4 Ways to Use the Site Operator in Google Maps

Daniel Leibson

SEO Manager – RelevantAds

Dan has been working in the web marketing space for over 4 years and has had a life long love affair with technology. His background is in SEO, web analytics, conversion rate optimization, and social media.

A while ago I read this fantastic article on 25 Killer Combos for Google’s Site: Operator. A small confession: I am a huge Dr. Pete fan. Anyway, after reading that article I spent a couple of days honing my advanced search operator skills even further. I also make members of my team learn advanced search operators, as I find them incredibly valuable. A few days ago I was talking with Dave about potential destination partners and he dropped a bomb on me:

 

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Mind blown!!!!

This opens up many possibilities in terms of understanding what Google views as important when it comes to Maps citations. Not only that, but there is great research potential in terms of finding out actionable insights that you can use in your local search optimization tactics. I am going to walk you through several of my favorites.

Use Case #1 Checking Citations

You know what’s important in local SEO? Citations. While the exact value of certain citations compared to others or how valuable the practice of building citations in the long run is debatable, the fact remains; they are important right now. Well, guess what? You can use the site: operator to look and see which sites are providing citations in Maps. Check it out:

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This is interesting because it allows you to research and verify that certain local destination pages are providing some value to your clients or your business. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Not all locations from a site show up in maps, like in the example below with Yelp:

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The screenshot above seems to show that the previously contentious issue of Google scraping Yelp reviews has been resolved in a much more extensive way than Google Places no longer showing 3rd party reviews.

Use Case #2 Checking Citation Volume

As I mentioned previously, the value of citations in general is something that is getting talked about a lot around our office lately. One quick way to determine the value of getting your business information into a site/directory is to see the percentage of indexed pages that also show up in Google Maps. This is a simple two-step process.

Step 1:

Use a site: operator search to see how many pages of a site Google has indexed.

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Step 2:

Use a site: operator search to see how many pages of a site Google has indexed in Maps. It’s important to note that the number that Maps gives you is dependent on your view, so if you want to see total volume make sure you zoom out as far as possible.

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To be clear, you have to use this tactic with a little bit of skepticism, as not all pages in a website are local based. To that end it is possible to examine sites information architecture and determine what is present across all local listing pages and add that to your search as a regular search modifier. However, since a site that is built to contain business information will primarily contain business information you can also normalize your results by adjusting the total number of indexed pages down a few percent. Also, if you are working with a specific vertical, you can use regular search modifiers like movies and cinema in order to determine how many pages for a specific vertical are indexed in both Google’s regular index as well as their Maps index. For example:

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And the Maps equivalent:

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This allows you to target local destinations that provide better results, at least in terms of boosting PlacesRank, for your business or clients.

Use Case #3 Comparative Analysis of Maps Citations

Now that you know what locations are showing up in Maps for a specific site, you can do some simple analysis to figure out what content from the site Google is pulling in and/or placing more value in. For example, we recently did an analysis of Superpages.com to see what pieces of content were pulled into maps.

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If you go to the listing for that specific location on superpages.com you can see that the business description is indexed by Google into the Maps data set.

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Use Case #4 Competitor Analysis

This is just a combination of citation volume and comparative analysis; however, it lets you specifically target pieces of content to optimize on 3rd party destinations. You can also combine the site: operator with additional search terms. This allows you the ability to look at a specific destination site for a competitor and then compare their level of saturation in terms of Maps citations to yours.  For instance, say you are Fatburger and you checked how saturated citysearch.com is with your locations (at least in terms of Maps citations).

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With only one page worth of Maps citations the answer is not particularly good. However, what about your competitors? Are they able to gain traction where you are not?

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The answer to this one is just as simple: yes. With 909 Maps citations you know that it is possible to step up your attempts at optimizing the specific location listings on CitySearch.

I’m sure there are more ways to nest the site: operator with both phrase match and exact match search terms, these are just the ways we are using it internally for research. Are there any other ways that you use search on maps.google.com that you find really helpful? I have a current research project where I am trying to ascertain the correlation between the various pieces of content that Google scrapes/indexes and a Maps citation, so stay tuned. I would love to talk to anyone that is interested or has additional insights.

Snippets — How to look good in search?

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When a search is performed on Google, or any other engine for that matter, a number of results show up listed. Yet, not all of them are relevant to the user. Though Google is working hard to make search more relevant and better contextualized, that is still some way in the future. As for now, you have to take matters into your own hands. The search engine will display the results based on SEO, but you can improve your chances of your website being clicked on through advanced rel=canonical practices.

More specifically, you can use rich snippets to make your result stand out in the midst of hundreds of other results. So, what is a rich snippet? You would have seen the text that appears below a search engine listing. Sometimes, some additional text is placed below the result to enhance its relevance to the user. After all, providing more information about a specific link helps the user decide whether or not he/she wants to click on it. Using rich snippets is one way to convince the users to click on your links.

The term rel=canonical can be quite off putting in terms of being too technical for the average marketer to understand. But appearances can be deceptive; that is exactly the case here. You don’t need to be a PHP or HTML expert to apply the advanced rel=canonical practices. You only have to know the different types of rich snippets which you can use and how they are implemented in order to increase the traffic to your website and improve conversion.

There are over 10 types of snippets you can add to the search engine results that show up when a person searches for any of the keywords you have optimized your website for. The ability to modify the rich snippet enables you to influence the users in a certain way to click on your website. No wonder marketers have begun using them as a means to improve the results they are achieving. Without further ado, let’s look at the different types of rich snippets.

Author Snippets

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Author snippets may not be the most common of snippets being used today but they are gaining popularity. For using an author snippet, you have to sign up for Google+ which allows you to use Authorship. Once you have signed up, you can add your name, picture and even the number of followers to your snippets. Moreover, you can also provide links to the content posted elsewhere on the web. Author                                                                            snippets are a great option for bloggers and article writers.

Business Snippets

As the name suggests, business snippets are rich snippets that provide information about a certain business. You can add as much information about your business to your rich snippet as you want, but you need to keep it relevant. The most valuable information you can provide is the location, address, contact information, hours, prices and reviews.

Event Snippets

Event snippets are not specific to any type of users but are most commonly used by businesses. They can not only provide information related to the event but also create a buzz for it. This requires them to specify the date and time along with the location at which the event is to be held. Unlike other rich snippets, event snippets display up to three listings below the search result.

Music Album Snippets

Music album snippets are commonly used by music streaming websites. They have the entire track listing of the album as part of the search engine result and users are directed to the website if they click on any of the tracks or the main search result. This enables users to select any specific song they want to listen to. These snippets are often used by websites that display song lyrics as well.

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People Snippets

The individual’s equivalent of a business snippet, people snippets are a way for people to show their credentials and current occupation should anyone search for their name in Google. This is more likely a means to attract interest from businesses and companies. More often than not, a people snippet is used for a LinkedIn search listing for an individual.

Product Snippets

The name itself is quite self-explanatory. Businesses use the product rich snippets to provide useful information about their products which may convince the users to buy them. This can include the picture of the product along with customer reviews and the price range in which the product is currently available. Sometimes, businesses also provide a link to the landing page from which the product can be purchased.

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Recipe Snippets

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This type of rich snippet is for foodies. People searching for recipes online can find other valuable tips and information on how to make that particular dish perfectly. There is a specification by Google that a recipe snippet needs to have at least a picture of the dish, reviews, and also the number of calories it contains. Having any two of these can get you a recipe snippet.

Review Snippets

The number of review snippets in search engine results is on the rise. More and more websites are displaying the Yellow Stars that show the overall rating given to any product or item by users. However, you can choose to exclude the stars and just have the review instead.

Video Snippets

This again is one of the most commonly used rich snippets today. If you search for any trending video, the YouTube results for it will have a thumbnail of the video along with the listing. Video snippets also allow you to add a Facebook, Twitter and YouTube share option which users can click directly from the search results page rather than having to visit the website on which the video is posted.

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These are the different types of rich snippets you can add to your search engines results in order to increase your chances of getting more clicks. There are a couple of others but they are not as popularly used. All in all, they allow you to make the most of advanced rel=canonical practices without actually being advanced!

Image7SEMPORoman Viliavin, vice CEO at Promodo SEM Company.

Unconventional Thinker and candidate master of chess. Roman has been working in the field of search engine optimization since 2005 and is the moving spirit of the company. Participant and speaker of all major events in SEO business. Roman has successfully completed dozens of projects and gladly shares his experience with SEO community via articles and various online and offline publications. Follow Roman on Twitter and Facebook.