. Surrounding Cities
  5. City + zip code
    How To Choose Your Service Area

Complete The Listing

Continue filling out the information. You will need to enter a phone number or website on the contact details screen.

Completing Your Business Listing

When you get to the verification step, you may get the option to verify by phone. If you do, turn off any IVR or “Press 1” type functions. You will not be able to get the code if an IVR is enabled. Otherwise, you will have the option to verify by postcard, which usually takes 3-5 days to arrive.

Don’t Lose Access

You can add a Gmail address as a user to ensure you don’t lose access to the listing should something happen to the primary email address.

To do that, go into the listing, and on the left menu, select “Users.”

Managing Your GMB users

GMB permission system

Now that your listing is set up, we can look a little more in-depth at the optimization process. We will begin covering that in the next installment of this section. 

Storefronts, SAB, and Hybrid Businesses

Before we move on, let’s clear up a few things regarding the type of businesses and the pros and cons of each one.

Storefront 

The first business type is a storefront. A storefront is any business in which clients or customers come to a staffed office, storefront, or other physical location to conduct business with you. You do not ever travel to them.

Examples of storefront businesses include gas stations, accountants, or a car dealership. These businesses do not deliver, and they require clients to come to them. 

Storefront businesses are not limited to where they can rank, as long as the company is relevant to the area. An accountant can rank anywhere in the city they are located in, and maybe even close by surrounding cities (if the area is small enough or there are few or no competitors). Still, a gas station will likely only rank within a few miles of its location since people typically look for the closest gas station.

This is a listing for a gym (I didn’t ask for permission to use this business here, so details have been obscured), and since a gym can’t travel to its clients, it is a storefront and no service area is defined.

Listing as a store front

Service Area Business (SAB)

A Service Area Business, or SAB, is a business in which a client would have no reason to visit a physical location such as a painter, roofer, or in our example, a handyman. These businesses always go to the customer’s location to provide their service.

With a SAB, you will hide the business address from public view, as these businesses are typically run out of people’s homes or other private places, and you don’t want people showing up there.

SABs are limited in their ability to rank in a city by whether you have selected the area in the service areas. A SAB won’t rank somewhere that isn’t expressly selected in the service areas.

In this example, the business won’t rank in Pahrump, NV. Pahrump is relatively close to Las Vegas, and a lot of handymen will travel there, but it hasn’t been selected in the service areas so it won’t rank in Pahrump.

Even though we have entered an address for this business, it won’t show as we have designated it as a SAB. Therefore, the address is hidden from the public.

Listing as a service area business

When selecting areas for a SAB, I typically like to enter the broadest area the business serves first, then narrow it down from there.

  1. State
  2. County
  3. City
  4. Zipcode

You can only add 20 areas in each listing, so select as many areas as you can, but start with the broadest to ensure you cover as much as you serve. 

Hybrid Business

Hybrid businesses do both. They have a staffed storefront or office, and they also deliver goods or services to the client’s location.

Examples of a hybrid business might be a pizza place or flower shop that delivers. Both of these businesses have pick-up or delivery options in which a client can come to them to get goods and services, or the company can go to the client’s location.

This Italian restaurant (again, I didn’t ask for permission, so details are obscured) has both a dining room that people can come to dine at, but they also deliver their food to customer’s homes. So, both the service areas and addresses are defined and displayed to the public.

listing as a hybrid

Regardless of which type you choose, you will be able to change it later, so there is no need to overthink this one. Choose the kind that is best for your business today, and if you need to make an update later, you can.

GMB Categories

Competitor research is a crucial element in picking one of the essential aspects of optimizing your GMB listing, the categories. Finding out what categories our top ranking competitors are using is a great way to make sure our listing can take the top spot.

The first thing we want to do is search on Maps for our primary keyword, and open the top 3 competitors in the browser. You will notice that you will be able to see a category in the Maps Search results. Still, the category will sometimes be different than the primary category selected by the owner, so clicking through to the listing is essential.

Once you find your top three competitors, look to see what their primary category is. This will be your primary category, as well. 

Selecting your GMB category

Finding the secondary categories is a little bit trickier. We can use the View Source option in the browser to find them, however. To do that, right-click on any white space within your competitors listing, and select View Source in the contextual menu.

 

  • Find top 3 ranking companies for your primary keyword, and open each one in Google Maps
  • Click through each listing to see the primary category used
  • View Source to see secondary categories
    • Ctrl + F the primary category, what follows is the secondary categories used
    • Take note of what comes after the category for use later
  • One primary and two secondary max – don’t category stuff as it can hurt your ability to get a knowledge graph

GMB Service Areas

If you are creating a listing for a Service Area Business (SAB) or a Hybrid business, you will need to determine the service areas you want to cover. 

We usually add service areas in the following order, but keep in mind that some of these areas may not apply to you. For example, if the next county over is too far away for your business to serve, skip adding it in. Only add in areas in which you want to rank in:

  1. County
  2. Surrounding Counties
  3. City
  4. Neighborhoods within the city (if Google shows them on Maps)
  5. Surrounding Cities, Towns, and Townships
  6. Specific zip codes within your service area. In the case of our listing in Las Vegas, NV, we will be using the neighborhoods and surrounding cities as Las Vegas is a large city with many communities. As of 2019, Google only allows 20 service areas to be put in, so we may run out of slots before we get to adding in zip codes. That is OK, as zip codes are the lowest on our list of priorities.

GMB Listing Optimization

Optimizing the remainder of your GMB listing is pretty straightforward. We have a couple of hacks for you in this section, and while we will be completing most of the rest of the listing, we will save the phone number and photos for another post.

Hours

Add in the business hours using real business hours. Google is known to do spot checks on listings, and if they call a listing, and no one answers, we risk a suspension. They will only call during the business hours listed, so if no one answers the phone at 2 am, we don’t want to list the business as being open 24/7.

Also, make sure to take note of the hours listed on the GMB listing. Some citations and online profiles will have us put our hours of operation in, and making sure it matches the listing is essential in helping Google build the knowledge graph for the business. We always talk about the name, address, and phone, but Google uses the other information in our GMB listing when it can as well.

To edit business hours, click the pencil icon in the Hours section, add hours into the dialog box that opens, then click Apply. 

GMB Business hours part 1

GMB business hours part 2

Some businesses open and close more than once throughout the day. For example, a restaurant that is open for lunch then closes for a couple of hours, then opens again for dinner. For these types of businesses, you can click on Add Hours to add a new set of hours to the same day.

Adding GMB Business Hours

We also add Special Hours to our listings to make them appear as real as possible. Special hours are for when the business might close for special days, such as Christmas or New Years Day. We can also use special hours if closing early or closing for another special occasion, such as a vacation. Google will automatically suggest days for special hours, but we can also add our own.

GMB Special Hours Part 1

GMB special business hours part 2

Website and Appointment Links

Add in the website and Appointment URLs. We can use our homepage for the appointment URL, but we only suggest this if a customer can make an appointment on that page. We want to present the user with real information; otherwise, they might leave without taking the action we want them to take.

We can use the GMB site or Google business site for both of these, or we can use our website. Either one is fine, though we typically build our sites, so we have better control over important aspects of the site.

Adding in the URLs is much the same as editing other parts of the GMB; by clicking the pencil icon next to the URL sections, adding in the URL we want, and clicking apply.

GMB Appointment URL

Selecting your GMB website

Services

The services section gives us an excellent opportunity to add additional long-tail keywords. In these sections, you can write yourself, but unless you like to write, it might be better to hire a writer to provide an article you can use for this purpose.

As with the other sections, we begin by clicking the pencil icon next to the Services section. You may notice there are services already listed. Depending on the categories you selected, Google will sometimes automatically add-in services; it thinks are relevant to your business. Once you begin editing the services, you can delete the auto-generated services and add more in as needed. 

For those that you don’t delete, you can edit them by adding in pricing type (fixed, hourly, etc.) and descriptions. Click the pencil icon next to the service you want to edit.

A recent update makes the categories you select your top-level service, and changing these will change your category, so be careful when editing those sections. The items we list below each category should be an extension of the category. 

Our listing here has three categories; Handyman, Painter, and Electrician. Each item we add will be a subset of the respective category; the painter might include exterior painting, and the electrician might consist of ceiling fan installation. We wouldn’t add ceiling fan installation under the painter category, as it isn’t something that a painter would do, but an electrician would.

Selecting your GMB services

Within each category, we can add suggested services, or create our own. If the recommended services cover the long-tail keywords, we can use them. Otherwise, we can create our own to get the keywords we want to cover.

Adding GMB services

Adding GMB service that doesn't exist

Adding Additional GMB services

Once you have added the custom service to the top-level service, we can edit it by clicking the caret icon next to it.

In the dialog box that appears, you can rename the service, add in the price type and price, and add a description. We usually include the keyword and brand when writing the description. The description only allows 300 characters (which includes punctuation and spaces), and be aware of keyword stuffing.

When selecting the price structure, there are four options; No Price, Free, Fixed, and From. 

  • We can use No Price if we don’t want to show the price publicly on our GMB website or if we are charging hourly for the service, and the other options won’t accurately reflect the pricing structure. 
  • Use the Free option only if the service truly is free. There is no benefit from misleading users, only downside. 
  • Fixed pricing is for services that always cost the same. A massage might be $50 for an hour, and since it is always $50 for one hour, the fixed price would be a good option. 
  • The From price is suitable for services that vary in price but have a minimum. An example of a business that might use this pricing could be an oil change place. The oil change starts at $29 but can go up if you elect to use synthetic oil or get an air filter change. 

Editing GMB services

Description

Our business description section allows for 750 characters and is another opportunity for adding keywords and geo-relevance. As always, though, be aware of keyword stuffing. The business description should read naturally and is another section that is good to have a writer take care of for you. It is your business’ “elevator pitch” and should quickly describe your business and include the brand name and a call-to-action.

To edit your description, click the pencil icon, add in your description, and click Apply.

GMB business description set up

The Rest

Add in an opening date. This is something that helps make the listing more reliable and can add authority to your listing in the minds of users.

If you are running Google ads for this listing and have a Google Ads tracking phone number, you can add that in the section on the right.

Extra GMB listing settings

The store code section applies if you have multiple locations and have a unique identifier for each. This section helps Google differentiate between locations, helping to provide better results when displaying your listing in the search results. 

Testing hasn’t shown any benefit from adding keywords here, but if you want to test it to be careful in using exact match keywords. Our testing has shown an increase in soft-suspensions for listings that keyword-stuffed this section.

GMB store codes

Finally, the Labels section provides another opportunity for adding long-tail keywords. There has been testing on adding in CIDs, MREIDs, and other geo identifiers and have seen no positive result, but you are free to experiment as you see fit. Just be careful with keyword stuffing, as overdoing it here could result in a suspension as well. For this reason, we usually don’t do any more than two labels that are keyword variations.

Setting Up Your GMB Labels

Next, we will cover the phone numbers and some helpful information to help navigate some of the issues you may encounter.

GMB Phone Numbers

There are a few considerations when selecting the phone number you want to use on your GMB.

Local vs. Toll-Free

The first thing to consider when selecting the phone number for your GMB is whether to use a local phone number or a toll-free phone number. 

A toll-free number is excellent for companies that work nationally or internationally, as it gives their customers a way to contact them without additional charges from anywhere.

For a local company, however, local phone numbers have been shown to perform better.

This article cites a study by SinglePlatform that showed 86% of consumers prefer local businesses compared to national or international ones, and 72% of consumers would be willing to pay more to a local company if the service or product is better quality than a national/international company. 79% of the people in the study said that a local company is also more reliable.

If you are already using a toll-free number but are a local company and want to switch to a local number, don’t fret. You can still take advantage of the local number without having to redo your NAP across the entire internet. Add your new local number as the primary number and add the toll-free number as a secondary. To do that, click the pencil icon next to the phone number section, then click Add Phone Number, then enter your toll-free on the new line that appears and the local number in the Primary slot. Click Apply to finish and set the changes.

GMB Photo Optimization

Optimizing photos before use is an excellent way to send subtle signals to Google and help add location relevance to your GMB listing. Google strips EXIF data when you upload it to your GMB listing, and whether Google reads it before removing it isn’t known for sure, but optimizing the photos is still very important. We will be using them in a variety of places, some of which don’t strip the EXIF data (such as Google Drive), in addition to that, Google still reads the photo title, so keyword naming them is crucial as well.

Photo optimization isn’t complicated but can be tedious unless you use a tool. Local Viking has an image optimizer and bulk image optimization toolkit built-in, and you can also automate the metadata population using our tokenized system. It is a massive time saver. But, this post isn’t about how to use geotagging tools, so we will be showing you what to optimize, and how it should be optimized. 

First, we need to collect the images we will be using. Google recently updated its content guidance and requires photos to be of each specific business listing or location. You can read the entire content policy here.

They want photos taken on a real device such as DSLR camera, smartphone, or other cameras. If you cannot get images for the business for whatever reason, get pictures of the city and area.

Once we have our images, we will want to optimize each image in the following ways:

  • Filename: Keyword or brand name

How To Name Your GMB Files           

  • Title – Keyword or keyword variation

GMB File optimization - titles          

  • Subject – Keyword variation

Exif keywords in GMB photos          

  • Tags – Keyword variation

Getting keyword variation in your EXIF data          

  • Comments – NAP

Putting NAP into your EXIF data          

  • Authors – Website URL

Adding author data into your EXIF fields          

  • GPS/Location – Latitude and Longitude of the business

Adding Lat Long Into Exif Data         

Once we have our images optimized, we can upload them to the GMB listing. Add photos to the various sections of the photo catalog – At Work, Team, Logo, Cover, etc.

Choosing your GMB photo category

GMB At Work Photo Category

We can also use the images in a variety of other places, some of which do not strip the EXIF data when we upload them. That means Google can find them and read the information on them, adding further relevance to our listing.

Some examples of places to use the optimized images:

  • Embedded on our website location page
  • Citations
  • Social Profiles
  • Amazon Buckets
  • Google Stacks and other Google Services
  • Cloud Pages
  • Press Releases that allow image embeds

As you can see, optimizing more than a few images could take a while, so using a tool like the Lv, mentioned above, will help keep the time spent on it reasonable. 

Now that we have our optimized images, we can move on to creating and optimizing our GMB business site.

GMB Business Site

One of the features that come with our GMB listing is a free GMB business website. This website will automatically pull in information from our GMB listing to populate the site.

The GMB Business site is different from a Google site, and just because it auto-populates information from the GMB listing doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can do to optimize it.

We can access our business site from the GMB dashboard on the left menu under the website.

Adding your GMB business site

Basic Set-Up and Optimization

Once inside the business site dashboard, we can start some customization and optimization options. Feel free to choose whichever theme fits the business the best. After that, select the Edit option.

How To Optimize Your GMB Business Site

Once we have the edit panel open, we can begin optimizing our business site.

Primary Button

The primary button is the main call to action for the business site and resides in the header. It is one of the first things people will see as it is large and above the fold. There are six options for the CTA – Call Now, Contact Us, Get Quote, Make Appointment, Message Us (SMS), Message Us (WhatsApp).

Adding your CTA to a GMB business site

There are two buttons we prefer to use; Call Now and Make Appointment. The other buttons allow people to email or message you and not complete the conversion. Call Now doesn’t necessarily achieve the conversion either, but does put someone from the business in a position to close the sale far better than an email or text message does since the potential customer can ignore email and text responses. 

For these reasons, Call Now and Make Appointment are the best choices for this button. Whichever button you use, the contact information will be taken from the information in your GMB listing. You can change the Make Appointment link or Call Now number, but if you do, it will also change it on your GMB listing, so be careful.

For our handyman listing, we will be using the Make Appointment button, as it not only completes the conversion but the Make Appointment button is a Do-Follow link. This allows us to push link juice and relevance to our money site. 

The appointment URL will be what we have listed under the appointment URL section in the GMB listing.

Button for making an appointment

Site Headline

The site headline will be automatically generated by the information in the GMB listing but can be changed without it changing anything anywhere else. This allows us to use a keyword in the headline.

The site headline is an H1, so treat it as you would the H1 on your money site. Keyword + geo is the combination we have found works the best for us. In this case, our brand name is the Geo + Keyword already, so we won’t need to make any changes to it. 

The site headline allows for 80 characters.

Adding your headline

Description

The description is another place where we can put keywords, but since we have already used our primary keyword, the description should be a keyword variation. The headline will be pre-populated with your primary category, but this is another item we can change without worrying about making changes to our GMB listing.

The description allows for 140 characters.

How to add a description to GMB

PRO TIP: Save your progress every once in a while in case the system glitches or something happens. We will be putting a lot of work into the business site, and you don’t want to lose it all and have to start over. To save your work, click the checkmark at the top of the Edit panel.

Saving your edit to GMB

Summary Header

The summary header is where the body content of the business site begins. It is an H2 tag so that we would treat it as an H2 on our money site. This means including longer-tail keywords or keyword variations. The summary header-only allows for 40 characters.

Adding a summary header

Summary Description

The summary description is for long-form content. For this section, you will want a keyword optimized article. The summary description allows for unlimited characters, so make the article as long as you need, and include your keywords and geo modifiers. We like this to be a good quality article, so we usually get professional writers to put these together for us.

We also like to add links to geo relevant locations, our money site (if we have one; brand websites are more powerful than the GMB site, so use brand websites whenever possible.), and other niche relevant websites. The links will be no-follow in this section, but they still help to add relevance.

The summary description has a WordPress like writing interface that allows for bolded words, italics, links, and more. You will find these controls at the bottom of the Edit panel.

Linking details in materials and tools

WordPress writing tools  

Publish the Site

Once you are ready, you can publish the site using the blue button in the upper right corner. Once you publish the website, the button will change from Publish to View Site, but it is in the same place. Once you publish the site, you can use the View Site button to view it as the public would see it.

Viewing the site after an edit is made

Posts

We will cover GMB posts in more depth in another post, but there are some ways we can use posts to help power up our GMB site.

Each post we create will be automatically added to the front page of our GMB site, but it will also automatically create its page with a unique URL. You can see this for yourself by clicking on one of the posts displayed on the front page of your GMB site.

Each post getting its unique page presents a few opportunities for link building. 

First, we can create topic clusters and SILOs using GMB posts by daisy-chaining posts together. The first post we build will contain a link back to the business site, and each subsequent post will contain a link to the post before it. I prefer to use the GMB site post URL for this link.

Secondly, because each post has a unique URL, we can use it as an entry point for building links. We can send links to the post URL, and since the post contains links to other properties, it can push link juice and relevance.

We can also use the posts themselves to build links to other properties. Links contained within posts are do-followed, so it is an excellent opportunity to include links to our money site, social media profiles, top citations, and other online profiles.

How to build links into your GMB site

Link Building Opportunities

GMB business sites also create several other link building opportunities.

The first of these is embedding the GMB business site using iframes on your brand website, social media profiles, press releases, private networks, Google sites, and more.

Here is the piece of code you can use to embed on most sites that allow for iframes:

<iframe src=”your-business-site-url-here.com” width=”600″ height=”450″ frameborder=”0″ style=”border:0;” allowfullscreen=””></iframe>

You can adjust the width and height values in the code above to make the iframe fit your needs.

PRO TIP: when iframing the business site onto your brand website, put it near the bottom of the page. Sometimes, when Googlebot crawls a site and encounters a web of code like an iframe, it stops crawling. Putting the iframe near the bottom of the website ensures Googlebot crawls the whole page before it stops.

How to add iframes into your GMB

Other link building opportunities for our GMB site include building links to the unique GMB post URLs and GMB site jump links. 

Adding unique urls and web building

The GMB Business Site can be a powerful tool in helping to rank our GMB listings and websites. Take advantage of every opportunity the GMB site gives you. 

GMB Posting Basics

Using GMB posts effectively can be an excellent tool in ranking your GMB. In this post, we will cover some of the basics of GMB posting. 

There are four types of GMB posts available right now; Add Update, Add Event, Add Offer, and Add product. When we first launch a new GMB listing, we like to do at least eight posts right away, two from each category.

To create posts, log into your GMB listing at business.google.com and select Posts from the left menu, then select the type of post you want to create.

Add Update Posts

Add Update posts are general posts that can be used to make announcements or show off some recent work. Update posts automatically archived after seven days. They will be visible on your GMB Business site, but not in the search results after it archives.
Adding general post updates to your GMB site

In the dialog box that appears, add a photo by either drag and dropping one from your computer, or clicking “Make your post stand out with a photo” and selecting one from your computer or an already uploaded one from your listing.

Then, write a descriptive post that includes the brand name, relevant keywords, your NAP, and links to a previous post (if you have one).

Adding a post and including a photo to GMB

Then, use the Add A Button option to create a call to action. There are five different buttons we can use. Which one you choose is up to you. You may want to test to see which one performs better for you. All of them will allow you to add a custom link to send users to your website, online booking system, social media profile, etc.

Adding a CTA button to your GMB

Event 

Event posts are created to announce an event is happening at your business. The event can be online or in-person. Event posts allow you to create posts that expire at a specific date, up to 364 days after it is posted.

Like Update posts, Event posts allow you to use an image, a title, call to action button, and a description. There are also options for adding a start and end date, as well as a start and end time.

Also, like Update posts, your description should include NAP, brand name, links to other posts, and relevant keywords.

Adding an event post to your GMB site

Offer

Offer posts are used to provide special offers for your business. This can be a coupon for a free appetizer, free work estimate, discount coupon, free shipping, or any other offer you may provide. Offers must be real, according to Google’s terms of service.

Like Event and Update posts, Offer posts allow for pictures, a title, and a description.

There is also a start and end date that operates the same as Event posts; the end date can be set up to 364 days after posting.

Unlike Update and Event there is no call to action button, but instead an input box for a link to your Offer, input for a coupon code, and input for terms and conditions.

Adding offer details to your post

Product

Product posts are a great way to promote and showcase your products. Like the other post types, there is a place for an image, a title, and a description. This post type also has a call to action button option.

Products do not have the option to set an end date, and will automatically archive after seven days.

Product posts also allow us to select a product that we have added to the GMB listing, or create a new product, as well as add the details for that product.

The call to action button is a great place to link back to the individual product page on your website, but you can also link back to it in the description. The URL in the description will be a naked URL and will be set to no-follow.

Product post type with CTA button

Once we are done creating our posts, regardless of which type, we complete by clicking the publish button at the bottom.

Complete the post by clicking publish button

Once the post is published, we suggest sharing it with your social media accounts. You can do that by going to the posts section in your listing dashboard, finding the post, and clicking the Share post link.

Since our handyman listing is still in the verification process, the shared link won’t be there. Here is an example from another listing. I didn’t get permission from the client to use this, so details are obscured. 

Sharing your post from your GMB

Make sure you take note of the post link for use later.

Saving your URL from post

Once you publish the post, it will also appear on your GMB Business site. Go to the business site and click on the post. Each post links to its page on the business site, so get the URL for that page as well. We can use this link in other places later.

After the initial posts at the listing creation, we post to the GMB at least once a week. If you can post more, that’s fine, but you should be posting a minimum of once per week.

In the next section, we will see how to use reviews to our advantage.

GMB Review Basics

Reviews are an essential part of your GMB, not only for ranking but for conversions as well. While merely getting reviews and responding to them is good, there are some things we can do to optimize the reviews to help us rank.

Before getting into the hacks, though, a quick note, it is vital to respond to all reviews, even the bad ones. It shows Google and our potential customers that we are active, and we care. Plus, it allows us to include keywords and phrases as well as add geo relevance.

When you get reviews, there are a few things that reviewers can do to help you with rankings. First, 5-star reviews are always helpful. Beyond that, though, getting reviewers to use specific keywords can help improve our rankings. Let’s walk through finding those keywords we want them to use.

Perform a search on Google Maps for your primary keyword and find listings that have a lot of reviews. It doesn’t have to be hundreds of reviews; just a dozen or so will be enough. If searching from a small city, then add a geo modifier to find listings in a big city. Our handyman listing is in the Las Vegas valley, which has about 2.2 million people so that it will be fine.

Click on one of the listings with a lot of reviews, and scroll down to the review summary section. The featured reviews should have some bolded words and some not bolded words. Take note of those bolded words.

Make a note of the bolded text in review

Repeat this process several times until you have a good list of words. Then, not only do you want reviewers to use those words, but you also want them to use your primary keywords and keywords with geo modifiers.

Using our example above, plus the other tips, a positive review might look like this:

“I called this company and got a swift response. The price they charged was lower than the quotes I got from other Las Vegas handyman companies, and the quality of work they did was outstanding!”

This review uses all of the bolded words, our primary keyword, and a geo modifier.

Of course, getting people to leave reviews like this can be difficult, but it is possible. We won’t be giving any recommendations for that in this post, but by getting a little creative, you may be able to find a process that works for you.

In the next post, we will see how to add additional relevancy to our GMB listing, improving our ability to outrank all of our competitors.

GMB Relevancy

When trying to rank for multiple cities or areas, there are a few things we can do to add relevance to our listing and get rankings in an area even though our listing may not be located there.

Since this is a part of the GMB Basics course, we will only be covering a few essential tips. These tips are designed to set the foundation for slowly building our relevance in additional locations. Adding more signals from our website, GMB posts, other websites, and more will be covered in a future post when we cover more advanced tactics for ranking our GMB listings.

The first thing we can do is add geo signals in the Services section of the GMB listing. We added our services earlier, but now we can add our services again, but this time using the location in the title and description.

Remember to add geo signals in service section of reviews

Another area of opportunity to add geo relevance is in the Questions and Answers section of our public listing. Since our handyman listing has finished verifying yet, we can’t ask questions on it yet, so we will work with a test listing I created a while ago.

To add to our Q&A section, we need the public view of the GMB listing. We can do that by either searching for the brand name in Google or by accessing the GMB dashboard, then the listing we want to work with, then click on View on Search.

Adding questions and answers to your GMB

Once we have the knowledge panel in the search for our listing, find the section that says “Ask A Question.” You may need to click on “More About” at the bottom to show the section.

Click on 'more about' on GMB to see questions and answers

Asking a question on your GMB

Once we have the dialog box to ask a question open, we can ask a question like, “Do you provide exterior painting services in Las Vegas?” replacing the city name with whatever city or neighborhood in which we want to rank.

Asking questions in the dialog bod in GMB

Viewing the questions area on GMB

Once we have asked all of the questions, we can go in and answer them. In our answer, we want to use a keyword variation and location as well. We can ask and answer questions using any Google account, not just the owner of the GMB listing account. Click the Answer button to provide an answer.

How to answer a question on GMB

Posting your answer to a question on your GMB

Once you have asked and answered all of the questions, you need to sign in to another Google account and thumbs up all of the answers.

In another google account go through and thumbs up answers

These tactics will provide an excellent basis for building up our relevancy in the area our listing resides in, as well as the other areas in which we are looking to rank.

GMB Q&A

Questions and answers were added into Google My Business circa 2018 and have gotten some coverage, but nothing in-depth, and I have not seen many tricks or automation to create these buggers. We are going to change that in this guide.
Customers can ask questions, and Google also attempts to source the content from them by popping up survey style questions boxes on mobile and encouraging unbiased answers from local users about the business. But, we can also add them ourselves, and there is some benefit to that.

Monitoring and potentially even creating an FAQ ecosystem on your client’s GMB is a great idea and does not have to be a tedious experience. This is covered in the automation section of this guide, but it would have been a disservice, not to mention it in the intro to the GMB section.

JUMP TO THE GMB Q&A AUTOMATION AND HACK SECTION

GMB Short Names

One of the significant updates Google has provided in the last several months is the addition of the Short names. The short name function was designed to provide GMB owners an easy URL they can give to customers for them to be able to leave reviews or find other information quickly.

Adding short names to GMB

Unfortunately, it created issues with listings instead. Shortly after the tool was released, many people, myself included, noticed that after adding the short name, their listings disappeared — no warning in the GMB dashboard. No email advising the listing had been suspended. The listing could still be accessed from the GMB dashboard, but rankings had tanked entirely overnight.

GMB Short name disappearing

Adding short names issue with GMB

As it turns out, the short names had created a disconnect between the server being able to match up the CID URL, and the farther away from the actual brand name the short name was, the more likely it was for the disconnect to happen.

As of right now, this issue still seems to be happening. Testing has been done on GMBs using the short names to see if there was a bump in rankings once they actually recovered, and so far, there is no benefit to using it. For now, leave the Short Name blank.

Welcome Offer & Request A Quote

The GMB mobile app is a robust tool that not allows us to manage our listing and respond to reviews right from a mobile device, but it also gives access to some additional features.

Two of these features are the Welcome Offer and Messaging. These two features activate additional functions in the GMB listing, but they can only be enabled and set up from the mobile app.

Welcome offer on your GMB

Creating a Welcome Offer is a great way to entice people into following your GMB listing, which they can do on the Google Maps app on a mobile device. Once they follow your business listing, the welcome offer is automatically activated and gives them two weeks to redeem it. This creates a sense of urgency for them to call you, and having people following your listing gives them notifications when you add a new post. This provides a GMB owner with additional avenues for marketing to their client base.

Following a GMB for additional updates and information

Creating a welcome offer is very similar to creating an Offer GMB post. You can add a picture, title, and description.

How to create a welcome offer on GMB

Once you publish the welcome offer, it will appear on the GMB listing in search.

Viewing the completed welcome offer on your GMB

Turning on messaging within the GMB app gives customers the ability to message you directly from the GMB listing. It comes to the GMB owner as a message in the GMB app, which allows the owner to message the customer back without the customer ever leaving the GMB listing.

Turning this function on is as easy as clicking the link in the GMB app dashboard.

Turning on messaging for your GMB

Turned on messaging for your GMB

Once we turn messaging on, Google expects us to respond to all messages within 24 hours, or they will turn messaging off automatically. It will also display how quickly we respond to messages on average to visitors, so responding swiftly can help conversions while responding slowly can hurt.

Messaging enabled so your GMB can receive messages

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Local Link Building

I feel like too many guides glaze over this topic. Maybe some people are scared of being labeled a particular color hat or not wanting to feel responsible for irresponsible link building based on their recommendations.

The fact is, any time you build a link meant to influence rankings of any kind positively, it is breaking Google TOS. I am going to touch on optimization strategies for your brand documents, which keeps you way above board, but I am also going to discuss some topics that require you to walk on the wild side. If any of it makes you uncomfortable, then skip over it.

Even just doing the work from this guide on your brand documents is going to give you a powerful advantage over most other people doing local search SEO.

Before We Build a Single Link

I do not want you guys to dive in and get crazy with your links all willy nilly. Willy nilly local SEO is not conducive to good local pack rankings. Firstly, any of the links we continue to build we do so because our strategies perform well. We employ these strategies across multiple respectably sized agencies, and they work. If you do not like some of the suggestions, then by all means, please do not use them.

Having said that, if you want to swipe some of the tricks of the trade we use daily, then, by all means, implement the pieces of this strategy that you would like to adopt.

Building Links to the CID URL

Let’s begin with link building to the CID. This acronym stands for the “Cluster Document Identifier.” We ran tests based on different Google Maps URLs that we can link to for the most significant impact on our local SEO results. The CID won.

Clusters for link building

The above visual shows a simplified definition of the CID, which is a direct representation of your entity in the local search engine and the entire collection of documents (and the weight of those documents) for the entity. There was even a somewhat inconclusive test we ran, but with some success, where we linked to the CID URL from the citations we built for a small sample set of GMB listings.

Finding the CID URL for a listing is easy and only takes a moment of your time.

  1. Enter the GMB you want to extract the CID from into Google Maps.Extracting CID from your GMB
  2. Right-click and select “view source.”Viewing the page source for CID extraction
  3. Search the page with “CTRL + F” or “⌘ + F” on Mac and search for “ludocid”Locating the CID in your GMB
  4. You will get an alphanumeric string like so: ludocid\\u003d10055226065046849962#lrd
  5. Remove the ludocid\\u003d from the prefix of the string and the #lrd from the suffix of the string.
  6. The remaining numeric string is your CID number. We can convert that into your GMBs CID link by adding the string to the end of this URL: https://www.google.com/maps?cid=
  7. After this quick exercise, we found that the CID URL for Dr. K. Michael Murphy & Associates is https://www.google.com/maps?cid=10055226065046849962. Go ahead, click it. That’s all there is to it.

More Map Linking?

You bet. There are two other ways we like to amplify our GMB listings to improve our local search rankings. Our team builds links to the shortened URL of the GMB, as well. You can find this link by clicking the “share” button on the GMB inside of the Google Maps.

How to map link your GMB

The other option we like to use is embedding the map onto blogs, press releases, other miscellaneous accounts, etc. Now, for some, I might be about to say something you think is entirely crazy, but I do not keyword stuff or inject schema into my Iframes. I have not done this for quite some time. If you would like to, then that is simple enough. You can grab the embed code from the same “share” button as before, click the tab over to “embed.”

Additional map linking and sharing

If you are embedding schema into this Iframe then just grab your validated schema (If you need help with your schema we have a section on that in this guide) and paste it in between the last two angle brackets in the iframe HTML. Your code should look like this:

<iframe src=”https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d3085.874802540008!2d-76.62094868463662!3d39.33642197950544!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x0%3A0x8b8b56d4cf5dc9aa!2sDr.%20K.%20Michael%20Murphy%20%26%20Associates%2C%20LLC!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sus!4v1577854169329!5m2!1sen!2sus” width=”600″ height=”450″ frameborder=”0″ style=”border:0;” allowfullscreen=””>INSERT YOUR JSON-LD SCHEMA HERE</iframe>

 

Big Data Sources

Big data sources for your GMB

Again, we had to anonymize the specifics of the project, but if you want full transparency, then please sign up for the FREE GMB course at Local Client Takeover, and everything is revealed. Yes, it is a real brand that was created and ranked using these tactics.

We start all of our local link building campaigns off with the three main brand-building links that create a pillar of link juice that props up every local SEO campaign that comes through our door.

There are a few quick reminders before we dive into the meat and potatoes.

Earlier in the guide, we covered some main factors that need to be considered when plotting how to rank higher on Google Maps. Document score is looking at the total number of documents referencing a business and whether those sources are authoritative, trusted, or deemed spammy.

When performing Google Maps marketing, understand that the branding you perform on your entity influences the knowledge graph for that brand. This collection of trusted facts about the brand needs to be supported by multiple sources that have a high confidence level.

When creating content that will reference your brand, always remember to consider the application of co-occurrence, co-citations, and associating critical terms with your brand. As Google reads content, it looks at the surrounding words, and with consistent use, it will begin to populate the knowledge graph of that brand with a semantic web of terms and topics they believe to be about that entity.

Now that we refreshed a few of these things let’s dig into some actionable to-do items to get started.

No matter the age of a campaign or the viability of there being issues or not, the first piece of my off-site local SEO strategy is to submit the brand to the top trusted data aggregators.

Most of you probably have heard of the big data aggregator’s submission service. To a lot of marketers, this does not mean much. Having your information on these platforms is more critical to local search rankings is pretty essential for a few reasons.

Firstly, a lot of other directories and sites use these data aggregators to populate listings on their platforms with business information. Google also buys data from large data farms like these and sometimes even acquires the entire company.

Data aggregators for your GMB

Here is a graphic visualizing some of the top platforms that are relying on data aggregators to provide them with information for the service they provide.

Optimizing Social Profiles

We can move quickly through this section. Ensure you have the essential social profiles built out as thoroughly as possible. Make sure to include categories from your GMB and unique content that associates your most critical key terms with your brand.

Most brands will already have a bunch of these, so just logging in and performing interlinking and content optimization is not such a daunting task. We do build quite a few more than only the significant profiles, and we have packaged the entire list up in the toolkit download section.

To be as concise as possible, build more profiles, and optimize them. The second part of this is optional, but we have definitive data from years of testing that conclude powering up the backlink graph of your top profiles will help move the needle for your local listing SEO. If you are on a limited budget, then social profiles would not be my first option to power up. Still, it helps, especially in more competitive spaces where your competition is working hard for that top GMB spot.

Citation Building Done a Bit Differently

“Build citations” is probably the most popular advice given when talking about ranking a local business. It has been for a long time. There was once a time not so long ago when local maps SEO was based on which listings had the most citations. Sure, there were some other things to consider, but the bulk of work done was finding citations that your competitor had that you did not and getting listed on them.

We saw a rise in tools to find and monitor citations, and it became a race to get listed on directory sites so you could Google local for leads. Gone are those days. Citations can still be crucial for establishing prominence, though, so they still have room in the local SEO playbook.

We are giving away a massive list of essential, secondary, niche, and geo-specific citations in the download here, so you guys can give your campaigns the same start as we give ours.

One thing to remember is that we want to build our citations a bit differently. Too many local SEO strategies consist of copying and pasting hundreds of business descriptions into every platform that has a “submit business” page on their site.

At our agencies, we break citation building into a few different phases and have strategies for each. You can download a full list of all of these in this free toolkit.

Phase One – Top Citations

Top citations for your GMB

Each country has a list of citations that are deemed most important. These sites are referred to as essential citations in our shops. The large platforms are an obvious go-to for placements. Yelp, YP, etc. Being on sites like that are going to be important for our campaign.

We also build out GPS directories in this phase so we can get our local SEO turbocharged with additional geo-relevant platforms. Plus, along with other data suppliers, these can be the backbone of GPS systems and help people access your client’s local business.

Phase Two – Secondary Citations

Secondary citations for your GMB

These are a ton of directory platforms that popped up over the years. Hundreds. They might not be “make or break it” websites to have your site on, but if we want to establish prominence, then I like to have as many references to my site as possible from business directories.

Phase Three – Niche Citations

Niche citations on your GMB

Something that we do not talk enough about in local SEO is niche relevance. Everything is so specific to the geography of the listings that we sometimes disregard the fact that in the realm of local search ranking factors, niche relevant links and references from content in the same niche is powerful.

Phase Four – Geo-Citations

Geo citations on your GMB

Local directories always serve as awesome finds. This strategy gets a bit more difficult as the size of the market served becomes smaller, but in cities that have them accessible, they become part of our backlink profile.

Phase Five – Competitive Parity

Competitive parity citation

If you follow any of my organic SEO writings, you know I am a huge fan of competitive parity. It is my core ranking philosophy. The same thing applies to get businesses into the local pack. I want to match what’s working and then continue to work beyond their optimization and measure the impact as we progress.

Using a tool like White Spark , you can put together a map of your competition’s citations and pass them along to your team to be built.

The Listings You Must NOT Miss, Lest Your Local SEO Be Cursed

There are a few listings that I want you guys to ensure you are building for each campaign. Remember earlier in the guide; we talked about the trust and weight in which Google gives specific documents? These websites are a must-have for your local SEO campaign, in my opinion. In the following section, we are going to go over each of them briefly, and I will provide some additional information you will need to know in setting them up or optimizing them.

Apple Maps

Apple Maps processes over five billion map-related requests per week. Getting our local businesses onto platforms like this reinforce brand prominence and increases the trust of your entity. They are authoritative websites populated with real companies and used to improve the lives of those using the platform.

Signing up is simple. Head over to Apple’s connection page, an Apple Maps ID. After that, all you need to do is follow some simple instructions to create a listing for the business you are signing up.

Connection page on your GMB

Once the listing is filled out you need to phone verify the listing. Once that is complete, add the address, hours, and link. Submit this information for review and move along to the next one.

Submitting your apple maps information

That sums up our section on creating structured citations. 

Bing Places

The beautiful part of this listing is that it instantly verifies when connecting your Google my Business listing. Bing gets overlooked a lot because of their minority percentage of the search share, but Bing Places is a good idea. Not to sound like a broken record, but it is an authoritative platform that we are getting a listing on because we already have a verified GMB. I’ll take it.

All you need to do is create an outlook account for the business you are marketing and then sign into Bing Places and connect your listing. A few minutes invested, and we are already moving to the next one.

Your Bing places information

Yelp

Prepare yourself or your client. You will create a listing, and an army of salespeople will stalk you into the abyss trying to sell you Yelp advertising. Do not skip this directory. Google loves Yelp. It is one of their trusted sources, and they use the platform to supplement their data to improve Google Maps. 

We witnessed it, and we masterminded with some respected local SEO folk who have some incredible data on manipulating Google’s map platform by inputting data into Yelp.

Start with filling out the preliminary details of the business and then phone verifying your listing.

Verifying your information on Yelp

Second, add service areas. 

Adding a service area to Yelp

Next, upload photos to your profile.

Uploading photos to Yelp

Finally, add categories and sub-categories.

Selecting a Yelp category

Categories and services for your GMB on Yelp

Yelp profiles do not take long to build. Let’s keep moving.

411

411 is a trusted directory listing, and we like to make getting one part of our local SEO campaigns. There is not much of a song and dance to be had with this one. Head over to the 411 signup portal and get yourself listed. 

411 sign up portal on Yelp

 

Alignable

This platform provides a small business citation that is also a breeze to build into your team’s standard operating procedure. Alignable is verifiable via SMS, and walking through the process will only take us a few moments.

Sign-up and verify via SMS.

Alignable for your GMB

Next step, connect your Facebook Business Page.

Connecting your business Facebook page

Lastly, make sure you completely fill out your profile and add links back to your brand.

Adding links back to your GMB brand

That’s all there is to create one of these profiles.

Complete Alignable profile

Waze

This platform is a Google-owned property. Google bought it a handful of years ago with an attempt to socialize their Map platform a bit more. I love building Google properties to be a part of my entities’ brand documents. I must warn you unless you have a client handle this, you are going to have to be a bit cheeky to perform this listing for all of your clients at any scale.

The first thing you need is to enable developer mode on an Android. Click through that link and follow those instructions. Heck, I will even paste an image of them right here for you.

Adding your GMB to Waze

Under Settings, you will now see a “developer options” tab.

Waze developer settings for your GMB

Select developer options and then click on “select mock location app.”

Adding a mock developer app in Waze

Once done, install and use the FakeGPS Free App.

How to install your FakeGPS app

Engage the FakeGPS App and set your location.

Engaging the FakeGPS app to move location

Additional GPS image

Open Waze and tap the orange circle and then select “place”

Selecting your GMB for place in Waze

Selecting your information on Waze app

Next, add a picture of the business. We like to use Google Street View for this and get a pic of the storefront of the business.

Street view on Waze app

Finally, add your primary details, submit the listing, and then add any additional details needed to further optimize the listing.

Adding more information on to Waze app for your GMB

I warned you guys that there would be a few steps to this process and at scale you would need to perform some tongue in cheek GPS sorcery to make this happen.

Guest Posting, Outreach, and Local Link Building

There are two types of outreach to consider when ranking a local business. The first is the typical guest post that you are going to slip into some business site or niche relevant blog that links to your local website. The second is going to be your local outreach where you are mining opportunities in your campaigns market to get geographically relevant links.

As much as one would think the first option is best for organic, we have a boatload of data that supports niche-specific and general niche guest posting for local SEO. Before we dive into the local aspect of the strategy, know that one of the most powerful things that have been working for me in SEO, for YEARS, is building the backlink profiles and amplifying the sites from which we get guest posts, period.

My suggestions are just spending some money and getting someone else to do the outreach for you. Buying a guest post service from a vendor is a lot less tedious.

No matter your off-page optimization strategy, if you can incorporate link building to your contextual links on somewhat authoritative websites, you are going to taking significant strides in increasing your local business prominence.

Now, onto the fun part. Local link building can be the staple of a highly successful local pack ranking strategy. We briefly discussed this in the section above when we were encouraging you to find citations in your market, instead of just the typical run of the mill citation sources.

I am not going to dive into building an end to end guest posting infrastructure. It is a lot of work. What I will do is take some time and walk you through how to find and pitch local opportunities. The first thing to consider is that every town, city, area, etc. have bloggers, forums, hobby communities, etc. These are prime candidates to not just acquire links from for local search rankings, but also just general advertising and a form of influencer marketing in the local space.

We will start with the one that might catch some of you off guard…

Conferences/Events

Conferences and events to look forward to

Local conferences, masterminds, expos, etc. are usually quite different from the large events that might catch our eye during our daily rounds. Sponsoring or setting up booths not only offers lead generation opportunities that grassroots strategies still do, but you will be sure to get a link on the event’s website. Again, the link is most likely secondary to the impact your client can have from getting involved in local meet-ups.

Hosting events and meet-ups allows for entirely other realms of local SEO potential. Web20 threw together a quick guide on building event links, so I will link that as opposed to reiterating what has already been written. Moz also had a decent write up on this strategy back in the day so that I will link that as well.

Search Operators to Find Local Conferences/Events

City + intitle:conference
City + intitle:exhibition
City + intitle:expo
City + intitle:seminar
City + intitle:trade show
City + site:meetup.com
City + “submit an event”
City + events
City + events page
City + find an event

Directory Listings

These do not qualify as guest posts, and maybe they should have gone into the citation section, but I want to push you guys to be building these so you can rank better in local searches. I am not going to waste your time with another round of preaching about these links. Consider also purchasing paid local and niche citations because you can unearth some gems when you do.

Search Operators to Find Local Directory Listings

City + “add your business”
City + “add your business” site:.edu
City + “add your business” site:.gov
City + “add site”
City + “add URL”
City + “add website”
City + “favorite links”
City + “favorite sites”
City + “favorite websites”
City + “listing”
City + “recommended links”
City + “recommended sites”
City + “submit website”
City + “submit”
City + “suggest site”
City + “suggest website”
City + * directory
City + directory
City + intitle:directory
City + inurl:”.gov” “add your business”
City + inurl:directory
City + inurl:submit.php

Donation/Sponsorship Link Building

Unfortunately, donation links have gotten a bad rap over the past few years. This notion stemmed from people running quick scrapes and getting links on outdated donation pages that end up sitting beside hundreds of other links that point to god knows what niches.
There was little to no moderation involved, and it resulted in a lot of low-quality placements. The fact that we are going for local specific links though will weed out plenty of those spammy opportunities. Local sports clubs, business associations, charities, etc. are everywhere, and they will not be heavily spammed by local SEO companies looking for a page on which to drop their links.

Search Operators to Find Local Donations/Sponsorship

City + “contributors”
City + “donation links”
City + “donation lists” + “contributors”
City + “donations list”
City + “list of contributors” + donation
City + “sponsors”
City + allintitle:”contributors”
City + allintitle:”sponsors”
City + contributors page
City + contributors page + “donate”
City + donate to us
City + donation list + “contributors”
City + inurl: keywords
City + scholarship inurl:k12 100
City + sponsor us $100
City + sponsor us $100
City + sponsors page
City + “contributors”
City + “donate”
City + “charity online”
City + “contribute”
City + “donate for”
City + “donate now”
City + “donate online”
City + “donate to”
City + “goods for donation”
City + “make charity”
City + “make donation”
City + “money for donation”
City + “partner”
City + “services for donation”
City + “sponsor”
City + “sponsorship”
City + “support”

Forums

Forums are so often overlooked as local link building opportunities. I understand when discussing local search rankings, we do not often think forum links are going to pack much of a punch. At our one agency, we have been building forum links for years, and we do not see that ending any time soon.

The idea here is not to spam forums with links in your profile signature. Try and create a relationship with the owner. Buy some advertisements and see if you can get the package to include a link back to the local business in the area. Offer all readers of the forum a particular discount or bonus, and you will probably get a sticky thread with a do-follow link. We are marketers, so it is important to remember that and be creative when it comes to establishing relationships to help your local business clients.

Search Operators to Find Local Forums

City + “forum”
City + “powered by Fireboard”
City + “powered by ip.board”
City + “powered by phpbb”
City + “powered by phpbb3”
City + “powered by SMF”
City + “powered by vbulletin”
City + forum
City + intitle:forum
City + inurl:forum

Regular Ole Guest Posting

I am going to add some search operators here for you guys just in case you want to try and find some general guest posting opportunities in your local area. This general strategy is not usually a tremendous net positive activity for us in terms of opportunities that we uncover. Still, if you have a VA or entry-level team member running your link prospecting, then it makes sense to at least run the scrapes and try.

Worst case scenario, you do not find anything, but we have landed some impressive geographically relevant links from this strategy, so I am putting it out there. This post is by no means a guest posting guide, so I am not going to get super deep into the nitty-gritty. There is a metric ton of guides out there about link quality and guest posting best practices. This content is just training on building your backlink graph and prominence so we can rock our local searches.

Search Operators to Find Local Guest Posts

City + “Add Articles”
City + “Add Content”
City + “Become a Contributor”
City + “Become a Guest Blogger”
City + “Become an Author”
City + “Bloggers Wanted”
City + “Blogs Accepting Guest Posts”
City + “Blogs that Accept Guest Blogging”
City + “Contribute”
City + “Guest Blogging Spot”
City + “Guest Contributor”
City + “Guest post by”
City + “Guest Post Guidelines”
City + “Guest Post”
City + “Places I Guest Posted”
City + “Publish Your News”
City + “Submit a Guest Post”
City + “Submit an Article”
City + “Submit News”
City + “Submit Post”
City + “Submit Tutorial”
City + “Suggest a Post”
City + “This is a guest article”
City + “Want to Write for”
City + “writers wanted”
City + “Add Guest Post”
City + “Become a Contributor”
City + “Become a Guest Writer”
City + “Blogs that Accept Guest Bloggers”
City + “Blogs that Accept Guest Posts”
City + “Community News”
City + “Contribute to our Site”
City + “Group Writing Project”
City + “Guest Bloggers Wanted”
City + “Guest Bloggers Wanted”
City + “Guest Posts Roundup”
City + “My Guest Posts”
City + “Now Accepting Guest Posts”
City + “Submission Guidelines”
City + “Submit a Guest Article”
City + “Submit Article”
City + “Submit Blog Post”
City + “Submit Guest Post”
City + “Submit News”
City + “Suggest a Guest Post”
City + “The following guest post”
City + “This guest post is from”
City + “This guest post was written”
City + “Write for Us”
City + inurl:guest-post-guidelines
City + inurl:guest-posts
City + inurl:write-for-us
City + inurlprofiles/blog/new
City + “submit guest post”
City + “accepting guest posts”
City + “contribute to our site”
City + “contributor guidelines”
City + “guest bloggers wanted”
City + “guest post courtesy of”
City + “guest post opportunities”
City + “write for us”
City + accepting guest posts
City + become a guest blogger
City + become guest blogger
City + guest blogger wanted
City + intitle:”guest blogging opportunity”
City + intitle:”submit blog post”
City + intitle:”submit guest post”
City + intitle:”write for me”
City + intitle:”write for us”
City + inurl:”write for me”
City + inurl:”write for us”
City + inurl:category/guest
City + inurl:guest-blogger
City + inurl:guest-post
City + inurl:guest-posts
City + inurl:guest*author
City + inurl:guest*blogger
City + inurl:guest*post
City + inurl:guest*posts
City + inurl:tag/guest
City + submit a guest post”
City + submit guest post
City + submit your guest post
City + submit your own guest post

Local Blogs

Local bloggers can be a blessing in disguise when it comes to turbocharging a campaign and gaining traction for your local search ranking. A lot of these people will have their thumb on the pulse of the community. They will be highly engaged in local groups, events, and miscellaneous local engagements. Operating with the same creativity, we can offer specific deals to their audience or even only to them.

I had a client that manufactured luxury home items, and our agency was given an unlimited supply of a few products that we could send to home bloggers in exchange for a review on their blog. It worked exceptionally well. Localizing that concept is straightforward.

Invite a few of the local bloggers to try a new dish at your restaurant. Offer local influencers a free teeth cleaning, auto detail, gutter cleaning, carpet cleaning, etc. The list is endless, with just a hint of creativity. Using these strategies will grant you something more than just a backlink as well. Local businesses will gain referral traffic from this initiative, and that will lead to more customers.

Search Operators to Find Local Blogs/Bloggers

City + blogs
City + bloggers
City + blog
City + updates
City + inurl:blog
City + inurl:blog
City + inurl:blog
City + intitle:blog
City + intitle:blog
City + intitle:blog

Local Advertising Opportunities/Sponsored Posts

One way into the arms of a website that will give you backlinks is through outreach like we have been discussing. The other way is much simpler and just as viable. Buy your way into their arms. There is an entire ecosystem of websites in most local markets that sell advertising to local businesses. Some of them will include link opportunities, and some will not. Most people can be negotiated with, though, so reaching out and at least starting a conversation is never a bad idea.

I have spoken with representatives from large platforms when buying media, and even the most prominent companies will wheel and deal to get you to spend money with them. There is no reason you cannot convince a local website owner to throw a link into one of their advertising packages.

You might not find a lot of the local platforms selling sponsored posts, but it is worth a try. Again, its a simple scrape, and if it doesn’t net much, then it is not a lot of time wasted. It is better to try and roll the dice on getting some fresh opportunities to boost your GMB marketing.

Search Operators to Find Local Advertising Opportunities/Sponsored Posts

City + “advertise on our site”
City + “advertise on this site”
City + “advertise”
City + “partnership opportunities”
City + “pay for a post”
City + “sponsor a post”
City + “sponsored post”
City + intext:”this is a paid post”
City + intext:”this is a paid review”
City + intext:”this is a sponsored post”
City + intext:”this is a Sponsored review”
City + intext:”this was a paid post”
City + intext:”this was a paid review”
City + intext:”this was a sponsored post”
City + intext:”this was a Sponsored review”
City + accepting sponsored posts
City + inpostauthor:”guest”
City + inpostauthor:”sponsored author”
City + inpostauthor:”sponsored post”
City + intitle:”sponsored author”
City + intitle:”sponsored post”
City + intitle:”submit sponsored post”
City + inurl: sponsored-post
City + inurl: sponsored-posts
City + inurl: sponsored*post
City + inurl: sponsored*posts
City + inurl:category/sponsored
City + inurl:tag/sponsored
City + sponsored post by

Press Releases in 2020

This topic is always fun. A business associate was laughed at when he shared some of the success we are having with press releases in the local SEO space, specifically as it pertains to Google My Business. Their loss. The issue is, press releases have been being used in an old fashion for a long time, and when misused, they will 100% either do nothing for you or potentially even negatively affect your local rankings.

GMB information for Chaz

The way our team likes to leverage PR for maximum effectiveness is by using each syndication as an opportunity to create unstructured citations for the brand. We will embed a map, link to the CID, link to another authoritative property, and ensure the NAP of the brand is implemented at the end of the article.

Linking to CID

There have been many occasions in lower competition markets that we ranked in the local pack with basic optimization of the listing and a press release. Make sure if you use keywords at all in your anchor text, it is pointing at a very authoritative platform, like Google Maps. If you are linking to your website, keep the anchor text branded or branded with topical modifiers.

Google Properties

Geo-Networks-A Step-By-Step Guide To Building A Geo Network For Local SEO

We know local SEO rankings are decided primarily by three factors: relevance, prominence, and proximity. You can gain relevance by improving your keyword research/use, and you can get prominence (AKA trust or “link juice”) by getting more reviews, citations, and backlinks.

But the #1 ranking factor for local SEO is proximity, or how close you are to the searcher. After all, if someone in Los Angeles is looking for a construction company, they probably won’t have any use for results that are based on the East Coast.

The following strategy can help. 

What Is A Geo Network?

Compared to other SEO tactics, a geo network directly builds geographical relevance rather than rank, making it a must-have for locally-based businesses. 

The geo network is comprised of a variety of accounts, Google assets, and a network of interlinking articles with powerful location signals. Then, you can use that network to “anchor” your business in a specific location.

The geo network process starts with creating a business persona, or a profile of a fake business that’s based in your target location. Then, you’ll build real social media profiles for the business persona, making sure to put ample location markers in each of them. Finally, you’ll use the geo network to post articles that strategically link back to the actual business you want to rank.

Before You Start

When building a geo-network, there are a few things you need to prep in advance. Listed below are what you’ll need before you start creating social media profiles for your brand:

  • GMB listing: A geo network is designed around your business’ location, and a GMB listing is crucial to the process. If you don’t have a GMB listing, create one and add your company name, address, phone number, website, and other details. 
  • Phone number: Social media account sign-ups usually require phone numbers for verification. If you are a business using this technique on your own, feel free to use your business or personal phone number. If you’re an SEO agency that’s planning to use the geo network method for a variety of clients, we recommend using a different phone number for each project. Consider bulk-buying SIM cards and assigning one to each client.
  • Business persona: At the heart of every geo network is a business persona or profile. Come up with a fake company name, business owner, and description based on your target location, ideally incorporating a location keyword.
  • Target keywords: Unlike most other SEO techniques, your keywords don’t play a considerable role in geo networking, mainly since we’re focusing on location keywords and geo-relevance. Still, you’ll need several niche-relevant keywords to anchor the brand and create some keyword co-occurrence in the process.
  • Images: You must have a few photos at the ready before you start making your geo network. This includes profile photo/s, cover photo/s, your logo, and a couple of other illustrative images.
  • Articles: To rank your GMB listing, you’ll need to embed maps into relevant articles and post them across your geo network. Have at least one unique article per social media account that incorporates a link to the target business’s website with one of your niche keywords as anchor text.
Our Process For Building Geo Networks

Most SEO strategies are designed to rank specific businesses or brands, so it’s rare to see a technique that focuses on building up a location instead. This is although geo-relevance is one of the most important ranking factors for GMB.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to:

  • Create a target persona to build your geo-relevance around
  • Set up locally-optimized social media accounts
  • Interlink those social media profiles for powerful geo-relevance
  • Use the geo network to boost your or your client’s business

Note: Unless otherwise specified, you have to create the accounts using the information for the fake business persona. There will be some cases in which you have to register an account under the business owner’s name (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn). At no point in the geo network process will you have to create accounts for the target business itself.

Step #1: Create A Workbook

As with most of our link building strategies, the geo networking process begins with creating a workbook. This is where you will store your most relevant data and links in one place, making information easier to access and modify if needed.

You can use any kind of spreadsheet programs like Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. You’ll need three sheets in the workbook:

  • Brand Information

  • Geo Local Network

  • Google Places Maps Links

For now, just focus on the sheet called “Brand Information.” Fill it out with the appropriate information; your target location and business persona details under “Information for Accounts,” the actual business’ information under “Information for Google Places Maps,” the keywords you will be used as anchor text, image links, and other essential brand info. 

Step #2: Get Driving Directions From Google Maps

The next step is to generate driving directions maps in your target city, which you will later use to push rank and boost geo-relevance for your business.

In your browser, search for “things to do in [target location].”

Click on “Maps” to bring up a list of tourist attractions and other top sights in Google Maps.

Open a second tab or window and open Google Maps.

Search for your target company’s name and address, then click on the “Directions” button.*

Refer back to your list of “things to do.” In the blank field labeled “Choose a starting point,” enter the name or address of one of the results. 

Click on the three menu lines in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. 

Click on “Share or embed map.”

Copy the link under “Send a link” and paste it into the first row of the “Google Places Maps Links” sheet. Test the link in an incognito window to ensure that it’s working.

Click on “Embed a map” and adjust the settings as necessary. Copy the code and paste it into the first row of the “Google Places Maps Links,” next to the relevant link.

Repeat steps 5-9 until you have one map for each of the social accounts you will be creating, working your way down the “things to do” list.

*Note: Some GMB listings do not contain the target company’s full address, and the “Directions” button will be unavailable. In this case, skip step 5 and just copy/paste the Maps link and embed code into the workbook. You will use the same map for every social account.

This step is relatively easy, but it requires a careful eye. Make sure that each of the “things to do” locations is located in the same city as your target location. If one of the search results is located in a different city, skip it and move onto the next one. 

It doesn’t matter whether you’re targeting your city (e.g., a Hanover business targeting Hanover) or a different one (e.g., a Hanover business targeting York); a geo network is helpful in both scenarios. Just make sure that you use your target location to create driving directions—not your business address, although in most cases, those two will be the same. 

Step #3: Create Your Initial Google Accounts

Once you have your workbook filled out, you’re ready to create your geo networking accounts. In addition to the workbook, make sure you have your phone nearby and that the correct SIM card/phone number is plugged in, set up, and ready to go.

Before you start, we recommend that you close all of your browser tabs, log out of your Google account, and clear the cache and cookies. You can do this either through the built-in browser tools or an external program like CCleaner. Alternatively, you can work using an incognito or private browsing window.

Then, it’s time to set up a Gmail account for the target location/business persona—the made-up one, not for your or your client’s actual business. Take Note of the username and password in the workbook, and get started on creating other Google-related accounts:

YouTube

While logged into your new Gmail, go to YouTube, and sign in. You should be automatically registered for an account.

Click on “My channel” on the left-hand panel. Enter the business persona company name in the name field.

Fill out the YouTube channel/profile by doing the following: Upload a profile photo and channel description (business persona description + NAP).

Add your website URL and social profiles. You can leave this step for later and come back when you have created all of your social profiles already.

Click “Customize channel,” then “Add channel art.” Upload a header image and adjust it as necessary.

On the dashboard, click the gear icon to access “Settings.”

Make sure “Customize the layout of your channel” is enabled and save the settings.

Click on your “About” tab to set your email and country.

Copy the YouTube profile URL and paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito window to ensure that it’s working.

Blogger

Go to Blogger and create an account using your Gmail address. It should immediately pull data from your account. Double-check the data to make sure that you’re creating it with the correct details.

Confirm your profile name.

Click “Create new blog” and input the title, address (URL), and theme. When you’re satisfied with the settings, click “Create blog!”

Click “Settings” on the left-hand panel, and configure the following options:

Add your business persona description.

Make sure “Privacy” is set to “Listed on Blogger. Visible to search engines.”

In the “Language and formatting” section, set the correct language and timezone for the target location.

Click “Layout” on the left-side panel.

Add a header image by following these instructions:

Click the edit button under the “Header” section.

Upload an image or pull it from the web via a URL. 

Adjust the image settings as necessary and click “Save” when you’re done.

Click “Save arrangement” then “Preview” to see how the header image displays on your blog.

Configure your link list by following these instructions:

Add a “Link List” gadget to the “Sidebar (Bottom)” section. 

Add a title and leave “Number of items to show in list” blank.

Select “Don’t Sort” from the “Sorting” drop-down menu.

Under “New Site Name,” write the name of the platform (e.g., YouTube, Facebook, etc.). Under “New Site URL,” place the appropriate link to your profile. Click “Add Link,” and then “Save” when you’re finished.

Repeat step (d) until you’ve placed all of your social media profile links. You can leave this step for later and come back when you have created all of your social profiles already.

Add a new page by following these instructions:

Click on “Pages” in the left-side panel. Then, click “Add a new page.”

Title the page “Contact.”

Add your company description, NAP, website URL, products & services, pictures, and other details. 

Format the elements so that they are easy to read. Then, click “Publish.”

Click on “Layout” and add a Pages gadget to the “Page List (Top)” section. Select the “Home” and “Contact” pages. Click “Save arrangement.”

Create a new post by following these instructions:

Under “Posts,” click “New post.”

Add your NAP, description, website, and a relevant photo. 

Click “Publish.”

Click “View blog” on the left-hand panel and double-check your work to make sure that all elements are present: header, sidebar links, Contact page, and one post.

Copy the Blogger profile URL and paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito window to ensure that it’s working.

Step #4: Set Up Your Other Profiles

Now, it’s time to create the “meat” of your geo network: the leading social media profiles that will get you the geo-relevance you need. Below are step-by-step guides for the most critical accounts.

Facebook (Individual)

Creating a Facebook account for the geo network is slightly different than the usual process. Instead of signing up using the business persona company name, you have to sign up using the business owner’s name (which can also be fake, just like the persona itself). Here’s what you have to do:

Sign up on Facebook using the business owner’s name (not the company persona) and any birthday. Just make sure that your chosen birthdate gets you listed as an adult Facebook user.

Complete the sign-up process by connecting your Gmail account and adding profile/cover photos. Skip anything related to finding friends or importing contacts.

Go to your profile by clicking on your name, then click “About.” Fill out the profile as follows:

Work and Education: Add the company, city/town, and description of your business persona. Change the privacy settings to “Public” and then save your changes. You can save this for later after you’ve created the Facebook Business Page.

Places You’ve Lived: Add your target location as both your current city and hometown.

Contact and Basic Info: Add your phone, address, and website URL. Add your social profile links, making sure that the privacy setting is “Public.” You can leave this step for later and come back when you have created all of your social profiles already.

Details About You: In the “About You” section, click “+ Write some details about yourself.” Add your keywords, products/services, and other additional business information.

After saving your changes, click on “Timeline.” Copy the Facebook profile URL and paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito window to ensure that it’s working.

Facebook Business

While logged into the individual Facebook account, click “Create”> “Page.”

Select the correct page category. In most cases, “Business or Brand” is the best choice. 

Enter the business persona name, category, and address.

Fill out your Facebook Business Page as follows:

Photos: Add a profile photo (preferably your logo) and a relevant cover image. 

Button: Click “Add a button.” Select “Contact you”> “Contact Us” and add the website URL.

Username: Choose a username and customize your FB Business Page URL.

About: Click “About” on the left-hand panel and add your business information. This includes your price range, start date, mission (you can use your business persona tagline here), phone number, and website. 

Under the “More info” section, click “Edit About.” Plug in a short description, your keywords, and your products and services.

Story: On the right-hand side, click “+ Tell people about your business,” then add your short description, website URL, and NAP in the field. Make sure it is set to public and hit “Publish.”

Accounts: Still in the “About” section, click on “Edit Other Accounts.” Add each of your social profile links. You can leave this step for later and come back when you have created all of your social profiles already.

In the left-side panel, click on “Home.” Copy the Facebook Business Page URL and paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito window to ensure that it’s working.

Twitter

Go to Twitter and complete the new account process, from choosing a username to verifying your email. For the username, get as close as possible to the business persona company name. You can skip any steps that involve importing your contacts.

Fill out your profile as follows:

Images: Add a profile photo (preferably your logo) and a header image.

Bio: Add a short description and NAP in the left-side bio panel, your location, and your website URL. For the bio, keep in mind that there’s a character limit, so you may be able to use only one or two sentences from your description.

Tweet: Post a couple of tweets, like a snippet of your short description, link to your website, and one of your images.

After saving your changes, copy the Twitter profile URL and paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito window to ensure that it’s working.

Instagram

Sign into Instagram using your newly-created Facebook individual account. Choose a username that’s as close to your business persona name as possible. You can follow a few accounts or save that for later.

Click on your profile photo in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, then click “Edit profile.”

Add your website URL, bio (short description), and phone number.

Click “Submit,” then click on the profile icon.

Copy the Instagram profile URL and paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito window to ensure that it’s working.

LinkedIn (Individual)

Just like your individual Facebook account, the personal LinkedIn account needs to be set up using the business owner’s name and details. Here’s what you need to do:

Complete the initial sign-up process by filling out the fields. You’ll have to provide the business owner name, email, country, zip code, job title, company, and industry before verifying your email. 

On your dashboard, add a personal profile photo.

Click on the edit button in the header area. Scroll down to the “Contact info” section, then add your birthday, website URL, other information, and social media links here. Click “Apply,” then “Save” when you’re done adding all links. You can leave this step for later and come back when you have created all of your social profiles already.

Fill out the rest of your LinkedIn profile as follows:

Summary: Click “Add a profile section”> “About”> “Summary” and enter in your business tagline or a concise description.

Skills: Click “Add a profile section”> “Skills.” Add skills that are relevant to your business persona. 

Background: Click “Add a profile section” > “Background” > “Work experience”. Add the business persona as the current employer. You can also add a university/college background if applicable. You can save this step for when you’ve already set up the LinkedIn Company page.

Copy the individual LinkedIn profile URL and paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito window to ensure that it’s working.

LinkedIn Company

Still signed into your individual LinkedIn account, click on the “Work” grid in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. Scroll if necessary to select “Create a Company Page +.”

Set up the company page using the business persona name.

Fill out the rest of your LinkedIn Company page as follows:

Photos: Upload a logo photo on the sign-up page and a cover photo later.

Tagline: Add your short company description (plus NAP and website URL) and specialties that are related to the business persona’s industry. 

Click “Updates” and make a post. Consider adding images, a quick caption, and a link back to your website. Make sure that it is visible to all followers.

Format your LinkedIn Company page URL like this: <http://linkedin.com/company/[username]>. Copy and paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito window to ensure that it’s working.

Foursquare

Claim your business address with Foursquare for Business. Scroll down and click “Claim my business.”

Enter the business persona name and location, then click “Search.” Click on the link after “Still don’t see your business?” to add the listing.

Fill out the business’s complete address and place the location pin on the map. You should also provide your Twitter username, phone number, and business category. Click “Save” when you’re done, and finish the claiming process by verifying your phone number. 

Do not enter your payment details on the final screen. Instead, click on the hyperlinked business name to check your Foursquare profile.

Copy the Foursquare URL and paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito window to ensure that it’s working.

Buffer

Buffer is not a free platform. They do offer a two-week trial, but if you want to continue using it, you’ll need to sign up for a paid plan.

Create a new account with Buffer.

Connect as many of your social accounts as possible. You can click “Manage Social Accounts” to add more profile options. You can leave this step for later and come back when you have created all of your social profiles already.

In the “Queue” section of the dashboard, craft a post. Include photos, a link to the website, and a short description or caption if possible. 

Make sure all the relevant accounts are selected, then click the drop-down button next to “Add to Queue.” Select “Share Now.”

Note: There is no public profile URL for Buffer, so there’s no need to enter the link into the workbook.

Pinterest

Sign up for a Pinterest business account using an email and password. You can also sign up using your Gmail account. 

Add a few interests related to your business persona.

Click on the account icon to toggle your settings. Configure the options as follows by clicking on the edit button:

Edit profile: Add a profile photo, location, website, and a short description (keeping in mind the character limit) in the “About you” field. 

Account settings: Connect your Facebook profile to your Pinterest account.

Claim: Add your Instagram and YouTube accounts.

Once you’ve saved your settings, click on your account icon again. Click the “Create board” button and create a Pinterest board with one of your keywords as the title. Make sure that the board is not set to “Secret.” 

Click on the edit button above the board name. Add a short description (your products and services will work well here) and category, then click “Save.” 

In the top right-hand corner, click the “+” button to create a new pin. Upload the image and enter your website URL in the Destination URL field. Add a short description (e.g., tagline, description, NAP, etc.) before clicking “Save” next to the appropriate board. 

Repeat steps 4-8 to add another pin to the same board.

Copy the Pinterest profile URL and paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito window to ensure that it’s working.

Yelp

Create a free listing with Yelp for Business Owners by entering your zip code and business persona name.

Fill out the details, including your address, phone number, website URL, operating hours, category, and other information. 

Add the business owner’s information to complete the account creation process.

Verify your account via your entered phone number or email address. 

 

Click “Add photo” and upload as many images as you want. For the caption, use keywords, snippets from your short description. Then, click “Finish.”

Click on the “Write a Review” button. Rate the business five stars and include a short review, incorporating some keywords in the process. Check the box that says “Share your review on Facebook” and then click “Post Review.”

Copy the Yelp profile URL and paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito window to ensure that it’s working.

About.me

Go to About.me and click “Get your free page.” You can also sign up using your Gmail account.

Add your name, photo, location, interests, and job title. 

Select what you want people to do on your page. We recommend choosing “Visit my company website.” Add your website URL and select your chosen layout. You can skip customizing the URL domain.

Add your About.me link to your Gmail signature by copy-pasting the code and following the on-screen instructions. Then, click the back button.

Configure the following options:

Bio: Add your short description plus NAP and website URL.

Details: Double-check all the features you entered during the sign-up process. 

Click on “Social Links” and add as many profile links as possible. You can leave this step for later and come back when you have created all of your social profiles already.

Still in the “Settings” menu, click “Get visits to your page,” and do the following:

Put your page link in all of your online profiles: Add your about.me profile link to your Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media profiles.

Let everyone know you have an about.me page: Share your About.me page on your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles.

Copy the About.me profile URL and paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito window to ensure that it’s working.

Gravatar

Go to Gravatar and sign up for an account by clicking on “Create Your Own Gravatar.”

Add your email, username, and password. Then, verify your email.

Refresh the Gravatar page after verifying. Upload a profile photo and adjust it as necessary. Make sure the Gravatar is Rated G.

Click on “My Profile” and fill out your Gravatar as follows:

Name and Details: Enter the business owner name in the “First/Last Names” field, the company name in the “Full Name” field, and your location in the “Location” field. Add your short description plus NAP and website URL in the “About Me” field. Save the profile.

Photo Gallery: Add more relevant photos to your photo gallery.

Contact Information: Add your phone number and email address.

Verified Services: Add all of the social media profiles you’ve just created. You can leave this step for later and come back when you have created all of your social profiles already. If this doesn’t work, you can add the links via the Websites section along with your website URL.

Click on “View Profile.” Copy the Gravatar profile URL and paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito window to ensure that it’s working.

Step #5: Check Your Work

Finally, it’s time to check your work and make sure that everything was set up correctly. Here’s a quick checklist to help you:

  • All accounts are set up using the business persona company name, except for the individual Facebook and LinkedIn profiles.
  • All URLs are live and working when accessed through an incognito browser window.
  • Your YouTube profile should have your description, NAP, and a complete set of profile links.
  • Your Blogger profile should have a contact page, post, and a complete set of profile links.
  • Your Twitter should have a link to your website and a couple of tweets.
  • Your Pinterest should have your company name with a description and at least one board with a couple of pins.
  • Your About.me should have a bio and a complete set of profile links.
  • Your Gravatar should have a gallery of photos and a complete set of profile links.
Step #6: What Now?

The accounts we’ve gone through in this guide are the main accounts you should have if you want a robust geo network. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t create even more profiles and online assets following the same idea, including profiles on:

  • Google Sites
  • Issuu
  • LiveJournal
  • Medium
  • Pen
  • Soup
  • Strikingly
  • Storify
  • Tumblr
  • WordPress
  • Weebly

Once you have all the profiles, you can increase your geo-relevance by embedding the Google Maps driving directions (the ones you created earlier) into unique articles. Then, share those across your geo network.

Conclusion

For local businesses, using a geo network is a great way to add some local relevance to your or your client’s GMB listing. Considering how geo networks are versatile, powerful, and extremely easy to make, there’s no excuse not to include this technique in your next SEO strategy.

Google Stacks

What Is Google Sites Authority Stacking? 

Google sites authority stacking (also known as “Google entity stacking” or simply “Google stacking”) is an SEO technique that gets you link juice from the most powerful domain of all: Google. This is done by creating assets on a variety of Google platforms (e.g., My Maps, Google Drive, etc.), interlinking those assets as much as possible to power up the trust flow, and funneling link juice through those assets back to your target URL.

This link network of Google properties are optimized around specific keywords and are used to help you push rank. One of the best things about Google stacking is that it can be used to help rank almost anything, from citations to YouTube videos to GMB listings to your main “money site.”

Because Google site authority stacking is done using Google’s platforms, it’s a very safe strategy—we have yet to see Google penalize a site that builds link juice via Google stacking. Plus, you can use this technique to rank both locally and in the SERP, depending on the kinds of keywords that you use.

Before You Start

If you want to create an effective Google site stack network, you’ll need to prepare a few things beforehand. Here’s what you should have before you start:

  • GSuite account: Since a majority of the assets will be created or uploaded to Google’s platforms, you will need a GSuite account for the brand. 
  • GMB site & listing: Both a GMB listing (your business profile) and a GMB site are relatively easy to create. The site doesn’t have to be fully-fleshed out, but it should contain important information such as the business’ NAP (name, address, phone number), a URL to the brand’s actual website, and your all-important keywords.
  • Target keywords: Know which keywords you want to rank for by doing some keyword research. For Google site stacking, you’ll need at least three keywords per stack (one main keyword and two variations). Keywords can be niche-relevant or geo-relevant, depending on your strategy.
  • Content: You will be using well-written, original content to push rank via your Google stack. For each stack, you will need around six 300-word articles and one 500-word article about the company and its products/services. Make sure that your target keywords, plus a few variations, are integrated organically throughout the content.

In addition to long articles, you will also need a short description that’s 100 words or less. Ideally, you should have a few variations, but you can also use the same description across multiple stacks for the same brand.

  • Images/video: You’ll need at least two images per stack. A YouTube video (about your business or industry) is optional but recommended. If you include any kind of media, make sure that they are geo-tagged properly, and you have permission to use them. Do not use copyrighted images!
  • List of citations: Put together a list of links to your existing citations, industry directory listings, blog features, and more. You don’t need to include all of them, but the more you have, the better.
  • Google Console & Amazon Web Service accounts: Both Google Console and AWS offer free trials or account usage, but they may come with time or usage limits. You may need paid accounts with both platforms to make the most out of this technique.
Step #1: Create A Workbook

A workbook isn’t required to create an effective Google stack, but we’ve found that keeping all of your information in one place will help you work more efficiently. Google sheets are especially helpful, but you can also do this in Excel or another spreadsheet program.

If you want to create your workbook, you’ll need to open a new file and add five sheets. Refer to the images below for what your workbook should look like, or download the Web 2.0 Ranker Google site workbook here [NOTE: insert a link to template].

  • Company Info

  • Drive Stack Properties

  • Google Site

  • Cloud HTML Links

  • Amazon HTML Links

You will be filling up this workbook as you go, so most of the fields will be left empty for now. However, there are a few things that you’ll need to complete before moving on to the next step, including:

  • Company name
  • Complete address
  • Phone number
  • Website URL
  • Keyword (and variations)
  • Profile links
  • GMB maps (CID) & site URLs
  • YouTube video link (if applicable)
  • Citation list

When you’re done, it should look something like this:

Step #2: Create A Google Drive Stack

First, you’ll need to create most of your stacking assets in Google Drive. Log into the GSuite account for the brand, open the “Drive Stack Properties” sheet, and follow the instructions below.

Create A Folder

Create a folder and name it after your primary keyword.

Set the folder to public. Right-click on the folder, click “Share” > “Advanced.” Under “Who has access,” click on “Change…” and select “On – Public on the web.”

Make sure “Access” is set to “View only.” Click “Save,” and then “Done.”

Right-click on the folder again and click “View details.” Add your short < 100-word description plus your company NAP.

Get the shareable Google Drive link and paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito browser to ensure it’s working.

Repeat for every stack you are creating.

Add Images

Upload your geo-tagged, optimized images to the folder.

Right-click on the image and click “View details.” Add a short description that incorporates your keyword plus your company NAP.

Make sure that the images are public and access is set to “View only”.

Get the shareable Google Drive links and paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito browser to ensure it’s working.

Repeat for every stack you are creating. 

Create A Calendar

Open the “Calendar” platform via the right-hand panel. Under “Other calendars,” add a new calendar using the company name as the title.

Add a short description and make sure that the time zone is set correctly for the place of business. Click “Create calendar.”

Click on the three vertical dots next to the calendar you’ve just created. Under “Access permissions,” check “Make available to public.”

Right-click on the folder and click “View details.” Add a short description that incorporates your keyword plus your company NAP.

Get the shareable Google Calendar link and paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito browser to ensure it’s working.

Repeat for every stack you are creating.

Create An Event

Create a new event in the calendar with your main keyword as the title. Add your business location, a short description, company NAP, and your top brand profiles. Click “Save”.

Click on the event you’ve just created and click “Edit event”.

 

Check “All day”. In the drop-down menu next to “All day”, select “Daily”

 

Attach one of the images from your Drive to the event.

Change the drop-down menu that says “Default visibility” and set it to “Public”. Click “Save”.

Click on the event again and select the three vertical dots. Click “Publish event”. Get the shareable Google calendar link and embed code, then paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito browser to ensure it’s working.

Repeat for every stack you are creating.

 

Create A Google Drawing

In the folder, create a new Google drawing with your primary keyword as the title.

 

Add your company name, address, phone number, website link, a <300-word article, both images, and your profile links. 

Format all the elements so that they look aesthetically pleasing and easy to read.

 

Click on “File” > “Publish to web”. Choose the correct settings, then click “Publish” and then “Okay”. Save and exit Google Drawing.

Go back to the folder and right click on your Google drawing. Click “View details”. Add a short description, your NAP, a link to your website, and one of your keywords.

Get the shareable Google Drawing link and embed code, then paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito browser to ensure it’s working.

Repeat for every stack you are creating. 

Create A Google My Map

In the folder, create a new My Map with the primary keyword as the title.

 

Click on the title to edit it, and add a short description and your company NAP. Click “Save.”

Edit the untitled layer and rename it to a second keyword or keyword variation.

Add your business location by searching for your address in the bar or importing data to the map.

Add both images and the YouTube video URL (if applicable).

Add a 300-word article to the layer, including your NAP and profile links. Click “Save.”

Zoom in or out until you get your preferred default view. Click the three vertical dots next to the title and select “Set default view.”

Click “Share” > “Advanced”. Under “Who has access”, click on “Change…” and select “On – Public on the web”.

Make sure “Access” is set to “Can view.” Click “Save,” and then “Done.”

Get the shareable Google My Maps link and test it in an incognito browser to ensure it’s working. The link will change to a google.com/maps URL instead of a Google Drive one. Copy the Maps URL and paste it into the workbook.

Right-click on the folder and click “View details.” Add a short description that incorporates your keyword plus your company NAP.

In the Google My Maps file, click the three vertical dots next to the title and select “Embed on my site”. Copy the embed code and paste it into the workbook.

Repeat for every stack you are creating. 

Create A Google Doc

In the folder, create a new Google Doc with the primary keyword as the title.

Get a 300-word article and plug it into the Google Doc.

Import your Google Drawing, Google Calendar, and geotagged images into the document.

Format the Google Doc so that your created elements are spaced out within the text. Add headings as well as a link to your My Map using a relevant keyword.

 

Add a “Contact us” section. Place your NAP, a naked URL to your website, and profile links in this section.

Click on “File” > “Publish to web.” Click “Publish” and then “Okay.”

Right-click on the folder and click “View details.” Add a short description that incorporates your keyword plus your company NAP.

Get the shareable Google Drawing link and paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito browser to ensure it’s working. Also, copy-paste the embed code.

Repeat for every stack you are creating. 

Create A Google Slide

In the folder, create a new Google Slides file with your primary keyword, company name, and location as the title.

Get a <300-word article and plug it into Google Slides.

Insert your NAP, with your company name linked to your Google Maps (CID).

Include links to all your newly-created Google assets such as your Google Calendar, Google Doc, Google My Maps, and Google Drawing.

Format the slides so that they look nice and easy to read.

 

Click on “File” > “Publish to web.” Click “Publish,” toggle the settings as desired, and then click “Okay.”

Right-click on the folder and click “View details.” Add a short description that incorporates your keyword plus your company NAP.

Get the shareable Google Slides link and paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito browser to ensure it’s working. Also, copy-paste the embed code.

Repeat for every stack you are creating. 

Step #3: Set Up A Google Site

Once you’ve created all of your Google assets and plugged them into your workbook, it’s time to gain some link juice via a Google site.

Create A Google Site
  1. Go to sites.google.com and make sure you are signed in to the correct account.
  2. In the lower right part of the screen, click the “+” button to create a new site with the company name as the title.
  3. Click on the three vertical dots, and next to the “Published” section, make sure “Anyone can find and view the published version” is selected. Click “Save.”
  4. Under the “Draft” settings, make sure that “Off – Specific people” is selected. Click “Save,” and then “Done.”
  5. Click on the down arrow next to “Publish.” In “Web address,” enter the company name with hyphens in between words. Click “Publish.”
  6. Under “Pages” on the right-hand panel, click on the three vertical dots next to the page on which you are working. Click on “Properties” and rename the page with your primary keyword.
  7. Click on the “+” button to add additional pages: an “About” page, a “Contact Us” page, and any other pages/stacks you need.
  8. Click “Publish” to apply your changes.
  9. Get the page’s URL and paste it into the workbook. Clean up the URL if necessary, then test the link in an incognito browser to ensure it’s working.
Build Your About Page
  1. Change the header of the page to “About.”
  2. Add a short description with a call to action linked to your home page.
  3. Embed your Google Doc with images, NAP, and profile links.
  4. Add a section (with a header) for your citation list. Format your top 5 citations with anchor text, cycling through your keywords as necessary. The rest can be included as naked URLs.
  5. Click “Publish” to apply your changes.
  6. Get the page’s URL and paste it into the workbook. Clean up the URL if necessary, then test the link in an incognito browser to ensure it’s working.
Build Your Contact Us Page
  1. Change the header of the page to “Contact Us.”
  2. Add your company NAP, naked website URL, and Google Maps (CID) URL with the company name and location as the anchor text. If you have multiple locations, include numerous NAP sections.
  3. Link back to your Google Site’s home page using a relevant keyword.
  4. Embed both your My Maps and GMB Place.
  5. Click “Publish” to apply your changes.
  6. Get the page’s URL and paste it into the workbook. Clean up the URL if necessary, then test the link in an incognito browser to ensure it’s working.
Build Out Your Target Pages
  1. Click on the target page on which you wish to work. Title it with the correct keyword.
  2. Insert a photo from your Drive as a header and adjust it as necessary.
  3. Insert a table of contents and add headers as instructed. You should have four headers: your three keywords for the stack plus “Learn more.”
  4. Get your <500-word article and plug it into the Google Site.
  5. Add your images, and YouTube video embeds, GMB Places, GMB site, and Google Drive elements (e.g., My Maps, Calendar, Docs, Slides, etc.). Format them so that they are spaced out and easy to read, but leave “Learn more” blank.
  6. Under the “Learn more” section, add your NAP, a naked URL to your website, profile links, and site URL with your brand + keywords as anchor text, and Google Maps (CID) URL with your brand as anchor text.
  7. Click “Publish” to apply your changes.
  8. Get the page’s URL and paste it into the workbook. Clean up the URL if necessary, then test the link in an incognito browser to ensure it’s working
  9. Repeat for every stack you are creating.
  10. “Daisy chain” the Google sites by adding a link from one page to another with a keyword as anchor text. You don’t need to interlink all pages, as long as one page flows to the next.
Step #4: Create A Google Cloud HTML Site

After creating a Google site that contains the assets you’ve created, you’ll have to power it up with an HTML site hosted on Google Cloud. Here’s the step-by-step:

Create An Index.HTML file
  1. Download this template from our Local Marketing Toolbox and open/edit it using Notepad.
  2. Look for the text between <body> tags. Copy the entire section.
  3. Go to HTML5 Editor and paste the code into the box.
  4. Editing several sections of the code as follows:
  • Headers: The H1 tag should be your primary keyword. Your H2 and H3 should include your second and third keywords, respectively.
  • Content: Use a <300-word article, but format it so that it’s spaced out between your other elements.
  • Embeds: Embed your Google Drawing, GMB Places, GMB site, My Maps file, YouTube video (if applicable). 
  • Links: Link out to your Google Maps (CID) and Google site using relevant keywords.
  • Image: Add an image that is hotlinked to the main website. Get pictures from the company site, adjust its dimensions, and make sure to include a keyword in the image description.
  • NAP: Add a “contact us” section with your NAP, naked website URL, and a “telephone link.”
  1. Format the elements however you want, checking the preview to ensure that it’s organized and easy to read. Make sure all of the links are working.
  2. Copy the code and paste it back into Notepad in between the <body> tags.
  3. Navigate to the section of code above the opening <body> tag. Change it as follows:
  • <title>: Include your primary keyword here.
  • <meta name=” description”>: Use an excerpt from the article to fill the meta-description. Include the text in between the quotation marks after “content=.”
  • <meta name=” keywords”>: Add your three keywords, separated by pipes, in between the quotation marks after “content=.”
  • <meta property=”og: title”>: Add your primary keyword/title here again in between the quotation marks after “content=.”5.Save the file as “index.html.” Open the file in your browser to ensure that it’s working.
Set Up A Google Cloud Bucket
  1. Log in to the Google Cloud console.
  2. Click on “Storage” on the left-hand panel.
  3. Click “Create a bucket,” with the name of the company as the name of the bucket if the company name has more than one word, separate words with a hyphen.
  4. Select “Multi-region” under location type and choose the correct region/s in the drop-down menu.
  5. Under default storage class, choose “Standard”.
  6. Under access control, choose “Fine-grained.”
  7. Under “Advanced settings,” choose “Google-managed key” encryption.
  8. Click “Create.”
Create A Google Cloud Folder
  1. In the bucket dashboard, click on “Create folder.” Name the folder after the primary keyword, separating words with hyphens.
  2. Click on the folder. Click “Upload files.”
  3. Upload the index.html file you have created for this page.
  4. Click the uploaded index.html file > “Edit permissions” > “Add item”. Under Entity, select “User” from the drop-down menu. In the “Name” field, type “allUsers” (case sensitive). Then, select “Reader” from the final drop-down column. Click “Save.”
  5. Go back to the folder dashboard. Click on the now-activated link icon under the “Public access” column.
  6. Check the HTML site to make sure it is properly formatted. Copy the URL and paste it into the workbook.
  7. Repeat for every stack you are creating.
  8. “Daisy chain” the Cloud HTML sites by adding a link from one “microsite” to another with a keyword as anchor text. You don’t need to interlink all pages, as long as one page flows to the next.
Step #5: Create An Amazon Web Service HTML Site

Creating an Amazon Web Service HTML site is similar to creating one via Google Cloud, except it’s a bit easier. Here’s the process:

  1. Log into the AWS console.
  2. Scroll down to “Storage” and click on “S3”. You may have to expand the section to see your other options.
  3. Create a bucket and then select that bucket.
  4. Click “Create folder” and name it using your company name or main keyword, with words separated by hyphens. Use bucket settings and click “save.”
  5. Click on your new folder and click “Upload.” Upload your index.html file (note: it must be unique from your Google Cloud index.html).
  6. Click on the index.html file to find the “Object URL.” Copy the link and paste it into the workbook. Test the link in an incognito browser to ensure it’s working. Also, copy-paste the embed code.

  7. Repeat for every stack you are creating.
Step #6: What Now?

Congratulations, you now have a Google stack network that can boost your rankings and earn you some great link juice from Google’s domains. Here are some ideas on how to “stack” your Google assets:

  • Index all of your created links (e.g., Drive links, Google sites, cloud sites, etc.) using an indexing service (we use Speed Links). Drip them out over 7-10 days so that it looks natural and organic.
  • Get tiered links via private networks/PBNs. Link to as many of your assets/sites as possible. If you can only target a few URLs, prioritize your Google sites first before the rest of the stacks. Use keyword variations as your anchor text.
Conclusion

Google site authority stacking is safe, reliable, and extremely effective. It might take a few hours to set everything up, especially if you’re trying to target multiple keywords. Just keep this guide nearby, and you’ll have a fully-optimized Google stack network in no time.

Authority Map Stacks

Step #1: Create A Workbook

This first step is to gather all of the information you need in one convenient, easy-to-access workspace. Technically, this step isn’t necessary. But it does help to keep a centralized database of information so that you’re not wasting time trying to find the data that you need. 

For the workbook, you can use Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel, or your preferred spreadsheet software. You can also check out this sample workbook here, or you can easily create your own. It should look something like this:

How to for authority map stack

Once you have your workbook set up, it’s time to fill in the necessary information. For now, you can ignore the following fields:

  • BatchGeo URL
  • BatchGeo embed code
  • BatchGeo edit URL
  • CID URL
  • Maps short link
  • MREID

Let’s focus on the fields that you can fill out:

Enter your company name, address, city, state, ZIP, country, phone number, email address, and the URL of your website. The information needs to match the information on your GMB listing exactly. For example, if your number is listed as (123) 456-789, format it the same way—not 456-789, 123 456 789, 1-123-456-789, or any other format.

Then, add your keywords. Remember, you need one main keyword and at least three secondary keywords for which you wish to rank. If you don’t know which keywords to use, take some time to research and identify the best keyword opportunities for your business.

Add links to your three images. If you have a YouTube video that you want to embed, include its link in the workbook as well. Finally, complete the workbook by adding in your company description (up to 750 characters).

Step 2: Find & Enter CID URL & GMB Listing Link

Next, let’s focus on a few of the URLs that are missing from the workbook, namely the CID URL and the Maps short link. Let’s break down what those are and how you can find them one by one.

Maps Short Link

The Maps short link (also known as the link to your Google My Business listing) is one of the easiest URLs to find. Again, you’ll need a GMB listing already set up for this. Here’s how you can find your Maps short link:

  1. Search for the exact company name in Google.

Maps short link for GMB

2. Click on Maps and ensure that you pulled up the right listing. There should only be one listing on the left side-bar, and the address, website URL, phone number, and other information need to be correct.

Make sure you've selected the correct listing

3. Click the Share button and copy the link under “Link to share.” The URL should be in a goo.gl/maps format, not google.com/maps or any other format.

Link to share GMB

4. Plug the URL into the “Maps short link” field in the workbook.

CID URL

There are many ways to find your customer ID (CID) URL, such as checking your listing’s source code and dissecting the long URL. However, Web 2.0 Ranker’s method of choice is by using the GatherUp Google Review Link Generator Chrome extension (formerly known as GetFiveStars). GatherUp also allows you to pull up your Maps short link, Google Place ID, and other listing information.

Here’s how you can find your CID via GatherUp:

  1. Download GatherUp from the Chrome Web Store by clicking “Add to Chrome.” 

Next step is to download GatherUp

2. Pull up your business’ listing in Google Maps. Ensure that there’s only one company on the left side-bar. Click on the GatherUp icon in the upper right section of your browser, next to the URL bar, to generate a CID URL.

find your business listing in the maps section

  1. Copy the link next to “Google Maps URL,” and plug it into the “CID URL” field in your workbook.

Use GatherUp to locate the map URL and CID

Step 3: Create & Fill Out The BatchGeo Mapping Sheet

After you’ve filled out your workbook, it’s time to get the information you need to create an authority map stack. First, create a new sheet in your workbook and name it “BatchGeo Mapping.” You’ll need to have the following columns:

  • Address
  • City
  • State
  • Zipcode
  • Country
  • Target company name
  • Phone number
  • URL
  • Keyword title
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

When you’re done, it should look something like this: 

Next, fill out the Batch geo sheet

Fill out the first row of the BatchGeo Mapping sheet, populate the fields with your business’ information. You can just copy-paste the info from your workbook into this part of the sheet.

Make sure that your address and phone number are accurate. Under “Target company name,” add your business name exactly as it appears on your Google My Business listing. Under “URL,” put the link to your website. Under “keyword title,” list your primary keyword.

Then, get the latitude and longitude of your listing. There are a couple of ways of doing this:

  1. Check the Google My Business listing URL: In the long URL of your GMB listing, look for the @ symbol. The first number after this (including the decimal point) is the latitude, while the second number is the longitude. In the case below, the latitude is 38.0530601, and the longitude is -83.8530061.

Locate the lat and long of your GMB

2. Use a coordinates tool: There are plenty of free online tools that help you get the coordinates of a place, as long as you know the address or location. We recommend GPSCoordinates.org. Simply enter the address, click “Get GPS Coordinates,” and copy the latitude and longitude into your workbook.

Once the first row is filled out, it’s time to fill out the next four rows. This is where it gets a bit tricky. You’ll be filling them out with your competitors’ information—here’s how:

3. Search your main keyword in Google Maps to find your top 5+ competitors. If your primary keyword isn’t yielding promising results, you can move onto your secondary keywords.

Locate the competitors in the list with your listing

4. Copy the address and other details from their GMB listings. Most of the time, you’ll only need the street address, zip code, latitude, and longitude. City and state are usually the same as the first row, although there are some cases in which the city could vary.

Copy the address of the other listings

Target company name for GMB

5. Still, on the second row, fill out “Target company name” with one of the secondary keywords. Use a different secondary keyword for each row, and just cycle through them if you’ve run out of keywords. Under “keyword title,” enter the main keyword.

Leave the number blank in the sheet

6. Leave the phone number blank. Under “URL,” do not put your competitor’s website (or yours, for that matter)! Instead, place your CID URL.

Repeat the steps 2 and 4 to continue with this process

7. Repeat steps 2-4 for your other competitors, cycling through the secondary keywords as necessary. Here’s what that should look like when you’re done:

the final result for this sheet should look something like this

Now, there are some cases in which you can’t find your competitors’ exact information or address on their listings. You may need to do some deep digging or reverse engineering to see the data that you need. If your target keywords aren’t generating competitors within your area, feel free to use businesses in surrounding/nearby areas.

Step 4: Upload The Data To BatchGEO

Now that you have all the information you need, you can finally begin creating your map! All you have to do is upload your Mapping sheet to BatchGEO.

Whether you created your workbook on Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets (or some other spreadsheet software), you can upload the BatchGEO info in one of two ways:

  1. Delete all the other sheets in the file except for “BatchGEO Mapping.” If you used Google Sheets or another cloud-based software, you have to download the file as an Excel sheet. Then, drag or copy-paste the file to upload it to the site.
  2. Copy all the rows and columns with information in it (around seven rows and 11 columns) and paste it directly into the specified area on the website.

No matter which method you choose, this is what it should look like if you did it correctly:

BatchGeo results

Then, click on “Validate and Set Options.” Click on “Advanced options” to toggle more settings. Most of the time, the fields will populate automatically with the correct options. If not, make sure that your options are configured like below:

After that, validate and save

Click on “Make Map.” A screen will pop up, asking you for a title, description, email, and privacy option. Under “Title,” you can put any title you want. Our team usually formats it as [Main keyword] + [Company name]. In the description field, copy-paste the company description from the workbook and your 500-word article. Add your business email, set the privacy option to “Public,” and click “Save Map” to finish.

Make map and save for your GMB

BatchGEO will send a link to your custom map to your email. In the email, you’ll also find the BatchGEO map URL, embed code, and edit URL. Copy-paste those links into the relevant field in the workbook for future reference.

Copy and save URL for BatchGeo

Copy and then save for your GMB

Step 5: What Now?

Congratulations, you now have a map that you can use to build powerful tier 2 links, improve your local SEO, and outrank your competitors in the local pack! Here are a few ideas on how to “stack” using your custom map:

  • Index, the BatchGEO URL, link so that it shows up on Google’s SERP.
  • Place your embedded map and related links on a bunch of relevant tier 2 Web 2.0 sites to get trust flow.
  • Include your map and related links in future press releases.
Conclusion

Even though the authority map stacking technique is relatively easy, safe, and effective, a lot of businesses and SEO gurus aren’t using it. This means that you can stay one step ahead of the competition by making the most out of this strategy.

YouTube

YouTube is one of my favorite platforms to make sure my brand is on when building local SEO campaigns. Here is a quick rundown of how we optimize our videos. As with most everything we do, yes, we do have data on YouTube video optimization having a direct impact on local search rankings, in isolated test cases.

A lot of our clients already have professional-grade videos when they sign up. We are fortunate to work in a niche where that is commonplace. For those of you that do not work in such industries, convincing them to spend big on video production might be a chore. As you will see in the example, the video does not have to be an Emmy award-winning masterpiece. Just get something onto YouTube so we can work our magic.

First, add a robust article to the description that is optimized for your commercial keywords. Some SEOs even go as far as actually emulating top-performing pages term frequencies to prepare the content. We like to then ink to the CID and our website or other top tier brand documents.

Adding commercial keywords and Youtube

The team finishes this task by listing the areas serviced and adding the NAP.

Inserting NAP to your GMB strategy

This video gets embedded on the site, amplified socially by sharing to all of the brand’s social profiles, and added to a GMB post. If you want to boost the backlink graph of your YouTube link, then that is not a terrible idea as we know it has an impact, and its already an authoritative site linking to our brand.

Click Here To Get The Local SEO ToolBox Free

On-Page Optimization

Introduction

I will not be deep-diving into a technical website optimization process as I want to focus on optimizing the URL your GMB is linking to and ways to improve the authority of that page and influence the local search ranking for the attached Google my Business account.

There are several schools of thought when it comes to proper on-page optimization. We have always followed two philosophies in our agencies, and with some refinement, they have stood the test of time and continue to deliver results for our local SEO campaigns.

The first point to discuss is the 2/3 rule. This rule states that your commercial keywords should not appear in 3/3 of the on-page attributes such as Page title, URL, H1. This was an easy way to train newbies that stepped into our office on a mindset that keeps our web pages from being over-optimized. It is not a perfect science, but it has always been a simple yet effective benchmark for our team.

In my opinion, the best strategy is to reverse engineer what the successful competition is doing and build a game plan that emulates that. We like to look at the top three performing competitors after removing authoritative listings. This means we are not looking at the top directory sites to reverse engineer their local SEO strategy.

This does not mean they are not doing some things well, and we can take some notes from them if need be. Still, their overall authority and long term trust they built with Google will influence rankings outside of individual page optimization activity.

Basic On-Page Elements

In this section, we are going to cover the essential pieces of an on-page strategy that every successful local SEO campaign needs to include to prove effective. The main points we want to hit to get started can be deduced down to three items that need optimized.

These are the page title, the meta description, and the H tags.

Some cool tools exist to pull this data in and give you suggestions based on averages across the top-ranking competitors. You can also do this free and quick with Google sheets, albeit the process is a bit less programmatic in terms of calculating the parity needed across a bunch of different keyword inputs.

Setting up a quick worksheet and using the ImportXML function, we can use Google sheets to pipe in the competitor data for us, and we can map out our optimizations on the spot.

User ImportXML to add information to your GMB

Throw your competitor URLs in the top row, as many as you would like to assess per each keyword. Doing this allows us to create formulas using the cell IDs rather than inputting the URL into the formula. This comes in handy when scaling the amount of data that we are pulling in and reusing formulas that you make with different campaigns.

Throw the headings into the sheet to keep everything organized; then, it is time to import some data. Use the following formulas to pull the needed information into the sheet.

=IMPORTXML(A1, “//title/text()”)
=IMPORTXML(A1, “//meta[@name=’description’]/@content”)
=IMPORTXML(A1, “//h1/text()”)

Change the “A1” to whichever cell is housing the URL of the competitor. You can also change the “//h1/text()” to any h tag that you want to pull into the sheet. I usually collect the H1s, H2s, andH3s. Anything beyond that is less effective for optimizing from an SEO perspective and more about page structure.

If you want to take this to the next level, you can throw an extensive list of different keywords to reverse engineer in another tab and the ranking competitor URLs next to each. Then use ImportRange to pull them into other tabs and populate the metadata automatically based on the formulas we added from above.

Keep the keyword utilization in tune with what the competition is doing and consider the 2/3 rule we went over at the start of this section.

Local Content SILOs and Interlinking

Local content silos offer so much value to your SEO campaign. We have used them to combat possum filters, boost rankings on GeoGrid nodes that were a bit further away from our business than Google’s proximal algorithm wanted, and unstick GMBs that would not rank.

There are two different local content silos that I want to speak about in this guide. They are used in different circumstances, but I believe there are very few campaigns, if any, that should neglect one or the other.

First, let’s talk about the content strategy used to influence proximal influence. The gameplan mirrors the one used in the blog I linked to in the first paragraph. There are two approaches to this strategy, as well. My goal is not to complicate or convolute this process but instead get as granular as possible to convey some killer tactics that have worked for us time and time again.

We can break down service areas into quadrants and create content around those hyper-specific geos. This can be used in situations where you are in a larger metropolitan area, and your client has multiple GMBs verified in the city. Link your GMBs to the homepage but make location pages for each of the verified locations. Those should then interlink back to the home page.

Even if you do not have listings in those quadrants, you can still create the pages and link back to the home page URL to which you linked your GMB listing. It is also not a bad idea to throw a link from those location pages to your GMB using anchor text with geo modifiers specific to the area for which we are optimizing. Remember, Google is going to look at that anchor text with the quadrant specific verbiage and apply that relevance to the GMB.

The other side of this tactic is trying to expand your service area and gaining your client additional real estate as part of their local SEO campaign. This extra real estate could be GeoGrid nodes that are a bit outside where Google thinks your client’s business should be showing based on their proximate map results.

For this strategy, we can also use geo pages identical to the ones from above. Neighborhood specific content encompassing the nodes that you find are lacking is a solid foundation for your content plan. Smaller surrounding towns and rural area pages are another solid bet when planning your silo. Ensure you are incorporating images with the EXIF data optimized for those hyper-local nodes.

You can get creative when planning content for this piece of the strategy. One of my favorite tactics is highlighting services provides or job galleries that showcase happy clients or work performed. You do not have to give out specific addresses of clients, but giving general area information and adding geotokens and geo relevant data to those pages that are relevant to their location is critical.

Adding geographic elements to your general content creation plan is another way to inject local specific verbiage into your campaign. Instead of the general, “How much is my injury case worth” content, change that to, “How much is my injury case in {{city}} worth.”

We also have a ton of data that shows content like this generates real traffic to your client sites. Combine that with the power of interlinking your website and pushing that geo relevance to your GMB through direct linking and also reinforcing the authority of the URL to which your GMB is linked, and you have a winning content plan for your local SEO campaign.

Interlinking all of this together is usually complicated beyond what is necessary, but I like to keep things as simple as possible. Something we have been preaching for years that is finally being shared by some others in the space is that your internal linking is not only used for navigational purposes and to pass “link juice” but also to explain the relevance of the next page through the anchor text utilized.

Using miscellaneous anchor text or hyperlinking with the text not being specific to what is going to be found on the next page is either going to be useless or detrimental to your SEO efforts. Go ahead and get a bit more aggressive, but not spammy. We do not want 100 internal links, all pointing to the homepage with one single commercial anchor text. Appreciate and enjoy the difference between aggressive and spam.

I also like to make sure the blog content I am creating is not going to cannibalize the main keywords of my target ranking pages. This can prove difficult if you do not have a repeatable content creation method. I like to use platforms like Reddit, Quora, etc. to see real questions that are being asked about my main keywords topic. I then determine if that query should be answered as part of the main topic and if so, I will add it and implement FAQ schema, but if not, it will go into the spreadsheet as a topic for the blog.

I keep everything tight and logical. We do not write multiple pieces of content for variations of one query or anything that would potentially confuse Google about which page should be ranking for what queries. Interlink naturally but with defining anchor text from content derived from real questions that do not conflict with your money pages content. That is the most simplistic interlinking advice I can give that I guarantee has been working for us and will work for a long time to come. Here is an example of how we categorize pages on a site and interlink. Simple and effective.

Schema

Schema markup makes it easier for machines to read and extract pertinent information from a web document. Spiders have gotten a lot more sophisticated with the type of content they can crawl and “understand,” but marking up essential data on your site ensures that spiders can read and parse the content exactly as it should be read and parsed.

The majority of your schema for local businesses and your local SEO campaigns can be done competently with a template. I do find that most of the fill in the blank schema inputs that are provided with plugins or random generators found on sites can be a bit lackluster. But, as part of your local marketing toolkit, we will be providing you with a few schema templates that we use in our agencies.

There are two ways I would suggest you guys build your schema. The first we are going to cover is using templates. Again, we use these regularly and knock it out of the park with a fill in the blank process. The reason these work well is because a lot of time was spent putting together what we consider is a rock-solid foundation for your local schema.

I like to drop the template right into the Google Structured Data Testing Tool and make the edits in there so I can validate as often as needed without spending a bunch of time modifying a doc and then having to edit it again if some of the schemas have errors.

Add information by using this Google Structured data tool

Another way you guys can choose to accomplish your local SEO schema is to use a tool we built that allows you to make each line of schema from the ground up but still use a fill in the blank ecosystem, so you do not have to hand-code the JSON-LD. The schema builder might seem a bit complex at first, and it is, but if you take your time and run through the different options and see how it works as you add data into the tool, you will get the hang of it.

First, get free access to the schema app by downloading our local marketing toolbox. Log in with your credentials and let’s start poking around this app.

Dopwnload our schema app builder tool

You can scroll through the dropdown menu or perform a search. For this example, we will use a basic local business schema type and start filling in the blanks. Please note that the code populates inside of the box on the right-hand side of the screen. You will copy this code when done filling out the schema app inputs.

Keep following along with the schema building process

Some of the options will present you with different links you have to select that will drop down different inputs based on your selection. Work through one tab at a time and this entire process will be a lot less daunting. Take note of the different inputs when we select “ImageObject” as opposed to selecting “Photograph”.

Select the image object to follow along

Add the second part of image object by filling out the fields

Other tabs will require you to click a “+” icon to add whatever schema elements relate to that input. Again, focus on one section at a time and simply fill out each input that populates based on your selection before moving on to the next section.

When we click the “+” under “days of the week”, a drop-down menu appears that will assist us in inputting data for that schema type.

Add plus sign under image

Continue to add schema, it's important but not to spend extreme amounts of time on

You can definitely find yourself going down a rabbit hole with the schema app as it is HUGE! Remember, we want quality schema but spending hours inside of the tool might not be the best investment of time in your local SEO campaign.

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GMB Management, Reporting, and Automation 

GMB Automation and reporting

The above topics are some of my favorites, ever. Anyone that knows me can tell you I thrive when it comes to scaling businesses. Creating processes, automation, and tools to help save time and money as well as increase efficiency is my jam. There are a bunch of action items for your local SEO campaigns that can be tedious. The final frontier of scale is combining delegation and programmatic automation.

In this section, I am going to walk you through how we can do that. This guide is not going to get turned into an advertorial or software demo for Local Viking, but the platform will genuinely allow you to scale your efforts and report wins to your clients in a way that is not possible without the tool suite.

Accurate Rank Tracking

We are home to the GeoGrid. There is nothing quite like this out in the world as we also support service area businesses as well as storefronts and hybrids. No one else in the industry can say that. I wrote a post on why local rank trackers are not working.

Local Viking management tool for your GMB

With Google’s proximity relevant results, it is vital to be able to check rankings on that GPS coordinate level. If you check out the training on hyper-local optimization, you will also see how we use this Geogrid data to influence other aspects of our content creation, photo optimization, and even link building. Clicking through any of the nodes on the map will bring up the competitors but also the lat/long coordinates so you can use that in your campaigns. 

Local Viking management tool that allows your to see your GMB visibility

Automated Reporting and Customer Management

Intelligent reporting is almost as important as good results and essential to articulating those results for a lot of clients. Too many local SEO campaigns are run with the only KPI being an increase in three-pack rankings. Plenty of marketers have gotten more sophisticated and started tracking phone calls through tracking numbers. This is a significant step forward. We use a multifaceted approach for reporting, and we automated it.

First, we potentially pipe all of the GMB insights into our dash from the API and can see the growth and metrics from a glance. We present these as digestible cards so as not to overwhelm clients or our team members.

Local Viking management tool to view insights

Most of these metrics can be reported to the client and positioned in a way to make your campaign appear successful beyond where a map listing ranks for a keyword or two. Phone calls are obvious conversions but KPIs like website visits and driving direction requests are great reportable elements of a local SEO campaign.

Local viking reporting configuration

You can select which KPIs you want to report to your clients. Some of these terms might seem foreign so here is a video that defines them for you guys and gals.

When delivered to the client the cards can be clicked to view the progress of one metric at a time.

Local Viking reporting functionality

 

The layout above makes the entire interface interactive and a bit more consumable as you can click through different cards to focus in on those results. One of my favorite things about this reporting configuration is our ability to highlight positive portions of the campaign and omit negative or stale results so your team can work on them internally.

Local Viking reporting categories

Bullet points that keep your client focused on the positives are great for your retention rates and the sanity of your account managers.

Local Viking date ranges

Speaking of configurations, I love these two little toggle options inside of the LV reporting dash. These options ensure that zero value properties are not shown and decreases are omitted from the report.

We do not encourage people to use this as a tool to pull the wool over your clients eyes but rather to not distract them from the increases in their report. Far too often when I still did client calls they would want to spend twenty minutes complaining about something that had a minute decrease and barely let me spent ten minutes discussing their massive progress.

Local Viking reporting configuration

We like for reports to go out every 2-4 weeks depending on the scope of work we agreed upon and the services we are providing. Setting up notifications for the clients team and our own account managers means its another layer of reminders to go over reporting on an update meeting.

The best part of all, all of this is easy to white label so everything is coming from your brand. The level of professionalism increases.

GMB Posting

First, we have to be brutally honest about GMB posts. As a standalone, they are not a one and done strategy for local search ranking. We had seen circumstances where GMB posting pops listings in smaller markets where we were struggling when we listed the neighborhoods or added images with the EXIF data matching the struggling node’s GPS coordinates.

We are also big fans of using the RSS feeds we generate with Local Viking and syndicating the content, images, and backlinks to our other brand properties. Furthermore, if you want to take your GMB post optimization to the next level, you can run an analysis of your commercial queries keyword results and emulate the term and phrase frequencies.

Local Viking service area in details section

But, this section is all about automation and scale, so let’s walk through how we can explore this strategy for your agency. If you click into the posts section of the Local Viking dashboard, you will see your GMB posting hub.

Local Viking posts tab

Besides that, in the navigation, you will see “new post,” which will bring you into the GMB posting and scheduling ecosystem.

Local Viking posts tab to see list of posts

Select the type of post you would like. I do not want to turn this into an introduction series on GMB posting, so I will link some resources here for you guys to peruse at your convenience. Next, determine if you would like a button or not and assign that button a URL that will hyperlink visitors to your desired page.

Add your optimized content to the body section. We also link to our location page that is linked to the GMB in the website section, and our team even daisy chains the posts. All of these posts live on the GMB website as inner pages, so daisy chaining the posts provides interlinking once the content populates on your GMB site.

The Local Viking posting system also supports syntax if you would like to make this entire process even a bit more scaleable and push button. I do not personally use this format as we have a large writing team and prepare everything from scratch.
You can add and optimize images into your post from this page as well, but I will be covering image optimization in the next section so that I will skip over it for the moment.

Toggling the schedule post button will open up a calendar that allows you to determine when the post will go live. Meaning, we can also get our content order back and then optimize and schedule out a month or even many month’s worths of posts.

If you are doing A LOT of posts at once, we also have a CSV upload option, so you are not selecting dates for dozens or hundreds of posts. If you want the post to recur, you can choose that option and then decide how many times it will post. Leaving it blank will make it recur indefinitely.

Image Optimization Done the Right Way

We skipped this in the above section because I wanted to highlight it and do a deep dive without having the idea convoluted by anything else. If you click on “new media” in the navigation of LV, you will be brought to inputs that allow you to add and optimize images for your Google my Business listing.

Adding photos to Local Viking

Start by selecting the category of that will be home to the image we are adding.

Next, you can either add media by uploading images from your computer, or we also have a stock image repository built into the platform. If you would like to use that engine, then enter a keyword and choose the image you would like to add.

Adding photos or selecting photos from the Local Viking gallery

The following screen prompts us to crop the photo. Simple enough.

Adding photos and optimizing

Once you have your media looking precisely the way you would like, click on the EXIF tab, and here is where the fun begins.

Selecting the “edit EXIF” radio button will make all of the metadata of the image editable. You can see that we added our tokenized system, so if you would like to, it will just populate these fields with data that it pulls from your GMB listing. Any of the areas can be modified and changed at your discretion.

Adding EXIF data to your photos

I want you guys to take note of one neat little feature at the bottom of the EXIF page.

Adding lat and long to your photo with Local Viking

If you deselect the “Use GPS from location?” checkbox, you can add in custom latitude and longitude for your listing. Remember when we talked about identifying the nodes that are not performing well on the Geogrid and then using those coordinates for your optimization? Here is one of your opportunities to do just that. Don’t forget; the coordinates will be found by clicking through the node on the Geogrid like so:

Adding lat and long by finding it in the location list

Optimized Q&A Construction

I do not want to overstate the importance of Q&As as it pertains to SEO. We have experimented with keyword stuffing the questions and answers that we added to our listing, and some gains could be correlated to this action. Still, this strategy does not bring about a significant enough increase as a standalone tactic to warrant an excessive amount of time invested.

However, having FAQ on your GMB increases engagement signals and could be a staple in voice search as specific questions are getting answered that could mirror the sentiment of other consumers. The critical thing to remember about ancillary optimization activities, meaning they might not independently move the needle to a large degree, is that automating them or spending as little time on them as possible is essential.

Hence, I have a solution I want to show you guys. This is a two-part share so do not skip over any portion of this section. 

Optimizing questions and answersOptimizing questions and answers section

Inside of your Local Viking dashboard, you will see the Q&A tab. Selecting that will show you which questions are on your GMB and if they have answers or not. If you would like to manually answer questions from this interface, simply move the question over to the right-hand column using the arrow button on the question.

Answering questions on your GMB

Adding answers to your Questions section of GMB

You can also add individual questions and answer them at your leisure. What I want to direct your attention to is the bulk upload option. This requires a CSV upload. Over the next few moments, we are going to work on a “hack” to help you bang out these CSVs and even have a template to use again and again across all of your clients.

CSV for questions and answersSetting up a CSV for questions and answers

Start off by setting up a template in a spreadsheet. We are keeping things very simple with a column for the questions and another for the answers and one for the key, which will be explained in a moment. When we are done we can copy column A and column B from the sheet and drop it in our CSV sheet and throw that into Local Viking.

CSV set up for qnaQuestion and answer CSV

Fill out the key with your GMBs information. Keep in mind your key should be a bit larger than this one that I threw together for demonstrative purposes. The more data you want to integrate into these questions and answers the better, in my opinion.

Now, start populating the sheet with questions and answers using substitution variables. For example, instead of inputting your client’s business name or the city they are in, insert {{business_name}} or {{city}}.

Adding dynamic content Adding dynamic content

I would suggest doing a template per niche or generalize the questions so you can use them for any business. Doing one of these two things will be important in order for the content to be reusable for multiple clients. It just makes things a lot easier to templatize.

Creating a template for easier access

Next, go to “find and replace” under the “Edit” tab.

File and replace

Add in the substitution variable that you wish to find. In this case, we are going to modify the {{city}} variable. We are going to replace this variable with the actual city name. In this example, we are using Baltimore as our city.

Select to only search “this sheet” and then click “replace all”. Do this for all of the variables in your key and when done you will have a full list of questions and answers that are relevant to your client. Rinse and repeat for other businesses you manage. With some initial setup time and tweaking after the substitution variables are changed if needed, this can be a quick and easy way to populate your GMB with a bunch of Q&A.

Question and answer set up

Once done converting all of the substitution variables to match the data from your key, add your questions and answers to the CSV file and upload it to Local Viking. Once the templates are built this process should only take an entry-level staffer or VA 10-20 minutes per client based on how many key points you are adding and how many Q&As need to be modified.

Preventing Malicious Edits

If you have been working in local SEO for any amount of time, especially in competitive niches and markets, you are aware that local guide accounts can be used to make nefarious edits to listings in an attempt to de-rank them. This strategy is one form of “negative SEO” in the local space. These changes can range from business hours, the title of the listing, and in severe cases, even the phone number of the listing.

Avoiding malicious edits with Local Viking Avoiding malicious edits with Local Viking

For this reason, we developed ART, short for Automated Reversion Technology. The image above shows our mechanized Viking robot army that work tirelessly, day and night, to ensure your listings do not get disturbed by the bad guys.

Editing your GMB in Local Viking

As you can see, any of the GMB attributes you can “lock”. This means that when edits go through our system programmatically pushes your default data back through the GMB API and “corrects” the erroneous edit. This takes a bit of time for the data to come back through the API but we are working on an automated system that prevents the edit from ever going through in the first place. This quality of life improvement will be huge.
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The Viking Conquers Onward

Again, I did not want to make this a big advertorial for Local Viking, but I do think it is an essential tool for every local marketer. We use it for all of our agency work, and it saves us countless hours. Clients love the reporting, and we love the fact that it is automated. The GeoGrid works incredible for client acquisition and showing increases around their service areas.

If you are interested in taking it for a test drive, then schedule a demo or just signup as you take comfort in the fact we have a money-back guarantee if you do not fall in love with the platform.

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62 Replies to “GMB A-Z Ranking Guide: Google Local SEO Tactics Derived from 1000’s of Ranked Listings”

  1. Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge.

    I was left with just one question, in the topic “Geo-Networks-A Step-By-Step Guide To Building A Geo Network For Local SEO”, and I would be very happy if you could answer me.

    You talk about creating a fake business, and creating several social networks for that business, and you say to insert the NAP + site in the description of these social networks. My question is whether the information on the NAP + website is the one invented for the fake business, or if it is the information on my target business, that I want to rank.

    Thank you!

    1. Hey there, thank you for reading. Happy to help. People moreso create faux associations and local entities rather than a fake business. You will use these localized platforms to link back to the site you would like to rank.

  2. Hi, great article! Question: in the geonetwork part, where does the actual moneysite fit in? It looks like the fake business persona is setup, then georelevancy and soc media interlinking etc. But where / what do you do to push at that “GEO juice” into the real URL you are targeting? Also, if it’s a fake business persona, how do you verify your GMB listing? Thanks in advance.

  3. Mark, many thanks. Though I have been doing local SEO for quite some time, after reading your post, I feel that I just start my journey. Your post is a breath-taking masterpiece!

  4. Great Blueprint Mark.

    Since last December, i read a lot of forums, fb posts and tutorial and yours is the most complete.

    You save a lot of time and allow us to run business.

    Thank you so much.

    God Bless You

      1. Mark,
        Can i ask you one more question ?
        I wanna know if Microsoft Azure websites and recently now Yahoo small business website can boost Google / Bing / Yahoo stacking too ?
        Thank you for you response.

  5. Hi Mark, thanks for your reply!
    I do use lazy loading for pics, I was not aware of it for videos though, so will give it it a try 🙂
    However, I am still curious to understand if an impact can be expected from SERP point of view whether a video is better embedded via IFrame on the site or through simple anchor link (providing loading time is not an issue any more / or can be managed by lazy loading as you suggest)
    As I understand your reply, you recommendation is to embed the video rather than just linking to YT video URL, right?

  6. Lots of great info here. This is like the bible of Google My Business management! I noticed that a few GMB items have changed in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown.

    1. Hi there. We made some update videos in our free GMB course @ https://localclienttakeover.com but I figure they will get dialed back once the pandemic subsides so I did not add them because I wanted to keep this post evergreen. Now that you mention it I should link to the COVID GMB content ramifications in a banner or something. Thanks for the feedback and thank you for reading. I will look to get the post updated.

  7. Hi Mark, this is really an impressive blog. I am just an “SEO amateur”, now having read this article 3 times and each time I do find new elements that attracts me 🙂
    Two specific questions though that relates to your view on YouTube described in chapter 6.1.9.4:
    1.) How do you judge difference using video channel either YouTube or vimeo with regards to SEO? As in YouTube, you can add description and tags in Vimeo as well, but don’t know if those will be considered and recogniezed properly by Google (providing you put proper description including NAP, links to your hompage and CID)?
    Actually, I have realized that localiving.com embeds Vimeo videos – but this might not motivated by SERP, but provides additional capabilities such as analyzing functionalities etc.
    2.) Now, when comes to the point to link/embed the video (YouTube or vimeo) into the homepage, is there a difference when doing this either to embed the video through “iframe” or a simple anchor tag?
    Actually, I am asking since there are quite tough GDPR regulations by EU that requires to build homepage that ask for visitors to provide consent (opt-in) prior to loading the site when 3rd party cookies are installed (that is the case when you embed youtube, vimeo). Moreover, iframe has quite an impact on my site peformance (loading time) – hence, I prefer anchor tag instead of iframes.
    What is your view on this, please?

    Thank you very much
    Happy Eastern and Greetings from Germany
    Adrian

    1. Hi there Adrian! Sorry about the delay in my response. Thanks a lot for reading the article. Let’s discuss your questions and hopefully, I can offer a bit of help.

      1. I like using YouTube. I like using Google properties, personally. At the end of the day if its an indexed URL or linked to from an indexed URL then Google will crawl it, and I have no proof that they give their own platforms precedence from an authority or crawling perspective, but I still stick with YT.

      2. I am a bit ignorant when it comes to GDPR, but is lazy loading an option?

      https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/performance/lazy-loading-guidance/images-and-video
      https://developers.google.com/web/updates/2017/03/chrome-58-media-updates#offscreen

      I hope that helps.

  8. Great how to article, 5 stars. In the fake business section of the article you refer to the URL of the busness when making fake profiles is the URL we add the real business money URL or some other URL? I’m new to using Local Viking and am looking forward to using all the tools.

    1. Hi there! Thanks a lot for reading. You can still use the address of the listing if the client isn’t going to get upset with you about it. There are also some directories that support adding service areas or hiding the address. If all else fails, embed the GMB and use the name and the phone number along with the city/cities/service areas they serve.

    1. Oh wow! Thank you so much for those kind words! I am truly humbled. If you don’t mind giving it a share so I can get the word out I would be forever grateful. Thanks again for reading.

  9. That was a mouthful and wow! That is some awesome content! thanks for sharing Mark. I’m totally new to this and the information will definitely be my “bible.”

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