If you’ve ever done a city-based search for a local business anywhere in the United States, you may or may not have noticed that results are often located near the center of town, and sometimes they’re not. This can be massively confusing for business owners hoping to have their locations listed properly among searches conducted using Google Maps. It can be especially frustrating for businesses that are in major metro areas like New York City, Miami, Dallas, San Diego and others. Since I live and work in LA, I’m using Los Angeles as an example for viewing the map centroid.
Los Angeles Google Map Centroid
To find a centroid for the city you may be researching, go to Google or Google maps, and type in the name of the city. After you hit search, you should get a map that you can click on. This may not be the case for areas of lesser population, but for midsized and large metros, the results should be there. Look for the red place marker with the letter A (as an example there is a marker in the above image right next to the words “Los Angeles”). I added a little bubble where I live in Venice Beach, which when viewing at this level, does not get listed on the map.
Los Angeles City Hall near centroid
Zooming the map in a notch we can see that the centroid for Los Angeles is located near City Hall. At this level, no other cities are listed, but we begin to see transportation information (Los Angeles Union Station), downtown Los Angeles areas of interest (Civic Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall, El Pueblo De Los Angeles Historic Monument), and downtown LA business information (Edison, Philippe’s French Dip, Ahmanson Theatre), as well as street names and nearby freeway information.
Los Angeles Fire Department and Los Angeles Police Department
Taking our magnifying glass and zooming in an additional notch we can now see outlines of building architecture. We also see business information, transportation information, and municipalities that were not appearing in the previous view. Not only do we see Los Angeles City Hall located near the centroid, we can also see that the Los Angeles Fire Department and Los Angeles Police Department appear very close to the centroid. In fact, it looks like the centroid for Los Angeles is at the address of the downtown LA Police Department.
Notice in the image above there’s more business information listed as well. Besides highlighting the LA Fire Department, I circled a well-known LA business, the Los Angeles Times. If you look carefully you may also see Pitfire Pizza and Curry House Take-Out Store. Not surprisingly, when I search Pizza Los Angeles or Los Angeles Pizza, the pit fire restaurant located right near the center of town appears as the top result in the map seven pack. However, the results are not similar when conducting a map related search for Curry Los Angeles or Los Angeles Curry. Go figure.
Los Angeles Health Insurance Quote and Computer Repair?
One more zoom in and now things really get interesting. Can you say map spam? I wasn’t expecting this, but it’s a reality, so we may as well cover it. We see that the centroid is near certainly listed at the police department downtown. We still see some transportation information (the bus icons), but additional businesses are also listed. I know the downtown Los Angeles area well, as I use to have a chiropractic office located on Spring Street. The pizza place and the curry takeout restaurant are real businesses located in the downtown area.
The Computer Repair Los Angeles business stood out being that it was in all-caps. I was beginning to think that this business didn’t really exist where it was being listed. Take a look for yourself using street view. Funny enough, street view shows the address for this business basically in the middle-of-the-road at the intersections of Main Street and 1st Street (you don’t get much more center of Los Angeles than that). It appears that there is no actual business located at Los Angeles Flowers, LA Health Insurance Quote, or even Los Angeles Garage Door. Knowing downtown Los Angeles is extremely popular for commercial flower purchasing, I thought there may actually be a flower business at that location, sadly all I could see via street view was a bus stop. One other listing, Los Angeles General Services Department, is for real, as it is a city government office.
I was not expecting to see what appears to be four different map spam business listings located so close to the city centroid, but I’m not surprised. After researching a little bit further, I saw several other clear examples of Google Map spam, which included a number of different business categories. The sad thing is these listings are likely affecting the map rankings (and incomes) of legitimate business owners in the city of Los Angeles, and unfortunately the majority of them are not even aware of it.
In summary: The centroid for Los Angeles appears nearest municipal buildings like the police department, fire department and Civic Center in downtown LA. Zooming in provides users with useful information regarding local related businesses, services, and places of interest. Zooming in further and staying near the city centroid, results in map spam.
Think Local SEO is easy? Think again. I recommend every business owner take the time to do some research on what businesses appear nearby their city centroid using Google maps. I also recommend reading Matt McGee’s post on Local SEO being harder than you may think.