Does the Usage of Google Maps Affect Your SEO Rankings?
Why Google Maps API is Bad for SEO
When it comes to local search and creating local landing pages — sometimes called GEO Landing Pages — there is often the question about the utilization of Google Maps. Does embedding Google Maps affect the SEO and ranking of a landing page?
Yes and no: Yes, if you use it on your “contact” or “about us” page or similar. No, if you’re creating a massive number of pages that have different Google Map locations on them.
It wasn’t always like that. Until 2018, with your address on a Landing Page with an embedded Google Map on it lent more credence to your Local SEO efforts. Google would match the displayed map with the location described on your page.
Google however made it clear, that they don’t want you to do this anymore, since SEOs seem to have abused that feature. And in June 2018, Google put an end to it.
Here is some background:
What happened with Google Maps for SEO?
SEO-savvy websites started creating thousands of GEO landing pages on their websites using the Google Maps API in the past few years. A good example is the company called “Over the Top SEO”. It seems like this company has a branch in almost every location of the U.S.
Just type “Over the Top SEO New York”, “Over the Top SEO Los Angeles”, or any location on Google + “Over the Top SEO”, and you’ll find one of their GEO Landing Pages somewhere on top of the Search Engine Result Pages. They have created landing pages for locations for over 800 cities around the United States. And on each of these landing pages is a Google Map with a marker on that location.
Travel companies such as Expedia, Kayak, and Travelocity, and many more, are also dependent on SEO. Almost all these companies have been creating massive geolocated landing pages. And they don’t just create pages for the U.S., but they create millions of pages for all locations worldwide.
And almost all of them have been using a Google Map on these pages. Thus, Google soon realized that their API has been accessed excessively since local search has become an important part of SEO.
Is the Google Maps API Free To Use?
This practice has led to the fact that Google no longer wants to provide their Google Map API service for free. Starting June 2018, Google has announced that they would be charging companies $0.50 per 1000 page loads.
However, anybody using their API has a free credit of $200 every month. This way, they keep a door open to decrease that number any time.
The Real Purpose of Google Maps
This is also a clear message from Google that the usage of the Google API is not something that was meant to be used for creating massive number of GEO Landing Pages. The initial idea for Google was to help organizations to provide a Google Map to their users at their “Contact” or “About us” page. The whole game was about user experience, and not SEO right from the beginning.
So, if you use the Google API moderately such as having it on your contacts page, Google might still consider the Google Map on your page and give that location a higher ranking combined with your products and organization. However, as of July 2020 it might be more counter productive than ever if you used the Google API for your landing pages like these travel companies do as described above.
How To Use Google Maps in 2020
Since Google has just announced this change in 2018, several updates might already be planned to downrank websites that still use the Google API in such manner. They might be even considered gray or black hat and disappear from the search results for good. As usual Google will provide a transition period and won’t discredit these pages from one day to another.
However, if you’re in the travel business and using Google Maps APIs, you might already experience some losses in rankings. Because, it’s already happening and Google is rolling out ranking changes quicker than ever.
If you want to know what else you can do to give your GEOlocated landing page a higher ranking, check my article about “GEO Targeting and SEO“.
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