How to Rank for Your Local Keywords in Google Maps

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Today, I’m going to show you how to rank for your localized keywords in Google maps in 3 easy steps. Aside from the obvious fact that you are ABOVE the SERP results, there are other advantages to ranking well in Google maps. Potential customers can instantly get detailed information about your company, and your contact information is easily accessible for those looking to take action now.

Note: If your business is already listed in Google maps, you can simply login to the local business center or your Google account and go straight to step 2.

Google maps

Step 1—If you’re not already in Google maps, you can accomplish this by creating a new listing at the Google Local Business Center

Step 2—While creating your listing, you’ll have the opportunity to list relevant local keywords you wish to rank for. You may list them in up to five categories. You can choose from preselected categories, or you can manually enter your own categories.

The trick is to simply type in your local keywords so that you can better control the terms you rank under. Once you enter the keywords, you’ll be asked to complete a few more sections (business hours, payments accepted, user photo, etc.)

maps categories

Step 3—Now, all you have to do is verify your new listing. You can do this either by mail or via telephone. Since the snail mail method takes up to 2 weeks, I recommend using phone verification. You’ll receive a call within a few minutes; just enter the code given to you, and your listing will be activated! (note: step 3 is only necessary if you are setting up Google Maps for the first time.)

Once you’ve verified your listing, you’re good to go. Just give Google some time to update. I’ve seen this update take anywhere from a few seconds to several days. Of course, Google doesn’t always show maps for every search. However, I’ve had a 100% success rate for ranking for my keywords whenever Google’s algorithm does choose to show the maps listing at the top. It’s a fast, easy way to get top search engine placement for highly targeted keywords.

Gerald Weber is President and Founder of Search Engine Marketing Group, a leading search engine marketing and web development firm in Houston TX. He also maintains an SEO & Social Media blog.

Gerald Weber

Gerald Weber

Gerald Weber is a professional SEO, social media enthusiast and Internet entrepreneur from Houston Texas. Gerald Founded Search Engine Marketing Group in December 2005. Follow... Read Full Bio
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  • Nice post will RT in twitter

  • There are a bit more Google Maps Optimization tips then just the Category… but I guess you are holding those close to the vest same a me 🙂

    • Thommo

      oh – come on. share! great blog – i didnt know about categories. cheers for the info

  • The article is a bit light… it is like saying just add a optimize page title and your will start to rank. There is a lot of other signals that are not even discussed that go into how Google ranks local listings.

    • It is in fact saying that the truth lays in the categories, and believe it or not, it does lay there. I can only confirm that – the categories are golden !

  • Here’s a great follow up piece that Eric Lander did on SEJ in 2007 :

    Some of it may be a little outdated, but the core of the post, along with Gerald’s, should make for some good Google Local reading 🙂

  • @Jag,

    Thanks for the retweet.

    @bigebiz and @brentnau,

    The main point I am illustrating here is by putting your exact local keywords in the category section instead of just using the pre-existing categories you can easily rank for your specific local keywords.


    Thanks for the follow up artilce. I am going to check that out now. 😉

    • Hi Gerald,

      Quick question for you. If I would like to list more than one office for my company, to get me on both locations, do both location addresses have to be visible on Google Maps, or can I have only the main one showing?


  • Thanks for the post Gerald. It is always good to know helpful info about local listings.

  • @Matt,

    Always happy to help Matt. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. 🙂

  • Tyler

    Thanks for the info Gerald, hope to see future posts from you on SEJ!

  • No problem Tyler. You are very welcome. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • Thank you Gerald.. but I don’t think this is enough to get the first position on rank. What are the others factor we have to check to go up there?


    Great post Gerald, thank so much for ur sharing !

  • Thanks Gerald, i tried using my local keywords and succeeded, let us know if there are any other factors that helps to get ranking

  • @Nicala,

    Please allow me to clarify.

    You are correct this most likely will not get you the absolute first position or A (meaning the very number one position out of all Google maps listings) it will however allow you to become visible above the SERP(search engine results page) listings in Google maps on the first page (Whenever the Google algorithm shows maps on a search) .


    You welcome, always my pleasure.


    Glad to hear that you have succeeded. Well this is a good question if Maps has say 10 listings someone is A,B, C and so on. There are some theories that suggest the distance from your physical address to the post office may play a role in order of listing in Google maps.

  • You can also utilize the space where your business name is entered to target a keyword or two…also the description section is helpful.

  • @Agent SEO,

    Thanks for the insight. 🙂

  • Thanks for this tip. I was wondering how to get listed above SERP. Big help, thanks.

  • @Chuck,

    Always happy to help. Please let me know how it works out for you.

  • That is fine hint with the exact local keywords.

  • That’s correct just use the exact local keywords. 😉

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • Hi, Gerald:

    I’ve read quite abit on Google Maps, and i did not know this about the category thing. Nor have i read it elsewhere. So even simple tips can fall through the cracks.

    I appreciate the GMOT (a/k/a google maps optimization tip) and will change our local small town restaurant listing accordingly.


    P.S. We rank up there on the list, but then again this is a tiny town and not much comp.

  • @Missy (from Woody’s),

    No problem. Glad to share this new GMOT new and informative. GMOT is an acronym I also haven’t heard or used before.

    I like it. Have a great day! 😉

  • It is a great post, but in some genres there are dozens of businesses competing for the same keywords and I have always wondered how some firms get to the top of Google maps for these.

    When I added a clients business a while ago, it is there for the region and keywords but never on the first page of maps, they alwsy have to view more.

    Could you expand if you know the answer.


  • I had started doing this for a friend’s business around mid-2008 and never really thought it might be a little known trick but I guess from the other comments that it is.

    Your article seems to be missing the keyword research part but maybe it’s not necessary on an SEO site.
    I usually check with google keyword tools for the number of searches done monthly for terms related to my client’s business. Ex: “Los Angeles Pest Control”
    And pick the keywords to use that way. So if there are many searches for that example term I would use “pest control” and not their default categories as the category.


    I liked your article but I have to agree with @bigebiz that “There is a lot of other signals that are not even discussed that go into how Google ranks local listings.”

    For instance, I am wondering (and researching) if/how the website of the listed business effects the google maps listing. Does good geo-specific SEO on the business website help the site rank high in google maps? And if it does then perhaps multiple listings with keywords segmented into groups (ex: “los angeles blinds” “los angeles blind repair”) should have as the website a specific page on the site for the item listed (ex: instead of just

    I hope that this is just a warm up to a meater article. Looking forward to that.

    p.s. Also, on the local listing form I seem to remember it says not to use the city name in the category (so instead you would just use “widgets” not “Houston widgets”). Maybe this has changed, I don’t know. If it hasn’t, could using the city name be frowned on by Google? Might be good to clarify this for people so they don’t get accused of spamming Google

  • Great Post!

  • Wow,

    Thanks you sharing.

  • Carol

    Yes, I agree there were some important details omitted here, but a lot were added in these comments. Though I consider whatever I pick up to be useful info.

    Local search has a lot of nuances and I would not encourage the uninformed biz owner to do this on their own. I know Google provides the seemingly easy process, along with a lot of other sites, but it isn’t easy if you want to get at the top of Local results and stay there.

    For detailed info from whom “they” say is the local search King, search “David Mihm” on Google.

    Taiyo, I never heard that the city name should not be used in the category w/o suffering possible Google anger. 🙂

    So many businesses and websites have the city/state name in their true name. Wouldn’t seem fair. But then who says Google must be fair?

  • So I applied the keyword categories to my listings and i am waiting to see what will happen. How long does google take to update their results, for a business thats already been verified. By the way it still shows active.

    • The amount of time varies. I’ve had it update almost immediately before and sometimes it seems to take a day or two.

  • Its been a couple days and so far no update yet. at least I haven’t noticed it as far as rankings go. We’ll see…

    Any other tips on improving the rankings for google maps?

    What about Yahoo locals?


  • @Gerald,
    What are your thoughts on the possibility of google penalising listings that use city-specific keywords?
    I have been testing out the use of city-specific category keywords since reading this article and so far it doesn’t seem like they penalise.

    We were already ranked 1st for the keyword/city so I don’t know if having the city-specific keyword helped, but so far it hasn’t hurt. (the site itself contains city-specific keywords)

    Any thoughts?

  • It looks like there is an answer to whether or not putting “geo-phrases” (i.e. the name of your city) into the categories in Google Local Business Center.

    google local category spamming

    After a bit of research, it was discovered that his Google Local listing included multiple categories and geo phrases in the category fields, causing his listing to be penalized for Category spamming. By simply removing the extra category strings, the listing shot back up into the Google 10 pack and the situation resolved.

    • Thommo

      Not sure about this. I put our city name in to the categories last night after reading this post – and within minutes, they ranked with google maps – where as they were on page 3 prior to this…..

  • I did update mine and only rank on one keyword though. I also did put the city name into the keyword. :(. And by the way the keyword is in the business name too. So its really weird that I am being outranked for that specific keyword.

    Now, I’ve also read somewhere about putting keywords into the “additional details”. I am giving that a try as well.
    Any opinions/experiences?

  • Could it be that the keywords are simply too competitive or that its not in the exact same city as the keyword?

  • @Anita / all

    using geo-specific keywords (i.e the city name) in the categories is spam! And Google is penalising spammers. DO NOT FOLLOW THIS ADVICE

    I don’t mean to be rude but since this misinformation is being used by your readers and it will clearly hurt them, wouldn’t it be wise to address this issue?

    I am sure Search Engine Journal does not endorse spamming

  • I spent several hours making a Google map for my basic Hotel review/tips blog, which relate to hotels in NZ. But because I do not have a business, I cannot legitimately list the map as a business and hence have the map displayed in the serps – alongside the hotel businesses that I review and often send visitors (or likely clients) to those hotels.

    I feel then that my map from my blog should get some sort of business map listing in the business “map pack” on the serps – perhaps the blog deserves to be listed as such – I dunno. But many of my blog visitors arrive via map searches as determined by Google Analytics…

  • Thank you for the excellent report for ranking in Google maps. I have listed several business i own on Google maps but was not aware that the categories could be listed with the keywords I wish to rank for. It appears that Google has a separate algorithm for Google Map businesses and that it probably changes as quickly as all Google ranking information, something we must continually review in order to keep ahead of the Google game.

  • aarav_seo

    You just explain to listing process, Where is the steps to rank well on local seacrh

  • Naina

    categories.that means if i am giving services like medical billing services in staten island then istead of selecting category like medical or health i should add keywords like staten island medical billing services

  • Naina

    categories.that means if i am giving services like medical billing services in staten island then istead of selecting category like medical or health i should add keywords like staten island medical billing services

  • It means SEO strategies can also be applied in getting the Google Map ranking at top place? Do i need to follow the same method as i follow for organic ranking like submissions?

  • Ed Vines

    I hope this works! My company is ranking well for our primary keyword phrase, but nothing on the other keyword phrases.

  • I’m agree with your article. But I have checked this formula for Google map listing optimization with Keywords of the website. This formula does not work properly. It’s not a proper way local keywords with Google Map listing.

    Please suggest any other formula for this task.