In my previous post about the sources and weightings of local information it was clear that reviews and web references played a key role in your Google Maps ranking and hopefully a business’s appearance in the top 3 One Box.
However if you execute the link command (link:www.anchorbar.com ) for the number 1 ranked restaurant, The Anchor Bar, in the search “Restaurant Buffalo NY” you will see “Results 1 – 10 of about 40 linking to anchorbar.com”. When you drill into the Google Map local detail for “web pages” for the Anchor Bar you see that Google finds 335 “web page” references. Clearly Google looks at “links” differently in local than in organic.
In fact one of the first things you notice is that your “links” don’t require a link at all just an actual street address and a business name that matches what Google thinks it should be. At this point in time Google obviously notes these references more liberally in Maps than on the organic side.
What types of sites and references should you be looking for?
First and foremost, your own. The first web page always listed by Google Maps is the business’s own. This assumes of course that the site has the address obviously visible to Google (i.e. plain text) in a format that Google understands and it is clearly associated with the domain and/or business name that Google associates with the business.
The next type of references are those that are providing reviews that have summary pages for businesses in your category that include the address. I.E. The restaurant listings for Buffalo page in the Superpages directory or the review page from CitySearch.
The third type of pages that you will find is a page are pages from local websites that list all of the restaurants in your area. The type of page you would see on a University site for parents or the local tourism site that is clearly about your business category. Typically these pages are clearly about the restaurant business in the locale for example student.sdm.buffalo.edu/buffalo/dining.html or www.dyc.edu/welcome/to_buffalo/restaurants.asp. Again a link to your site isn’t required, but the street address and business name are so that Google may successfully associate the listing with with your business. Bill Slawski has a great patent summary about how Google does this.
Lastly, it appears that Google Coupons also provide a “web page” reference that adds authority to your link. There were none in Buffalo because none of the restaurants had yet created a coupon but I have seen them on other searches. It’s a freebie, clearly improves your ranking and while I doubt that you see many redeemed (see Greg Sterlings tale) they will do little harm if you create your coupon judiciously. If it is ever redeemed you will know that either Google Maps is finally more than 1% of all Google Traffic or Google has started promoting them…both seem a ways off.
Several notes: Even minor differences in the business title will cause Google not to use it. And Google sometimes just gets it plain wrong (see my post on just how wrong Google can get this)
Of all the links this was my favorite (a blog): LORD of the WINGS (or how I learned to stop worrying and love the suicide (And I thought that I blogged in a niche :))
Given Google’s history and technology development and discrepancies in ranking results there is every reason to think that there is a Maps equivalent of Page Rank. At this point thought Google Maps seems to be recognizing all of these web pages as relevant. I assume that at some point they will “normalize” their results and drop the less significant pages.