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Google Maps Favors Businesses That Get Clicked On More

December 4, 2015

When consumers are searching for local business information, it makes sense that so long as your business listing information is correct, your business will show on the map when the search includes your physical location and product/service … right?

Not necessarily. Julie Bacchini from Neptune Moon shared an interesting blog post (aptly titled “This is Why People Hate Google”) last week that highlights factors outside of a company's physical address that may influence how and when your business listing will appear in local searches.

She started looking into the issue on behalf of a client who has had trouble getting their business listing to come up in local, relevant searches. In fact, according to Bacchini, the business appears on page two in Google's search results when people search for the name of the town in which the business is located and the primary service they offer.

So what's going on here? Maybe it's a super competitive market for that particular service. Not so, says Bacchini, who has been in contact with the Google Local Support Team over the last three months about this particular client's issue. Other businesses, located farther away from the centre of the town being searched, are appearing in Map results – yet the physically closer business with the same service offering is not appearing.

Weird, right?

Bacchini points to this response received from the Google Local Support Team as evidence that Google Maps are no longer an empirical tool.

"…our search technology might decide that a business that’s farther away from your location is more likely to have what you’re looking for than a business that’s closer."

She wrote,

"According to the Local Support person I spoke with (who was not unsympathetic to my loud questions and general incredulity) get this – the reason my client is not showing up at the top of the map listings for the town they are literally in the center of is because the Google Maps algorithm is deeming other businesses as more relevant because, among other factors, they have been clicked on more. My head nearly exploded when she said that. It would be funny if nonsense like this was not actually putting small or local businesses out of business."

Did you know relevance was being measured by clicks in local search results as displayed on Google Maps? I bet this will come as a surprise to a lot of local marketers.

As Bacchini said, the impact for small businesses may be crippling. How can you get more clicks and therefore demonstrate your relevance to Google if they won't display your listing in the first place?

And is it really a better user experience if an algorithm is attempting to determine where they should shop, based not on factual business listings but popularity, distance be damned?

CTR on Google Maps

Elisa Gabbert wasn’t surprised. “They don’t view the map as an objective tool,” she said, “They view it as an extension of the SERP. The SERP is always algorithm-driven.”

This just reinforces the idea that for Google, click-through rate is everything and is the best measure they now have for relevance. We know they already use expected CTR to help determine your ad position, and they may use it to determine organic rankings for certain queries too – how do you feel about them using CTR to determine whether you show up at all in Google Maps?