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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

Looking for a Legend In All the Wrong Places

Zebedi recently posted this comment on my Get a Virtual Office With a Keyword Stuffed Maps Listing article. I thought it worth highlighting and responding:

As a small business person, I cannot find an SEO that can tell me how to genuinely appear in search results in the areas we genuinely service. Why is it called SPAM if it is genuine?

People like us go to clients, rather than them coming to our workshop. (antique and furniture restoration and custom furniture etc. etc. in case you are curious). We are talking about relatively rare service skills and a large client catchment district to gain the higher class of items which are our niche. This is the way it always has been, since 1983, and the way it always will be. We are in a metropolitan region but not in the major city. Nor are we in the two sister cities that we service. We are in an in-between city area. Our workshop is in between the main city and one of the sister cities, and because of highways, about 1-1.25 hours from the other sister city.

We are not alone in this issue. Lots of service providers are in this situation, particularly if they target the top end of their skill/ items, and even more so if the equipment or the skill is rare. Also, it is not unusual for people like us to have workshops or acreage to handle the noise and the land required for specialist vehicles and equipment and often, economically, we choose in between sites for our business for land price benefits – yet still good access to client catchment areas. Have a look where most industrial estates are. It is no point of chance that it happens to be between cities rather than in them.

SO if you want to catch some work – solve the problem.

Looking for a legendary SEO ….

Here is my response to Zebedi. What would you add?

Dear Zebedi:

Obviously there are many things about your business that I do not know and can not know without exploring it more thoroughly but you may find the following helpful.

If a market is so important that you wish to be included in the Google Maps results for that place then you have no alternative than to invest in an office or display room for that geography. Many cities have businesses that rent “virtual space” that has a shared receptionist & client meeting area that will pass muster for the purposes of placement in Google Maps. These are appropriate if used in the appropriate way, ie a client destination or company workspace.

If you are not prepared to make that investment then Google Maps is not the right tool for increasing the visibility of your service business in other geographies. Even if you are, Maps should be but one amongst many of your tools. It is extremely dangerous to put all of your eggs in that basket

A listing is only legitimate in my opinion and not SPAM if it accurately represents what you do & where you do it AND is in compliance with the rules of the service that you wish to use. If its sole purpose is to deceive either the customer or Google or some other local directory then it will likely have a short shelf life.

Google Maps as it is currently configured, executed and managed is designed as a listing of places not as an advertising vehicle. Google has made the decision that, in its current incarnation, any searcher using the system needs to be able to both call and drive to the destination for the service/product that they desire.

Maps is not meant to be a marketing tool in all of the market areas that a service business potentially sells to. Should Google include a service area option? Probably but they don’t (see my post about mapspam and service area from August 2007). As long as you think that Maps should be something that it is not, you will be disappointed and frustrated.

Your attempts to make Maps fit your definition of what it should do will lead to constant battles with Google. They are obviously better funded and more powerful than you. While you may achieve temporary gains by trying to end run Google in the Maps arena that are worth it, long haul it is a fight that you probably will not benefit from. Some fights are just meant to be walked away from. Beating your head against a wall only feels good when you stop unless you have a very unusual constitution.

In the meantime does that mean that you shouldn’t do internet marketing?

Of course not. There are a number of alternatives to Google Maps that will help you grow your business. You have obviously been been in business since 1983 so maybe you are already be using many of these and many other off-line marketing techniques.

Regardless, here is a partial list of on-line opportunities that you may want to explore:

-Organic optimization of your website for Google, Bing & Yahoo for key search phrases in the areas you wish to service
-Obtaining links from other relevant local and national websites that will provide direct traffic to your website.
-Submissions to the many local directories that provide the other 30% of the world’s search traffic including optimization for Yahoo, Bing, Yelp, Merchant Circle etc.
-Pay per click advertising in your target markets on Google
-Pay per click on Bing and possibly Yahoo
-Social marketing via Facebook, Twitter
-Others social media sites and local forums.
-E-mail marketing
-You Tube marketing
-Video marketing on other video sits.
-Craig’s list
-blogging either to a local or national audience

You may also want to think about defining your market more broadly and not so locally. With the incredible power of the internet, effective & quick shipping services and the rarity of your skills, you may find, like I have, that you are no longer limited to marketing to those within driving distances.

Google has indicated that at some point in the future they may provide a Map based search tool that will better represent your service business but it is not the case currently. Thus you need to take a different approach NOW while you wait for Google Maps to catch up with your needs.

Rather than trying to incent some “legendary” SEO of getting you to rank in Maps in violations of Google’s Guidelines, find a “hard working, honest” SEO that will layout and execute a strategy to improve your marketing results via the many opportunities that are available to you. Find one that takes the time to learn about your business and helps you promote it in a sustainable & customer focused way. Be sure to measure results and calculate returns.

Someday, Google is likely to satisfy your local need and when they do, you will be ready to integrate them into your overall marketing mix.


What other advice would you give Zebedi?