Google Maps SEO

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 May 2024 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 2024

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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About the Author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. William Sen CEO and founder of Blue Media

Dr. William Sen has been an SEO since 2001 and is a Software Engineer since 1996, and has been teaching as an Associate Professor for some of the world's biggest universities. William has studied International Business at the University of California, Berkeley and among others holds a PhD in Information Sciences. He has worked for brands such as Expedia, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Bayer, Ford, T-Mobile and many more.

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A. T. 3 years ago

Thanks for sharing this about google maps in your article. It really helps.

David 3 years ago

I too do SEM and SEO for a travel website with the Map API containing Tours, Attraction, restaurant with buttons to highlight those on the map.
This enhances the user experience and seems strange that Google would down-rank us for having this?

Reply by William:
If it provides a better user experience, then removing it could affect your rankings negatively. I would still consider providing that user experience without using Google Maps nowadays, though. Maybe try another tools such as ArcGIS or OpenStreetMap. I hope this helps.

Rob 3 years ago

Hello! I think your article answered some questions that I've had for a long time, but I'd like to confirm if this applies to my given situation. I have a travel site and use one of the more popular google map plugins. On my landing pages, hotels for example, I have a google map that renders map markers for multiple hotels. In turn, the user can click on the link within the map marker's "infowindow", and go to the hotel's unique page, which has another google map with only one marker for the hotel's location.

Up to now, I thought this was good practice since it was good for the visitor, which google supposedly likes. Now I'm not so sure, particularly because it is slowing down my site, and because I've been reading that dynamically created javascript content is not ideal for seo ranking. And now your article.

So, should I abandon this practice? My intent all along is provide a map that clients can click on, like the interactive map you see on booking dot com. Should I focus on static maps maybe?

Thanks for your helpful article...

Reply by William:
Hi Rob, let me dive into that question a little. Google is not giving you any credits for that map feature, anymore. However, what Google cares about is User Satisfaction — measured by many factors such as time on page, engagement rate, CTR, content, UX/UI and many other. If the users are engaging on that map feature because it fulfills the user intent, and if that's the reason you are ranking, you will lose your rankings by removing the maps feature. To be on the safe site I would replace the Google Map feature with another interactive map. E.g. ArcGIS, Open Street Map, or similar. I hope this helps.

Arsalaan Perwez 4 years ago

Hi, Quintus! Great article. I have one question that is troubling me for a very long time. I have my website located in India. But I want to rank my blog posts in the USA. Also, I have my website address located in India on Google Maps. Can I change my address to the USA in Google Maps in order to rank my website in the USA? I write my contents in English. Although my site is ranking in India, it is not showing in the Google USA SERPs. What should I do?

Reply by William:
Hello Arsaalan, I'm happy to answer your questions. If your website is located in India, Google will know. Google uses lots of different algorithms to determine you true location. It's not only dependent on your website's IP address. It can double check your company's legal form, the provided address, Google My Business Entries, and even social media platforms such as LinkedIn profiles — since Google uses so-called 'Focus Crawlers' for specific social media platforms. Sure, if you put lots of effort into it, you might be able to trick the search engine that you are located in the U.S. But then you will be facing a different SEO challange: What happens to your Indian rankings? And another question will arise: How about your engagement, CTR, Time on Page, UX/UI, Relevant Content, and all other Google KPIs show good results on your 'U.S.' based business to rank well? I hope this helps.

Quintus Schulzke 4 years ago

I appreciate the insights and examples here, and I tried the Over the Top SEO experiment which worked like a charm! I wonder how including other APIs help your SEO rankings on Google. For example, including an API from StubHub with events on a page, would it be leveraged and help those looking for events that StubHub had tickets for possibly get that page ranked higher in the results for that event? Just curious.

Reply by William:
Hi Quintus. Basically, anything on your page that somewhat creates fresh content and supports the content that is already there is helpful to get ranked higher for a specific topic and of course an event as well. As for StubHub, I don't know how the API works, but make sure you don't give away link juice. I hope that helps.

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