Proximity to Centroid Still Matters for Google Maps Optimization

Early in the history of business listings being placed on Google Maps, your proximity to the centroid (fancy geometric term for “center”) of your city had a huge impact on your rankings. If you wanted to be on the first page for [pool hall austin, tx], you’d better be located in the center of town.

Over the last couple of years, however, Google has greatly devalued proximity to centroid as a signal in their calculations. With decent optimization, you can rank for [pool hall austin, tx] all over town.

As you can see, the seven listings are fairly evenly distributed across Austin.

However, proximity to centroid still plays a major part in your rankings in the suburbs. For many keyword spaces in smaller towns, Google does not have enough listings to fill the 7-pack. As a result, it pulls listings from the town’s neighbors, often the main city in the area.

For instance, let’s imagine you want to play pool in Cedar Park, TX (just northwest of Austin):

Only one location actually in Cedar Park made it into the top seven. The rest are pulled from the surrounding towns (and Austin). There’s clearly a bias for listings either from towns north of Austin or located in north Austin.

If you want to shoot pool in Kyle (directly south of Austin), your map might look like this:

It doesn’t appear that playing pool in Kyle is possible unless you own a table, but you’re shown listings from as far south as San Marcos and far north as well into Austin.

Only one listing, Buffalo Billiards, is found on all three map results. It is located on the world famous Sixth Street, deep in the heart of Austin. Because of its central location, it was able to fill slots in all those searches in the suburbs.

I’ve seen similar behavior on a number of keyword spaces. It’s clear that when Google is pulling listings across city lines, it would rather grab listings closer to the target city. As a result, being in the center of town still provides a real advantage when competing for listings in neighboring towns.

Not: All screenshots were taken on Wednesday, October 28, 2009, using Paparazzi. As a result of using this software, no personalization should have been in effect.