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:
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:
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:
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.
Use a site: operator search to see how many pages of a site Google has indexed.
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.
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:
And the Maps equivalent:
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.
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.
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).
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?
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.