From the desk of an IT Rockstar,

I'm sure you'll agree with me when I state that there are so many guides on how to optimize your IT business website for Google maps. 

In this guide, you will learn the steps required to beat any of the other local MSP's in your area and achieve the top mack pack spot on Google.

As a bonus, I'll be revealing some never before heard of tactics you can implement on your existing Google listing today.

Introduction

One of the easiest wins in SEO is optimizing your business listing in the search. 

It's also one of the best ways to obtain a significant amount of traffic. 

Both Goole and Bing offer the ability to submit your business listing to their services.  If you have not already done this you may still have a listing. 

Many businesses are not aware that you can manually submit or claim your businesses listing, it's the first step to optimizing your position in what I call the “map pack”.

Google map pack example:

Just like your website, there are ranking factors involved on-page (the listing) and off-page (citations).  We're going to cover both ranking factors and also include a little-known tip that will guarantee your place in one of the top positions.


Google My Business Listing

The Google Business Listing is really what this whole chapter is about.  Yes, Bing offers a similar service, and yes you should be listing your business with Bing (because it's not Google) too as it will account for some traffic. 

Follow the process prescribed for both.  If you've not claimed your business listing do it now. 

Google Map Listing Example

(Awesome place to go for Sushi if you ever visit Aberdeen!)

Best practices for your business listing should include as much information as possible.  This means entering the following items at a minimum:

Business name (Self Explanatory)

Address  (Your main office address)

Landline telephone number  (not mobile/cell)

Business description (750 character limit) 

Keep the customer in mind when writing the business description, don’t over complicate with technology babble, this will confuse your potential client.  Include in the description some of your main keywords but don’t force them in, only use where it makes sense.  Natural language showing empathy is vital.


Photos

This is your opportunity to include photos for your business description.  I always include the company logo, photos of the team, inside the office and some technology related pictures.  Ideally, these photos should be geocoded with longitude and latitude data appended.    Check the resources page for a geocoding tool: https://www.itrockstars.co.uk/resources

Use file names that are descriptive of the photo.  The more professional these photographs are the better.

Holiday dates (Christmas/New Year Etc)

Services

Here you can include your primary business activities.  This comes down to what you want to be found for in the search.  Focus in on your most profitable services in this area.  There is also an option to include pricing along with the service description.

I’d highly suggest not to include any pricing in business listings or on your website.  Potential customers would love to see this information up front however it’s not the time nor the place to be making this information publicly available.

You have to be speaking with them in person to explain the value of your services - this is an offline process and not something you should be doing on your website.


Categories

If you are being outranked in the map pack by competitors locally, I suggest looking at their categories.  The only issue with this is that you can see only the primary category they're listed for. 

Google my business allows many categories. 

There’s a little-known hack that allows you to see all of your competitor's categories.

Simply go to your competitor’s map view and look up the page source in Chrome.

Ctrl+F their main category – in this example we are looking for “IT Support and services”

HTML Code


Under the primary category in the page source, you’ll see all their other categories.  (Computer Consultant, Telecommunications Services in the image above.)

If you are smart what you’ll do is go one step further than this.   Create a big spreadsheet with 10 large cities and your main keywords.  Look at the primary and secondary category for the highest-ranking map packs in the largest cities.  You’ll be able to spot the trends on what categories to choose for your target keywords.

Citations

Citations are ranking factor in your business listing.  I class this as off page, similar to link building on other websites.  However, where it differs from link building is that the number of citations you have will improve the likelihood your business listing will rank higher in the search.  (For info, a citation is a reference to your business in the form of a NAP.) 


Name, address and phone number.

Building citations is tedious.  However, it’s something that has to be done correctly, don’t outsource this to a 3rd party.  If you misspell a word, change the format of your address or format of your phone number between citations they’ll be inconsistent and can affect ranking.

The 2nd rule is to keep track of login details the URL, email address and password you use when creating accounts for all of the citations.  The main reason for this is if you change address anytime in the future, or spot inconsistencies in your citations, which can easily happen when you're working through the list. 

Then it’s just a case of referring to your account spreadsheet to log in and change where there’s an error or significant update.

That brings us onto the list of citations.  Where can we go and get citations?

There are some public sites where you can be building citations.  These are the top tier citation sources both Google and Bing use to create their database:

  • Acxiom
  • Apple Maps
  • Bing
  • CityGrid
  • Facebook
  • Factual
  • Foursquare
  • Infogroup/ExpressUpdate
  • Localeze
  • Superpages
  • Yahoo!
  • YP
  • Yelp

This list is the top citation sources for Google USA.  Please refer to the resource page for other countries at https://www.itrockstars.co.uk/resources

This list is a good place to start when building citations.  Make sure when entering company description of each of these sources that you change up the text. 

This helps avoid duplicate detection penalties from Google and gives your citations more of a chance of ranking in the search than otherwise would be the case if all the citations were exactly the same.  Just keep in mind the NAP should remain consistent.

The final citation step is finding other sources, this can be an ongoing task as lower tiered directories are always changing.  To find other citations look at where your competitors have citations.  The easiest way to do this is an exact match search in Google using their phone number.

Also, make sure to use variant formats of the phone numbers and go through the top ranking competitors in the map pack. 

This process can be made much easier using a tool called White Spark that will actively monitor your citation sources and your competitor's citation sources.  There’s a small fee for this tool but well worth the investment for a return in the top three places in the map pack.

Pay close attention to industry relevant citations and directories.  For example, Microsoft has the partner pinpoint (partner) directory.  IT Rockstars also have a directory https://www.itrockstars.co.uk/it-company-directory/ again you can find a list of industry relevant directories on the resources page.

Reviews

Another important ranking factor in the map pack is your reviews and rating.  It’s not an area that I used to concentrate on as having a 5-star review does not automatically equate to being in the top position in the map pack.  However, it will increase the CTR (click through rate) to your website if you have positive insightful reviews about your business.  Users are more likely to click through to your website.

The easiest way to get reviews from existing customers is to ask them.

Making this a simple process for your customer is something to take in mind.  This can be done by generating a review link which you can include in an email when asking your customer base:

Review-email-testimonial


There are lots of different options on how you would go about asking your customers to leave a review, and timing is also important.  Account management meetings are a good time to ask in person.  Follow this up with a reminder email if they’ve not yet taken action

JSON Injection & Rich snippets

Rich snippets are structured data mark-up that you can include in your page’s HTML.  This helps search engines understand what your content is.

You’ve already seen this before if you’ve looked for a movie listing, the structured data is pulled direct from a website into the Google search:

Rich snippet example (structured data)


Other examples of rich snippets are the review stars you see in the search.

rich snippet- example 2

There are many types of structured data for reference.  The best place to see all the different types of mark-up available is on Schema.org which is a community that maintains schema structure for the internet.

For the purpose of an MSP/IT Business there are two main mark-ups we’re interested in:

Local Business & Reviews

The local business mark-up tells Google and other search engines our website is a local business.  The mark-up itself includes fields where you can enter your company's NAP.

microdata example for small business

Handy tip – you can get your business’s longitude and latitude from Google maps listing.


The best way to include it on your page is using JSON-LD scripting language.  This will make your page load faster and is easy to use compared to other methods.

The code itself once created for your business can then be injected into your site’s HTML. 

Google offers a structured data testing tool which can help with the task of creating the correct JSON mark-up with no syntax errors. 

To make the task even easier, I’ve included a JSON/Structured data generator on the resources page https://www.itrockstars.co.uk/resources.

Enter your business information in and the JSON script will automatically be created.

Then it’s just a simple case of copying this code and pasting into your website’s HTML in the relevant pages.

Google does take rich snippet spam seriously so to respect this, and to avoid any ranking penalties, I include the JSON code on my homepage and location/contact page.  These seem like the most obvious places that you’d add your location data for the search engines to use.

JSON Injection example


I believe this is one of the elements to having a top ranking website in the map pack. 

There are not many that know about this method and sites I’ve tested with always rank in the top three positions within the map pack. 

Another markup we can include is the review rich snippet. 

The review rich snippet can help drive the click-through ratio of your website in the search as a user will gravitate to the stars within the search.

Using it wisely.  It’s worth noting at this stage that Google’s guidelines state that the code you inject onto a page should also include the information visible on the page for the user. 

This means that if you're using the review rich snippet, you must have the actual review visible to the user.  A dedicated page to customer testimonials on your site would form the basis of generating review rich snippets.


Final thoughts on the map pack.

Similar to searches with local intent “IT support near me” the map pack is going to become even more critical over time.  This is due to devices like Amazon Alexa, Google Home and other “smart” enabled devices.

When searches with local intent are used, the map pack listings is one of the top data sources a relevant answer is going to be structured on.

With the introduction of Google My Business posts, ability to reply to customer reviews it’s important that you keep on top of your business listing.

If you want to take things to the next level, consider hiring an accredited Google Street View photographer.  They will come to your business location and create a virtual tour of your offices/facilities.  This can help users get a feel for your business and can also be fun including Easter eggs in the tour.  You can find your nearest Google accredited street view photographer on this page:

https://www.google.com/streetview/hire/

https://www.google.co.uk/streetview/hire/

Scott Millar

IT Rockstar

If you've made it this far - then I have something important to share with you.

 

There is a much, much easier way to generate qualified leads for your IT business than spending the amount of time it would take to implmenet the steps above.  


You can find out all about it on the front page of this website.