Google Maps Favors Businesses That Get Clicked On More


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?

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Julie Friedman Bacchini
May 12, 2014

Miranda:I guess my post resonated with you - thanks for sharing and adding to this important conversation! I still can't quite believe it is true, but when you read that Google Maps answer text, you see that it is. This is definitely a topic that I will be following closely. I will write follow up posts on the topic as needed.

Miranda Miller
May 12, 2014

It did, Julie. Thanks for sharing your client's story and your experience with the team at Google. I agree, it doesn't make sense and is sure to have a detrimental effect on smaller businesses :s Will be keeping an eye out for your next posts!

Melissa Mackey
May 12, 2014

I maintain, as Julie did in her post, that using algorithms for the SERPs makes sense; using them for a map does not. Can you imagine getting into your car and turning on your GPS, only to have it send you to a location further from where you are because "more people go there?" It's crazy and nonsensical. Next, they'll be changing the dictionary and showing "most popular" words at the beginning. #smh

Elisa Gabbert
May 12, 2014

If you know the name or the address of the place you are looking for, you can find it in Google Maps, but if you search for something broad/vague like "pizza" (you know Google loves pizza) they then look at it as an organic search, and serve up results based on what pizza places they deem most relevant. I'm not saying it's awesome or fair, I just think that's how they look at it -- it's vertical search, no different from image search or video search except that your search is layered in with location info.

Miranda Miller
May 12, 2014

Totally agree, and it's probably a good thing it's been little known until now. It's way too easy to game for clicks on a map listing to be a reliable signal.

Terry Van Horne
May 12, 2014

Actually I disagree with the notion that using click data in ranking anywhere is not only good but is the only true insight into users wants and needs. Since Universal search came on the scene click data has played a big role in SERPs. On maps it still is because maybe no one is clicking their listing because it is a bad neighborhood, parking is terrible etc. it also means that they might be able to fix it with better descriptions on their pages.

May 13, 2014

Reviews have made a huge difference! After every service our clients receive we attempt to get a review.

May 22, 2014

had this myself with a client site not showing up on their own postcode and businesses 10miles away showing instead. even the google reps denied it was happening after showing them the results. always putting it down to the mystical 'algorithm' took lots of effort and calls to get it nearly resolved
hopefully all this work will pay off and the client will be back where they were. At the end of the day google is a business not simply a search engine and as they are bigger than you they can and will hold a gun to your head for money 'Adwords' - it's a total shame for small businesses struggling in these times.

May 22, 2014

NIce posting i got to posting very easily mapping my address on map thank you very much..

Jul 21, 2014

I was able to supplant the top two businesses in my local results, that had way more clicks than I as a new business had, so I can't see how that could be 100% true.  Their businesses had way more clicks as they were in business long before me.  I find reviews hold a lot of weight with local results.  I don't think that click data should determine whether you show up on maps, but rather where you are located in the results.  Honestly local results should be another entity from searches.  they should display a brief segment of local, that is expandable into a full comprehensive search of local business for that keyword and location ranked by reviews, clicks, and consistency.

Nov 10, 2014

This is totally true and really doesn't make sense. I recently relocated my pet sitting and dog walking business. If you search "pet sitter, my new town" I come up on the first page of search results, but not on the maps. There are other businesses besides pet sitters listed in the map results, one of which is a house-cleaning service.If you search "pet sitter, my old town" I come up first in the map results. I get the pane on the side of the screen with my blog posts, service area, phone number. Everything showing my new location and phone number in the new town.I called Google today, and they said they were working on it, in broken English, from a man I at first thought did not even understand what I was saying."Working on it" got me removed from the old town map results totally, but I do not come up in the new town results. He told me it takes time and people have to click on your business, and I should post more pictures and updates on my site so I can get ranked higher.As you said, how can I get more people clicking on my site if it's not listed in the map results? Other businesses are surely getting some of what should be MY business, because people don't even know I'm here. 

Nov 27, 2014

Are you referring to clicks on the actual Google Places listing, or clicks on the website which is linked to the listing? Or both?So how exactly should one go about getting more clicks?? Ask all you friends to click? If Google is looking at CTR, it's probably tracking click velocity (how consistently peopleare clicking), and all sorts of other things too, I imagine!Fnally, are backlinks to Google Business Pages also important?Many thanksSunil

Feb 12, 2015

I've been driving myself crazy trying to figure this out with absolutely NO help from Google. I asked the same thing about the service they are providing. We are the one of the top 2 business' in our industry, and we cannot get listed on the google map listing. How are they providing a service when we don't even show up? They didn't care.

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