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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

Google Maps: KML for authority and ranking?

If you are looking for information on Ranking in Google Maps you might want to view these:
SMXEast Presentation: A patent review of Maps Ranking Factors
Ranking Factors in Google Maps – Cracking the Code SMX Local
10 Likely Ranking Factors of Google’s Local Search Algorithm

We know that Google is using KML files and Geo Sitemaps to establish location and legitimacy for bricks and mortar businesses. Could it also have more importance on ranking than we currently know?

Carter Maslan, VP of Maps, has indicated that businesses should start using KML files in his interviews with Greg Sterling & Eric Enge.

Eric Enge: I first heard about KML a while back and I have seen some stuff suggesting that KML would allow you to provide a deeper level of metadata about your business. I believe people have talked about using this within the context of the sitemap files, is that something that is useful for people to do?

Carter Maslan: Yes, it helps a lot in knowing the precise geographic location that is being described by a page so it is definitely good to have a sitemap that references a KML file with an accurate description of the entities referenced geographically.

Eric Enge: Right, the sitemap file is something that is authenticated, and therefore the KML file would be by implication authenticated.

Carter Maslan: Correct. It helps both from that perspective and simply just knowing that there is additional information about that place, and that it is also correlated with that web page, helps.

As Martijn Beijk pointed out in a previous comment: if the Local Business Center = 2, then a Bulk upload +KML file + a geo sitemap + Webmaster Central = 2 as well. Whether that math is exactly correct, KML process does seem to convince Google of the legitimacy of a bulk upload and increases the authority of the business listing in Google’s eyes.

The KML process should be a standard part of the Local Search Marketing arsenal when using bulk uploads to create business listings in Maps.

Martijn has written an excellent tutorial on creating a KML and a GeoSitemap for Google’s Webmaster Central. I tested Martijn’s process using the Mike Test to determine if I can learn it or not. I can report that it passed my test.

Here is a summary of the steps involved to complete the needed steps:

1)Create a KML file using something like Google Earth. I used a Mac program called HoudahGeo which has the added benefit of geocoding and uploading photos directly to Flickr.
2)Upload the KML Files to your server. My KML file is viewable here.
3)Create a Geo Sitemap using this sample code, inserting the URL of your KML file in the geo sitemap.
4)Upload the geo sitemap to your server. My geo sitemap is viewable here.
5)Go to Google’s Webmaster tools and add another sitemap to the domain and indicate to Google that is it a Geo Sitemap

Upload geo sitemap to Webmaster Central
6)For good luck, create a link on your website to the KML file for other spiders to find it

We know for sure that this KML process should be used for businesses that are doing bulk uploads and want to communicate the legitimacy of their listings to Google . However, its importance to Google and Maps Ranking is still not fully known. It is unclear whether KML files are used by Google to impact rank or not.

We do know that Google has started displaying user generated content in the business listing in Maps. User Generated Content is essentially KML information that has made its way into Google Maps. As a side note, the KML created above can be easily imported into MyMaps.

We also know that Google is indexing and storing the geo web made up of KML files and geoRSS feeds and has been doing so for almost a year. Given Google’s history of looking to the greater web for an indication of a websites popularity on the WWW, it is not too much of a stretch to assume that something similar is happening with the geo web.

The complaint has been raised that KML is not understandable by the average business person. That may be, but it has always been the case that new technologies take awhile to understand and implement. If it can pass the Mike test, it is getting ready to enter the mainstream and is certainly capable of being done by search professionals. KML is one of those techniques that needs to be studied but with a little study can be implemented now and is clearly beneficial in certain uses cases. Even if it has no impact on rank it falls into the “it can’t hurt” category for other users.

We don’t know for sure if it impacts ranking but if you have seen clear indicators that KML files do impact ranking, I would love to hear from you.