(This post was originally published on December 9, 2015, and has been updated to be even more helpful!)
The title of this post is a little misleading. We are going to teach you how to improve your Google Maps ranking, but we’re going to do so through learning how to improve an equally important listing: your Google My Business listing.
Google Search may reign supreme when it comes to finding information, but when it comes to searching for local businesses, Google My Business is really the king. When a user searches for a local business or service on Google, one of the top results is always Google My Business listings. This is a list of local results, accompanied by a map, like this:
These local results are the same results the user would get if they searched directly in Google Maps, and clicking on the map or any of the listings will take the user to Google Maps. So your Google My Business listing impacts both your ranking in local Google searches and in Google Maps searches.
Whether you’re looking for a haircut or a new refrigerator, Google My Business will show you the businesses in your areas that offer those products and services, provide reviews of those businesses, and give you key information for contacting them.
These local listings are very relevant for veterinary practices because when a prospective client searches for veterinarians in their area, they are sure to be shown and look through some Google My Business listings. This makes your Google My Business ranking important. While there are certain things you can’t control, such as how close you are located physically to the pet owner, there are some steps you can take to make sure your Google My Business listing gets some attention.

1. Claim your business on Google My Business

Google wants to help connect clients and local businesses and to make this easier, they’ve created Google My Business. This is how you set your business listing up with Google and enter important information to help clients find you. If you aren’t already, you are strongly encouraged to take advantage of this service. And good news! If your practice had a Google+ business Page, you will automatically have a Google My Business account.
If you’re setting up a Google My Business account, there are a couple of things that you should note to help optimize your business listing, right off the bat.
First, make sure to verify your business. This is a quick and easy step that can help improve your ranking and give you access to other options that will also help you optimize your listing.
Next, when you’re filling in your Google My Business profile, it’s very important that you try to keep your information consistent with other information across the Internet. This includes not changing your business name to include keywords that aren’t actually a part of your name. Doing so could result in being flagged by Google and not showing up at all! So if your practice name is “XYZ Animal Hospital,” stick to that name, rather than entering “XYZ Animal Hospital in Catsville” to hit some keywords.
Additionally, fill in as much information as you can. Google strongly encourages business owners to fill out their profile as fully and completely as possible. Because the Google algorithm is attempting to show viewers the most relevant results, the more detail you give, the greater your chances are of matching in relevance to the person’s search. In addition, by filling in all the details, you make it as easy as possible for readers to learn about your business and determine if you’re the right choice for their pet.

2. Embed a map on your contact page

Embedding a Google map with your business location on your practice contact page is a good way both to show clients where your practice is located, and to help confirm the location of your business to Google.

3. Make sure your NAP is consistent

NAP stands for name, address, and phone number, and good SEO practices dictate that your NAP should be consistent across your website, and also across all your listings on the Internet, from your social accounts to your Google My Business account to Yelp. This is important because Google is very detail-oriented and rewards consistency in listings. When we say consistent, we mean identical. As we stated in our NAP article, if you’re using the word “street” in some listings and the short form “St.” in others, you may be running into trouble with your NAP. So take a couple of minutes to decide exactly how you want your address to read, and check all your listings to ensure that it is the same across your online presence. This is a small task that only takes a couple of minutes to complete and can give your business a local SEO boost.

4. Add photos or videos

Google allows you to add videos and photos to your listing. When a searcher clicks on your listing for more information, they will see these photos along with the details of your practice. This is definitely something worth taking advantage of. While it may not directly impact your ranking, it will impact the impression that searchers have your practice. Make sure to check out how your images appear…I’ve seen a few images that were warped or cropped funnily, so double check to make sure your images are appearing the way you want them to.
Also, ensure that your images are appealing as possible. Pictures of the outside of your clinic likely aren’t as compelling as a photo of your veterinary staff smiling or a pet following treatment. In fact, it might be a good idea to run some possible pictures by friends and family. Get an outsider’s opinion about which photos make your practice look most appealing, because those are the types of people you’re ultimately trying to get through your doors.

5. Collect online reviews

Business owners are often wary of online reviews, and we understand why. Negative reviews can be harmful or damaging to a business. But online reviews aren’t going away any time soon, and they can also be crucial to convincing pet owners and bringing in new business. So, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!
The best way to get some great online reviews is to ask for them! Once you’ve wow-d your clients with your excellent customer service during their visit, send them a client satisfaction survey to gauge their satisfaction. For those clients who respond positively to your survey, send a follow-up email asking them to share their love on Google. The more great reviews you have, the less a few bad ones will matter, and the better it will be for your Google My Business ranking.
You may be looking at some local listings and noticing that having reviews doesn’t necessarily guarantee a top spot on Google My Business. While reviews do help with your ranking, they won’t automatically rocket it to the top. Keep in mind, however, that it’s not just about where you rank, but also what makes you stand out. You’ll notice that businesses with 5 or more reviews have little yellow stars next to their names. When a potential client is scrolling through the list of local veterinary practices, trying to figure out which practice to select, you’d better believe that having those little stars next to your name, especially with a high rating, is going to help you stand out from the competition. SEO is not an exact science, and no one can guarantee you a top spot in the rankings. But you can help your business come up in local searches, both on Google Maps and Google Search, and give yourself a leg up against the competition with these simple tips for improving your Google My Business listing.

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