We get a lot of questions about how to increase traffic to Google My Business profiles and Google Maps. Getting traffic from these sources is different from driving traffic directly to a website. It is not complicated once you understand a few key points.
What is the Map Pack?
When it comes to getting traffic from Google Maps, it’s usually from the Map Pack. The Map Pack is the small version of Google Maps that appears at the top of search results. It is a list, or “pack”, of local businesses along with their location marked on the map.
While it is possible for users to search directly from Google Maps, most users will start their search in Google’s regular search engine and see the Map Pack.
The map pack only appears when Google thinks there are local results to show. For example, if you search “what is the speed of light” the Map Pack will not appear. But if you search “SEO agencies in San Diego” Google will assemble a list of local San Diego SEO agencies and display them in the map pack.
How Do I Get My Business Listed in the Map Pack?
First you need a Google My Business profile (also called a Google Business Profile, Google Profile, or just GMB). Having a GMB means Google has verified that you are a business operating from a local, physical address. You cannot, for example, only have a physical address in Miami and decide you want to create a GMB in Denver.
Think you can get around this by subscribing to a shared/coworking office in Denver? Not so fast, Google might ask you to do a live video stream showing your branding/signage on the walls, utility bills or other proof you actually conduct business from that location. If you actually work from a shared/coworking space, you will likely get verified; if not, there’s no guarantee this is going to work.
Google only lists GMB profiles in the Map Pack, so if you don’t have a GMB, you won’t appear.
It’s important to know that although you need to provide Google a local address to get verified, you do not need to display the address publicly on your GMB. Google knows that many businesses are operated from home addresses. However, we do see a slight advantage when businesses show a public address. We don’t think this is Google penalizing businesses with private addresses, it’s more that by having a public address, Google can use mobile phone location data to see people coming into your business, which is yet another data point Google can use to verify the popularity or legitimacy of your business.
My GMB is Verified, Why am I Not Appearing in the Map Pack?
If you have a GMB profile, you probably are appearing in the map pack, but not high enough for anyone to see. Not unlike regular search results, Google uses an algorithm to determine your placement in the map pack.
Age and reputation are the 2 most important factors to where you rank in the map pack.
Age basically means how long your business has been around. If you started your plumbing company 3 months ago, Google is going to favor your competitor who has been in business for 10 years. It’s a matter of trust; Google has more confidence in a company that’s been around a long time. If you are a new company in a crowded local field of aged competitors, you are at a major disadvantage. I won’t spend much time on age because there’s not much that can be done about it unless you plan on buying someone else’s aged business.
Reputation means 2 things. Reviews, and what I will refer to as brand mentions. One of the few ways you can directly influence how high you rank in the map pack is by having lots of great Google reviews. That competitor of yours who has been in business 10 years longer might not have many reviews, or bad reviews. Google wants to send traffic to businesses that show they produce happy customers; reviews are a great way to do this. And not only Google reviews, but good reviews on any of the major review platforms seem to help.
The second are brand mentions. Google looks and listens for brand mentions on the internet, gmail, texts, audio and everywhere else it can. If Google sees your brand is being talked about, it can make you look influential, thus helping build the trust and confidence it needs to send you traffic. For example, if you do such an outstanding job on a residential electric project that the customer emails all their friends recommending you, this is a powerful signal to Google and you are likely to rank higher in the Map Pack (and regular search results as well).
Why Does Google Display the Map Pack?
For many searches, such as my example above “what is the speed of light” there is no sense of location, the answer is the same no matter where in the world the searcher is located.
But what if you are on the side of the road with a flat tire and searching for a tow truck? You don’t want tow truck companies in another state, you want to see a list of tow truck companies closest to you. If Google thinks you want to see local results, it will display the Map Pack.
What is Map Pack SEO?
Traditionally, SEO has been used in terms of optimizing websites to rank higher in search results. There is almost no limit to the amount of SEO you can apply to a website because you own the website, hosting and every line of code and nobody is controlling what you can and cannot do with it.
However, a GMB is a profile that lives on a platform owned and operated by Google. It’s little more than a listing of information about your business like address, hours of operation, along with photos and reviews. Yes, you can add more categories of services you provide, or stuff some keywords into your business name, but not much more.
But there are things you can do. Most important are reputation and brand mentions, as described earlier. In addition, website SEO will carry over to your GMB. If you have maximized every optimization opportunity your GMB allows, get to work maximizing SEO on your website, especially local SEO. Time and time again when we increase a customer’s rank in regular search results, their GMB rank in the map pack improves with it. The reason is simple: the better the SEO on your website, the more views and traffic you get, which means more people familiar, interacting, and speaking about your brand, which helps build the trust Google needs to rank you higher in the Map Pack.
Something else that helps GMB rank higher is keeping it alive and active. Think of your GMB as a small social media profile. Just like social media algorithms, Google’s algorithm favors active GMB accounts where both the owner and users are adding/posting/reviewing/responding… Google wants to know the lights are on and someone is home.
Most business owners don’t seem to know they can publish articles, documents and more to their GMB profiles. Users like this, and therefore Google does as well.
Why Does the Map Pack Appear When I Don’t Specify a Location?
Don’t underestimate Google’s ability to know where you are. If you are searching from a mobile phone, your exact GPS coordinates are probably being sent to Google. If you’re on a desktop, your IP address might give you away. Then there’s search history, wifi connection, location data from nearby devices…
If Google knows where you are, you will probably get local results.
Improving the rank and traffic of your Google My Business profile is mostly done outside of the GMB itself, by proving to Google that you have a reputable company that delights its customers. If the internet is buzzHow to Increase Google My Business & Map Pack Trafficing with positive conversations about your brand, you can be assured Google will put you in front of more potential customers.
However, there are some direct actions you can take on your GMB. These are things like keeping your GMB active, posting to it, and optimizing your website for local SEO.