In the last decade, there has been one question that I constantly see time and time again on online forums. In this thread, the user wants tips or tricks to increase the chance of getting a place label. In this thread, the user wants to know why his business doesn’t show an icon on Google Maps, regardless of how far you zoom in. In this thread, the user wants to know why their business is not visible on Google Maps unless you click on the location. All these examples are asking the same thing: How do you get a place label on Google Maps? Why do some businesses have them, and others do not?
According to Google, “Place labels are a feature of Google Maps that surfaces great content such as landmarks, businesses, and tourist attractions on our base map data […] The place labels shown on Google Maps are determined algorithmically based on a large number of factors”. Google only populates place labels for some businesses because, stylistically, there simply isn’t room for them all. As you zoom in on Google Maps, different labels will start to appear that weren’t there originally.
- According to our study, more listings (percentage-wise) that had labels also had websites on them. Having a website is important if you want a place label on Google Maps. (Click to Tweet)
- The listings that had place labels with no zooming had an average of 6,455 reviews whereas the average number of reviews for listings without place labels was 21. (Click to Tweet)
- Older listings are more likely to have place labels. According to our study, the listings in Toronto that had the most prominent place labels (without having to zoom in) were around 7 years old whereas the listings that didn’t get labels were 3 years old, on average. (Click to Tweet)
- If you have an editorial summary, there is a pretty good chance you’ll also get a place label, especially if you’re not part of a chain. (Click to Tweet)
- The “located in” feature likely has no influence on getting a place label but it still would be a good idea to add it to the listing just in case. (Click to Tweet)
- Although we didn’t see a correlation between verifying your listing and getting a place label, it’s clearly a good idea to verify your business listing for a variety of other reasons. (Click to Tweet)
- User engagement is likely a large factor for determining which businesses get a place label. (Click to Tweet)
- Listings that had popular times graphs on them (ie: businesses that get a lot of physical store visits) were a lot more likely to have a place label. (Click to Tweet)
- It’s very important to remember that Google uses lots of different factors to determine who gets a place label so just because you have one of the factors doesn’t mean you’ll get one. (Click to Tweet)
- In Toronto, only 5% of businesses that we looked at had an active Google post. (Click to Tweet)
- The primary business category on your Google My Business listing is likely a large factor for determining if you qualify for a place label. There were no education, emergency service, entertainment, or hotel listings in our data set without place labels. Professional services (lawyers, dentists etc) are the least likely to have them. (Click to Tweet)
- Search volume for a business location is like a large factor for determining which businesses get a place label. In Toronto, the businesses that had place labels in the 0-3 zoom levels had an average of 8,659 searches a month. For the businesses that didn’t get a place label, the average was 565. (Click to Tweet)
I presented the data from this study at our last LocalU event.
During this study, we looked at 12 different factors on 395 businesses in 3 different cities. We purposely chose cities that had varying populations to see how this differed for businesses that had tons of competition.
The factors we looked at were:
- The existence of a website
- The number of Google reviews
- The age of the listing
- Having an editorial summary
- Having “Located In” on the GMB listing
- Listing is verified
- Listing has questions posted
- Listing has popular times present
- Listing has plan your visit feature present
- Listing has an active Google post
- The primary category on the business listing
- The search volume for the specific business location
The cities we used were:
- Toronto: Population of 2.93 million. We looked at place labels for a building that was a giant skyscraper. We wanted to see how Google decided which businesses got place labels when they had so many different ones to choose from.
- Aurora, ON: Population of 55,445. This is a suburb of Toronto that has a lot of up-and-coming businesses and is growing rapidly.
- Keswick, ON: Population of 26,757. This is a small town (which I refer to as “hickville”).
We conducted the study by searching for the city in Google Maps in an incognito browser to remove any personalization. Then we clicked on the plus icon on the map to zoom in one level. Every time we zoomed in, we made a note of what businesses appeared on the map. We also made a list of all the businesses that existed at the address which had no place label regardless of the zoom level.
We had a ton of help from Dan Leibson and Mark Kabana when compiling and analyzing the data. Keep in mind that although this study shows a lot of correlation, we understand that correlation is not causation. Additionally, our conclusions should be seen as opinions, not concrete facts.
Factor 1: The Existence of a Website
Does having a website on your listing correlate with having a place label?
According to our study, more listings (percentage-wise) that had labels also had websites on them. Additionally, a good amount of listings without place labels were missing websites. Based on this section we would conclude that having a website is important if you want a place label on Google Maps.
|With Place Label
|No Place Label
Factor 2: The Number of Google Reviews
Does having more reviews on your listing correlate with getting a place label? For this section, we measured the average number of reviews the businesses had that showed up at the top level (left) vs when we zoomed in (right).
We looked at the data from the large city (Toronto) since the volume of reviews was so much higher. The listings that had place labels with no zooming had an average of 6,455 reviews whereas the average number of reviews for listings without place labels was 21.
Factor 3: The Age of the Google Maps Listing
We wanted to see if older listings were more likely to have place labels. Since there is no way to see the date a listing was created, we decided to estimate the age of the listing by looking at the date of the oldest review on the listing. We eliminated any listings that didn’t have reviews from this section. We also had to eliminate any listings that had over 4400 reviews due to not being able to get the data for any reviews past the 4,378th one.
“We tested both gathering all reviews from the GMB Listing Page as well as the reviews dialog on a business name search, both of those stopped returning reviews exactly at the 4,378th review mark for several businesses we tested that have a high review count. All JSON data for pages after that using higher start index returns empty.”
Mark Kabana, Places Scout
We found that in Toronto, the listings that had the most prominent place labels (without having to zoom in) were around 7 years old whereas the listings that didn’t get labels were 3 years old, on average.
We also found that a year later, one of the businesses that originally didn’t have a place label ended up getting one.
However, we also found an example of a business that had a place label that wasn’t even open yet. We grabbed this screenshot a month before the business was actually open and they already had a place label.
Factor 4: Having an Editorial Summary
Editorial summaries are little descriptions that appear on some listings that are written by Googlers.
Since only “popular businesses” get them, we thought this would be a good thing to measure to see if there was a correlation between having an editorial summary and getting a place label. While looking into this, we noticed a few things we noticed. A lot of chains had editorial summaries on all their locations that were identical. If you are looking at a listing that belongs to a chain, it’s possible that the brand has prominence, but it doesn’t mean that the actual location has prominence or popularity yet.
The number of listings that have editorial summaries in smaller towns is minuscule. When we excluded the listings that had editorial summaries due to belonging to a chain, there were only 3 businesses in Aurora (population: 55,445) that had editorial summaries on them.
Since Toronto’s data set had the most listings with editorial summaries, we thought we’d look at that set specifically. As you can see in the graph below, there was a clear correlation between the percentage of listings that had an editorial summary and the zoom level that showed the place label. Also, all the listings that had editorial summaries but did not have a place label belonged to chains.
We concluded that if you have an editorial summary, there is a pretty good chance you’ll also get a place label, especially if you’re not part of a chain.
Factor 5: Having “Located In” on the GMB Listing
For two of our data sets, they were buildings or plazas that had listings on Google. We wanted to see if Google properly marking you as being located inside that plaza on your listing had any correlation to getting a place label.
To make this slightly more accurate, we only looked at the data from the 7-9 zoom levels to make sure that’s we were looking at listings that were located inside these buildings.
Out of the listings that showed up when we zoomed in on the building or plaza, Aurora seemed to have a pattern where more listings that had labels had the “located in” feature, but then Toronto had the opposite pattern.
|No Place Label
The data from this was really inconclusive so we concluded that the “located in” feature likely has no influence on getting a place label but it still would be a good idea to add it to the listing just in case.
Factor 6: Listing is Verified
In Google’s help center, one of the things they mention that will influence the likeliness of getting a place label is verifying your business:
“Verifying your business improves the chances that your business will display with a place label”
When we looked at our data set to see what percentage of listings that had place labels were verified, the results were mixed and not overly conclusive.
|With Place Label
|No Place Label
Although we didn’t see a correlation between verifying your listing and getting a place label, it’s clearly a good idea to verify your business listing for a variety of other reasons. I also think that Google is telling the truth when they say that verifying your listing will increase your chances. I just think it’s a small factor when compared to other factors we observed in this study. If Google made this a giant factor, it would likely inhibit some major, prominent listings from getting a label just based on the fact that they hadn’t verified their listing. This wouldn’t make sense or be good for their users. For example, there is a very prominent place in Toronto (it even has a Wikipedia entry) that had a place label after only zooming in 3 times and it is not verified.
Factor 7: Listing Has Questions Posted
One of the things we really wanted to measure during this study was user engagement. How much does people looking at the business and clicking on it correlate with that listing getting a Place Label? Obviously we can’t see the GMB Insights data for all these businesses, so I thought we could measure user engagement based on the number of Questions and Answers posted on the listing.
For this section, we only looked at Toronto and Aurora as the Keswick businesses didn’t have a high volume of questions posted on their listings. Toronto showed a really consistent pattern – listings that showed up at higher zoom levels had a lot more questions on the listing. Both cities showed that listings without a place label had an average of less than 1 question per listing.
I think the Toronto data set does a pretty good job illustrating that user engagement is likely a large factor for determining which businesses get a place label.
Factor 8: Listing Has Popular Times Present
We also wanted to look at how much foot traffic a business gets. It would make sense if Google was more likely to show place labels for businesses that people physically visited a lot. To do this, we looked at which listings had popular times graphs. These are graphs that show up in the Knowledge panel for businesses that Google has enough data for. Businesses that don’t get a ton of visits don’t qualify for this feature. Per Google’s help center:
“To determine popular times, wait times, and visit duration, Google uses aggregated and anonymized data from users who have opted in to Google Location History. Popular times, wait times, and visit duration are shown for your business if it gets enough visits from these users”
All the data sets showed the same pattern for this section. Listings that had popular times graphs on them (ie: businesses that get a lot of physical store visits) were a lot more likely to have a place label.
In the small town (Keswick), there were also a few very high-volume healthcare listings that had a ton of foot traffic but did not get place labels. It’s very important to remember that Google uses lots of different factors to determine who gets a place label so just because you have one of the factors doesn’t mean you’ll get one.
Factor 9: Listing Has ‘Plan Your Visit’ Feature Present
The “plan your visit” feature in the Knowledge Panel is kind of similar to popular times. It normally shows right below and shows how long people generally spend at a specific location.
When we looked at which listings with “plan your visit” had place labels, there was no distinguishable pattern.
At first, this seemed confusing since I assumed this feature was extremely similar to the popular times graph and expected the patterns to be the same. However, we noticed that several businesses had one feature but not the other.
In this example, these are two different locations for the same company. One has popular times and plan your visit but the other only has plan your visit. This originally confused me until Ben Fisher pointed me to this help center article that explained why these 2 features don’t always appear together simultaneously.
Popular Times > looks at data from the last few months
Plan Your Visit > looks at data over the last few weeks
Because the popular times graph looks at a larger date range, it appears to give us a more accurate picture of what businesses get a lot of physical store visits. We did not see a correlation between having the “plan your visit” section hand having a place label.
Factor 10: The listing Has an Active Google Post
Google My Business is a portal that allows businesses to manage their Google Maps listing and we wanted to see how a business’ utilization of this platform impacted their ability to get a place label. One way to tell if a business is active in the Google My Business portal is to see if they have an active post on their Google My Business listing.
We ran into an issue right away with this when collecting the data. A very small number of businesses in our study were actively using Google Posts. In Toronto, only 5% of businesses had an active post. In Aurora and Keswick, less than 2% of our data set had one.
Since so few businesses were utilizing the feature there was no way for us to gather any valuable data here. The main conclusion this section brought us to is that there are a ton of businesses that are under-utilizing the newer features that Google My Business has rolled out in the last few years.
Factor 11: The Primary Category on the Business Listing
When documenting the listings for this study, it became pretty clear that there were certain business types that appeared to be a lot more likely to get a place label. When we looked at the businesses that had the most exposure (the 0-5 zoom levels), there were some definite patterns that emerged. The categories that are green were ones we found that were a lot more likely to get a place label. Almost no businesses in these categories were missing place labels. In fact, the single education listing that we found didn’t have a place label when we first started the study, has one now (a year later), which makes sense since we found that older listings were more likely to have place labels. The one in red is the category we found the least likely to have a place label. “Professional Services” varies from anything from a lawyer to a dentist. Funny enough, the majority of the conversations I’ve had with business owners over the years about “why they didn’t have a place label” were businesses in this category.
|Businesses with Place Label
|Business With No Place Label
The top 10 specific categories that came up the most frequently in the list of businesses with a place label were:
- 4-star hotel
- Historical Landmark
- Coffee shop
- Fast food restaurant
- Department store
The top 5 categories among the list of businesses that did not have a place label were:
- Investment service
- Legal Services (sorry, lawyers)
In summary, we found that certain types of businesses are more likely to get place labels than others.
Factor 12: Search volume for the specific business location
For this factor, we wanted to figure out how much people were searching for the specific business location we were analyzing. In order to get this data, we had to eliminate most multi-location businesses. For example, in Toronto, we had several listings for McDonald’s in our set. However, we have no idea which location people are searching for in Toronto when they type in “McDonalds” so it’s not possible to attribute an accurate search volume to each listing.
Secondly, we eliminated any businesses that had a strong online/ecommerce presence. For example, there is a giant internet service provider in Canada called Rogers. People searching for “Rogers” on Google are not necessarily looking for one of their stores. Similarly, Google has an office in Toronto and searches for “Google” couldn’t accurately be attributed to their Toronto office listing.
Once we narrowed down the list, we used Google’s Keyword Planner and only looked at the search volume for the brand name that was conducted inside the city the business was located in. For example, we looked at the search volume for “CN Tower” from people located in Toronto.
When looking at this data set, we saw a pretty consistent trend across all market sizes. The higher the search volume, the more likely the business had a place label.
Additionally, we found that in Toronto, the businesses that had place labels in the 0-3 zoom levels had an average of 8,659 searches a month. For the businesses that didn’t get a place label, the average was 565. Something else I found really fascinating is that when we started this study a year ago (2019), the top zoom level for Toronto was only showing 1 place label and it was for the major airport.
However, in the spring of 2020, it had changed and was showing 2 businesses that are giant tourist attractions in Toronto (Casa Loma & the CN Tower). These 2 attractions “just so happen” to have the largest search volume in our list – even higher than the airport.
Something else I found noteworthy is that in one of the only articles I could find on this topic, search volume was mentioned as a factor. Barry Scwhartz interviewed a Google Product Manager back in 2010 who said that search volume for a business is a determining factor place labels. Our data agreed with that and we believe that search volume for a business location is like a large factor for determining which businesses get a place label.
Throughout our study, we also found a few other takeaways about place labels that we wanted to share.
- Personalization impacts what you see. For example, I see this label for my favorite shawarma restaurant when I’m logged in. In reality, they don’t have a place label. Most other people wouldn’t see this and it also doesn’t show up for me the moment I log out. Google is showing it to me while logged in because I’ve reviewed the place and visited it so they know it’s important to me.
- It is possible to lose a place label. Even if you have a place label, it doesn’t mean you’ll keep it forever. Some of the businesses in our data set that originally had them in 2019, no longer do today.
- You can increase your place label exposure by signing up for branded pins. This is a paid feature and they’re not cheap but it was impressive to see how high up these showed on the map. It gave the businesses a ton of branding exposure for people that weren’t even searching for them. We’re also seeing square logos showing up much higher which are a part of Smart Campaigns. We’re currently conducting some tests to see how much the additional exposure on Google Maps impacts conversions.
Finally, it’s important to remember that whether or not your business gets a place label is based on the combination of a variety of factors, several of which may not have even been addressed in this study. We found quite a few businesses that met some of the criteria in this study but not others. For example, there was a medical clinic that is very old, has a good number of reviews, has a high search volume, and has a lot of foot traffic. They didn’t get a place label but they also had no website on the listing and were in the business category that was least likely to get a place label.
I presented the data from this study at our last LocalU event. Our next event is November 10 and tickets can be purchased here.