How the Google Maps Algorithm Works

How the Google Maps Algorithm Works


Through our testing and experiments in building Report Pro we have found that Google doesn’t use one algorithm to decide which business to rank in Google Maps but actually uses two. Which algorithms are used is triggered by keywords in the search query. The first algorithm we identified we’re calling the “prominence” algorithm. In the prominence algorithm Google is looking at four main factors to determine ranking.

Those factors are:

  • Content on the Google+ Listing
  • Content on the website tied to the Google+ Listing
  • Number and quality of citations
  • Geo location of the search request in reference to the geo location of the listing


Most of these ranking factors we’re all pretty familiar with those I’m not going to go into to much detail here.


Content on the Google+ Listing: All fields on the Google+ Listing need to be filled out as accurately as possible and the listing needs to be verified.  It’s important to also have as many relevant categories as possible excluding any that might be a stretch for your business.


Content on the website tied to the Google+ Listing: We have found that the Google Maps algorithm will pull a lot of information from the website tied to the Google+ Location. More specifically what Google is doing is reviewing the website for keywords and categories that you listed in the Google+ Listing in reference to the keywords used in the search query. What that means is if you’re a pizza restaurant you should have some content about “pizza” on your website.


Number and quality of citations: After hitting your top 50 citations providers, typically a location will need 250 citations to start ranking in a larger city. The bigger the city and the more competing businesses there are in the niche the more citations will need to be built.


Geo location of the search in reference to the geo of the listing: When Google is showing a location on Google maps one of the factors it takes into consideration is where the search is being done. It does this from an exact latitude and longitude perspective and not a which city are you in perspective. With that said all other elements being equal most locations will only show up if a search is being done within 10-15 miles of the business’ geolocation at most. For branded keywords like the businesses name this radius can go as far as 50 miles.


Near By Algorithm


The second algorithm Google Maps uses we’re calling the near by algorithm. Google will only use this algorithm when a keyword is entered with one of the following phrases or some variation of these.

  • Near me
  • Near by
  • Close by
  • Around me


The near by algorithm is going to use almost all of the same ranking factors as the prominence algorithm but weighs significantly higher the distance from the physical location of the search query. In essence the businesses that are closer to you when you’re doing your search are 10 times (I made up that number) more likely to pop up when doing this search.

Below are two screen shots where we can see the difference in the search results between a near by and prominence search.




Near By:


Notice that both search were done from the same location (the blue icon on the map) however the search results are different. The only difference is the added keyword “near by”.


These two algorithms are one of the factors that make reporting on Local SEO and having the question “where am I ranking” very difficult to answer. Now that you have this little bit of ammo in your tool kit however hopefully you will be able to go into those conversations a little stronger.


Written by: Ryan Knoll

Head of Marketing for Report Pro

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