Google My Business SEO

Hyper Competitive Ranking in the Google Maps 3 Pack

Initially, this was going to be a higher level post that outlined a few product level things that we did to gain three pack rankings in an incredibly competitive SERP. Just now, as I began to type, I decided that you guys probably wanted some more substance, some more meat, and potatoes, if you will. I do not blog as often as I should, but when I do I like the content to be well received. Thus, I decided to really pull the curtain back and shed light on the finer details.

I do not want to get into ultra specific detail about some of the more preliminary tasks you need to complete to get your campaign started. Do not take this as meaning these things are unimportant, but there is already a bunch of great content pertaining to things like choosing your GMB categories and determining if your listing is being filtered. I am also going to assume you took the liberty to at least peruse some of Hayden’s GMB content on the site. If not check out his GMB Ranking Guide.

Highlights and Summary of the Local SEO Case Study

Niche: Personal Injury

Search Volume for Main Term: 3600/mo

Competition Level: High

CPC: $116

Achievement: GMB Ranking in Less than 6 Months

On-Page Optimization and Link Building Plan

I want to cover these two foundational and extremely important pieces of the puzzle straight away. First, is going to be the on-page of the connected website. A lot of people optimize the GMB itself but do not work on the page the GMB is connected to. That is fundamentally flawed.

we offer local maps ranking services


We put together a magnificent on page optimization guide on the this website’s blog that you can check out for a super deep dive, but in this post, I want to simply cover some of the main points that people forget about when optimizing their page.

This is the actual list we made a note of in the initial company workbook that houses all of the preliminary strategy and information for the campaign.

Local On Page Optimization
Cora SEO Page Tuning:
Page Title:
Meta Description:
H2/H3 GMB Categories:
Picture Alt Text:
YouTube Video Embed (only if video is supplied)
My Map Embed:
Address Section:
Hours and Local Phone Number:
City, County, Region:
Written Driving Directions:
Local Outbound Links:
Authority Directories
Inner Linking:
Google+ Badge:
JSON LD Schema:

This is all pretty straightforward so I did not want to convolute the list with unnecessary notes that a lot of you won’t need. If you do need some clarification on this table you can comment on this post or just send a message to Hayden on our contact page.

we offer local maps ranking services


The second piece of this puzzle is setting up the linking strategy to get the most bang for your buck vis a vis GMB rankings. This is not your grandpappy’s link building. Check out the link scheme we laid out for this specific campaign.


You can see when we are linking to Yelp, Google sites, GMB posts, etc. to give you an idea of how we are using links to both directly link to our GMB and its many components and situations where we are creating a semantic web of association using links to show a relation between a series of branded and high authority properties.

Using this type of initial worksheet you can start the actual link building when you are ready. This is not rocket science and should not be treated as so. Do not overthink some of this stuff. Your sheet does not have to look the same as mine as long as you understand the underlying mechanics of what pushes rankings. Links and great on-page.

We are building links to different properties associated with our brand and we are working hard to not over optimize anything.


Optimizing your GMB

Once you have your categories picked out for your business it’s time to get your hands dirty and start optimizing the GMB profile itself. A lot of the work can be a bit tedious so I will try not to make this section boring but I do feel as though I would be doing you guys a disservice by completely skipping over this stuff as it was a part of this campaigns early optimization.

we offer local maps ranking services


We always like to double check that the listing information is 100% correct. This includes checking the name to ensure accuracy with the commonly referred business name, checking the address for accuracy, checking the phone number, making sure that the website is the listed homepage or location page, checking hours, adding an appointment URL if available, and adding services if available.

we offer local maps ranking services


Throwing a description together for the GMB is the first step. This is an opportune time to really express the principles of the company and slide in some “top of silo” keywords but not in a spammy way. You want to write this well. We make this around 750 characters.

we offer local maps ranking services


We spent about twenty minutes going through the client’s photos and optimizing them. If your GMB does not have any photos then pull some original photos off of their site and upload them. We like to have a nicely built out photo gallery on the GMB. We name the photo files variations of the targeted keywords and like to optimize the photo properties, including subject, tags, and comments. And for photo author, we use the location page URL of the website.

we offer local maps ranking services


I love Google posts. We are seeing a lot of short-term movement just from posting an optimized post with intelligent keyword utilization. Having said that, it should be of no surprise that we included eight of them into this campaign. When our GMB management software is finished I plan on scheduling out more frequent posts.

we offer local maps ranking services


Last but certainly not least we create a GMB website for the campaign. Every time Google gives us new tools to work with we are going to test how they can be implemented into our campaigns. We started using the GMB websites straight away and they have been a part of them ever since.

In the title, we are using the main keyword but we are prefacing it with a very niche relevant but long-term query that is common in the personal injury space. We, of course, take this opportunity to link to our client site but we are also creating an unstructured citation by inserting the NAP.

We finish the website by hyperlinking to some of the brand social profiles and we log the link to the GMB website in our worksheet for future tiered link building if we decide to go that route.

This concludes the work we did on the actual GMB for this specific campaign. It is time to take the information from earlier and build some links.

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Creating a Citation Building Blueprint

Citations and directory listings are foundational brand mentions that help establish entity recognition with Google. The more quality brand mentions that we can procure for a campaign the better the brand’s online prominence becomes, and online prominence is a key ranking factor for the local SERPs.

we offer local maps ranking services


The second thing I always like to do when starting a campaign is a quick citation analysis where I reverse engineer potential link and citation opportunities from my client’s competition.

We compiled a list of over 260 link opportunities from this activity and consolidated all of them into a sheet to be added to the citation building schedule. 

It is important to note the strategy behind getting your citations indexed, determining if a platform will even make for a quality citation, and even some beginner stuff like unstructured citations and creating a citation building plan. 

With that knowledge and the preliminary work done, we want to compile a list of the existing citations for the client as well as a workbook that lays out which citations we are going to build over the length of the campaign.

we offer local maps ranking services


You will notice a trend in this post as I post screenshots of our workbooks for this campaign. Almost all of the spreadsheets you see will begin with a sheet that outlines the company information, links to photos and logos, and other pertinent information to help the implementation teams focus on rapidly deploying properties while we focus on setups and quality control.

Below, I want to actually go through the specific citations built so you guys can get a deeper look at the campaign we ran.

The most important part of the essential citations is ensuring they get indexed by Google. We create a bunch of content so that each citation has a decent chunk of uniqueness. For higher competition queries we do 100% unique content and in many cases build a few tiers of links to the live accounts to try and influence the indexing rate.

we offer local maps ranking services


GPS listings/citations are overlooked by way too many SEOs. They not only provide a citation for our backlinking efforts but they also serve as a resource for a lot of other technology that uses GPS companies to aggregate data.

That is something to consider when building any citation. As technology advances, engineers do not want to develop new search engines and databases of businesses because so many already exist. Why develop a new Yelp, YP, etc. when it has already been done? Instead, they will stand on the shoulders of giants and integrate with a platform and have their technology serve as a utility to parse, serve, or locate that data better or in a more unique way than the original platform. Think voice search, AI, behavioral results, etc.

Having your business listed as many places as possible is a way to hedge your bets that when the next voice search technology uses Yelps search results that you are there and optimized to be delivered.

we offer local maps ranking services


I will break up that rant with a snapshot of a small group of supporting citations we built for month two of the campaign, and as we progress there will be more of these lists being built.

To wrap up this section, we are going to uncover a ton of niche and geo-specific citation opportunities from the competitor analysis done as soon as we started the campaign. We have base lists of high value and supporting citations that we mix in. With just these lists and the competitive analysis, we should have enough citations to keep our team busy for the life of the campaign.


Building, Optimizing, and Boosting Social Foundations

we offer local maps ranking services

This might seem extremely elementary, but make sure your social accounts are in place and optimized. It is easy to skip stuff like this because we are always looking for the tactics that give us the biggest noticeable gain in rankings.

First and foremost we are going to build and/or optimize the major accounts that are associated with our client’s brand. The larger platforms that form a “real entity” perspective should exist. We then want to take this a step further and build a second string of profiles that provide additional pillowing links and unstructured citations for your brand.

As you can see from this report workbook it’s the same general idea. While this post is specific to ranking a GMB, the processes between organic rankings and GMB are symbiotic in nature. We want to have our foundational SEO complete and that includes pillowing links like these. People that neglect this type of branded link building (which also serves as entity recognition for the semantic web) and only rely on one or two link types are setting up a large footprint for their site in the long term. Just my opinion.

we offer local maps ranking services


Once that is done I like to make a sheet with all of the live links from these efforts and determine which URLs I will amplify with a second tier of links. 

SPOILER ALERT: Most of the time I choose websites like WordPress and Blogspot. I also always include a Google Site. They are so powerful and can be used not only as a link source but as a high-quality parasite in the serps as well.

I like to use plenty of keyword variations to not over optimize for exact match terms, but at the same time I do want to influence what Google thinks this URL is about that contains my client’s website links, GMB links, and embeds, etc. There is not a magic number we look for when doing our campaigns. You can point 5,10,20,100, etc. Just try and be somewhat responsible with your link building velocities. For this specific campaign, we pointed 20 links back to our wrappers for some of that tiered linking goodness.


Maps Citations

we offer local maps ranking services

I like to build citations directly for the GMB listing as well, not just for the website. We are using Google maps to create unstructured citations to the actual GMB instead of to the site.

As you can see its a simple placement linking to the actual GMB itself. We have a snippet of content and very basic images. The idea is not to create a tier one link with a large amount of time invested in building it. We build between 150-200 of these “maps citations” and collect the data in a spreadsheet.

For this specific campaign, we ended up building 172 live maps citations. I now have the ability to build additional tiers behind these citations and push additional links and authority through to the GMB listing if I wish to do so.


Geo-Relevant Networks of POWER!

we offer local maps ranking services

The next strategy I want to talk about is one of my favorites. A few years ago I talked about doing a better job of localizing links that you build for local campaigns. This was a simple idea back then, simply adding some local themed content to website with the NAP of the client site somewhere on the page.

These days the concept has evolved into something a lot more sophisticated and even more powerful. We are now building complete Geo-Networks out for our local campaigns and the results have been awesome.

For this specific campaign, we created a faux legal association in the area that our client site is in. We set up a workbook to keep track of the details we made for the association and then we started creating accounts under the fictitious brand name that we just invented.

Notice the anchor texts we are using are super long tail. We do not want to over optimize but having the keyword or a variation of the keyword in the anchor is enough for us. We really want to push the niche and geo-relevance without repeating a single anchor text too often.

Here is a list of the sites we build profiles on for our faux entity that we made. We are not building the main social accounts and what not, but you could. You can definitely build a Facebook page, Linkedin account, etc. but our goal was just rapid link building on the local level. The idea of local media is a hot topic for local link building though, so keep that in mind when designing your campaigns.

We also wanted to embed some driving directions into these posts to boost our campaign even more.

Driving directions are a simple way to procure an unstructured citation, which of course comes with a link to the Google maps places listing, and another item to boost the geo-relevance for your GMB campaign.

A lot of people also do not take into consideration the proximity factor when performing their optimization. Google wants to serve results based on the actual location of the user performing the search. No more of this “center of the city” being the best guidelines, necessarily.

We are getting into the world of local SEO theory at this point but I wanted to test the potential to manipulate the proximity factor by adding driving directions and other items that connect places from around an area to my client’s site and GMB. While we lack empirical data I do believe we are onto something.

Just to recap what the process looks like for the geo-network:

  1. Create a  local faux association or brand
  2. Create a bunch of social accounts and websites that represent that fictitious brand
  3. Add local specific content to continue with the local theme
  4. Add some links and driving directions that link to your site and GMB
  5. Boost tiers as you desire

Okay, now that we wrapped that up, let’s continue on.


More Maps Stuff, My Maps Stuff

we offer local maps ranking services

I saved this one for further down because a lot of people use these and it is by no means a “new” strategy to use for organic or GMB rankings. Without further ado, we want to build out an authoritative-looking My Map and optimize the heck out of it.

Creating a well-optimized My Map is a fairly simple process. I like to ensure they have a decent chunk of content, at least 500 words, and make sure to add in your LSI keywords, and in this case the different areas of law they practice.

Once the content is done we are of course going to add our NAP. That is one thing I stress a lot for local link building, always take every opportunity that you can to create an unstructured citation. The more we do that the more it shows Google that a real entity exists at that address.

Our team adds 5-10 driving directions from around the city to our client’s address, again, for the proximity effect, it might have on rankings when people search from various parts of the city.

Once done with the MyMap we start embedding it in a bunch of websites. We then also add those embeds into a reporting spreadsheet as well and link build to those for a third tier. If we are going to spend the time to add a second tier I more times than not will add a third just to increase indexation rather than just to push more link juice, although that doesn’t hurt.


Brand Pillowing Links

we offer local maps ranking services

I used to use these a lot more in campaigns but I have dialed back their use a bit and concentrated on powering up the ones I do build and making sure they are indexed. Here are the ones we built for this campaign.

We are sending links to different properties and URLs. There are multiple Maps and GMB Posts that we are pushing some juice to as well as the GMB website that we created earlier.

Again, like all of the local link building we are doing, I want to add as many local elements as possible to each of these platforms as possible when building backlinks on them. NAP, embeds, etc. We also want to make sure the page is built out with unique content (we do 500 words for each page) logo, images, videos, etc.

Once this is done we compile all of the URLs into a sheet so we can run them through indexing and keep for tiered link building as well. We then built around 1100 links broken into three tiers and to power up our brand links.


Press Releases

we offer local maps ranking services

There has been so much chatter about these recently in the groups that I am a part of. Then again, there has always been a lot of talk about PRs, for the past handful of years. People always want to know “if they work”. The short answer, in the local SERPs, they can still do a lot of damage.

You can use a press release as a standalone strategy to rank low and mid comp GMBs at the moment. Is it going to work every time? Nah. Should you be using press releases as a standalone SEO strategy? No, probably not.

Having said that, we have some really great content about linking from and structuring your press release for maximum benefit. Stuff like positioning your keyword in the title with the brand to build co-occurrence, embedding maps, etc. 

We did indeed run a press release in the infancy of this campaign and linked out to the client site and embedded a map.


The End of our Odyssey, the Beginning of your GMB Epic

we offer local maps ranking services

Thanks for taking the time to read through this post. I apologize about the blurring and pixelation but the anonymity of our clients is essential to us. I am not going to recap because this was a monster case study, but I really wanted to peel back the curtains and show you guys what a successful campaign looks like here at LionHead Digital.

A few parting words…

Do not overcomplicate this stuff. It is not rocket science. Do not stress every single detail of this post and think that without it you will not rank. I implore you to incorporate as much of this as possible for optimum success but do not think if you build your anchor text differently or skip some of this stuff that you are doomed to never rank. It just is not going to work like that.

Create holistic campaigns. One of the biggest mistakes I see is people doing one thing at a time and hoping that it is the golden ticket to their rankings. SEO in general just does not work like that anymore. Do your on-page, optimize your GMB, and then hit the ground running instead of heading for the hills. Create a consistent schedule for implementation and create benchmarks in periods of 60-90+ days.

You can still get quick wins, but productize and scale your process instead of doing one link or one tactic at a time.