Google is always aiming to be King. As part of their domination strategy, they have created their own directory of local businesses they have deemed as real. They then display these businesses in their own experience, so searchers feel no need to leave a Google page.

You may have noticed that maps data (called the “local stack”) is taking up some seriously prime real estate on a search results pages. Why is this?

Well, when a searcher has what Google deems ”local intent” (meaning the searcher is either on a phone, or has included a local modifier, such as the word “nearby”, or a city or area name), Google feels the searcher must be looking for a local business. Google assumes that when we search for a local business, we ultimately want directions to that business – hence displaying a map as priority.

When taking this reasoning into account, it does makes sense that Google would make the decision to bypass displaying a website for a business, and instead put a map experience at the forefront.

This information forces any business to ask “How do I ensure my business shows up and ranks ahead of my competition in Google Maps?”

The first step you must take is to claim a Google My Business (GMB) listing for your business. If you have not already done this, stop whatever you’re doing and take the time to do this now. Google will walk you through the process here:

Once you have claimed and updated your GMB listing, Google will reward you with free traffic from nearby searchers.

But did you know that others can change your business listing, without your authorization?

Amazingly, this is true. To Google, accurate business information is the key to success – and they feel that letting listings be updated by the general public will improve accuracy and their user experience. It’s similar to the Wikipedia way of thinking.

But, this can cause a significant problem for business owners. What if someone puts inaccurate or false information into your GMB listing – such as a different phone number, and you start to miss out on potential customers? It can, and does, happen.

So what can you do? The only way to ensure that you are not a victim of predatory practices is to monitor and pay attention to your GMB listing continuously, and if it gets changed, change it back. It’s really all you can do.

There are automated services available that keep your GMB listing updated and accurate at all times. These services communicate directly with the GMB database to keep your business information up to date. Listings Management software simultaneously updates multiple sites and directories all at once.

So now you are in Google Maps, via your GMB listing, and are ready to start beating your competition in search results. But how does Google decide who to show in what order?

The decision for Google is based on what business listing seems to be more accurate and up to date. This is what Google refers to as a “citation”. A citation is a listing on another directory or site that confirms the business information they are looking for. Google crawls data on other sites and compares the exactness of the information to determine a ranking for the business. It is this ranking that regulates which business gets shown in which order Accurate information and backlinks from an extensive network of websites, that are continuously being updated and verified, are the keys to acquiring new customers from local search without paying for Google Ads.

If you want more traffic and new customers from local search, you need to get your business listings strategy sorted out, and that starts with your GMB listing.

Find out what Google sees about your business with the business scan tool from Shoptoit. In less than 5 minutes you will have a much better understanding of what Google sees about your business and what you can do about it.