by Anthony O'Donoghue
Anyone with smart devices, has access to Google’s wide range of mobile applications. And admittedly, one Google app that we love to use is Google Maps. It’s the best friend to people who love to travel and a helpful app to those who have no sense of direction.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m good with directions. But since I love to discover new places, I depend on Google Maps most of the time – whether I drive or walk. Without its dependable GPS data, I find it difficult to reach my destinations within the day. But Google has made impressive improvements to Google Maps. Aside from giving us directions, we can actually use it for other ventures. For one, it has evolved into an effective marketing tool.
Surprised? Well, don’t be. Digital marketers have been incorporating the app in their marketing strategies, and so should you. But if you have no idea how to use Google Maps as a marketing tool, this article will act as your guide. I will help you understand how it works and provide sound tips to make your business more visible to your customers.
Google Maps Marketing
Let’s talk about the basics first. The definition of Google Maps marketing is straightforward. It is simply taking advantage of the app’s functionality for better business visibility. It’s useful for big companies, but it’s a more important tool for smaller businesses and even startup ventures.
However, this marketing strategy isn’t only used to boost online visibility but also for positioning. It means that if you use it correctly, Google Maps can become a vital part of your online marketing strategy. It puts your business on a higher pedestal, resulting in more profitable business.
Objectives of Google Maps Marketing
Now that we know what Google Maps marketing is, let’s also find out what the objective is. The main goal of Google Maps marketing is getting a high placement on both the local business listings and relevant search engine results pages (SERPs). I’ll break it down into two parts so that it doesn’t sound too confusing.
1. Proximity-based Results
This refers to the local Google Maps listings that are based on your physical or current location. It has become a common search type as the use of mobile searching increases. And if you type the word “restaurants” on the search box on your mobile device, the result you see is a map clip and a list of three business establishments that are near your location. That result is a perfect example of proximity-based, and that is what we are aiming to achieve.
In most cases, the order of the listings depends on the user’s current location, having position A or the first option as the closest one. The other two options (positions B and C) also appear to give the user more choices to consider. Furthermore, if you are searching on your mobile device, the Google Suggest automatically shows several keyword phrases like “restaurants near me”, “restaurants open”, or “restaurants open near me” among others. The same result listings appear if you have activated your location information on your Android device.
Depending on other factors, some users prefer the result listings from Google Suggest “near me” searches. It is because they are more prominent than the results of general keyword searches. I think that Google has developed Maps to help us find local businesses.
2. Search Engine Ranks
Aside from the proximity-based results, Google Maps also offer another type of results listings, which are based on the search engine ranks. This type of results usually happens when the mobile device’s location data is disabled. But generally speaking, the Maps listings are virtually available wherever you are in the world, and this is when the search engine rank results usually appear. The results on Google Maps searches are for a certain type of business in a given location.
For instance, you are looking for Restaurants Leigh-on-sea, Essex. You enter “restaurants” on the search box then Google Maps will show you a list of restaurants available in different parts of the Town. If there are many results, then it means that it is a competitive market for the results on Google Maps marketing. The establishments with the highest star rating from a significant number of Google reviews take the top ranks.
Now that I have mentioned ratings and reviews, this is the time when the marketing from Google Maps marketing takes action.
I searched for businesses that are miles away from my current location, so these are the results that Google showed me. If you take a look at the photo above, The Grove Restaurant takes the third rank with a 4.5 rating from 179 reviews. However, it is below Garrards with only a 4.2 rating from 134 reviews.
We can safely say that Google doesn’t rank the results solely based on the ratings and reviews, but why does it happen? The answer has something to do with the optimisation of your listing on Google My Business and other significant factors.
Google My Business (GMB)
If you’re familiar with Google Places, then you know what this is. But for everyone’s information, Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that allows you to create and manage your business profile, which can appear on Google SERPs. It welcomes different kinds of businesses, and each of them can own a GMB profile. The profile shows important information about the business such as the address, contact details, opening hours, customer ratings, and reviews.
Checklist for Optimising Google Maps Marketing
As I have previously stated, businesses have high chances of ranking on Google Maps results if they have well-optimised GMB. Unfortunately, there are companies with incomplete or even confusing details, which have poorly affected their rankings and online visibility. To get the best out of the GMB listing, here is a checklist that can help optimise your Google Maps marketing.
Provide a complete, UK-Registered Postal Address
It seems a piece of cake, right? Putting your business address on your GMB profile is probably the easiest part of this. However, you would be surprised to know that many businesses don’t get this correctly. This is how it should be done.
Before filling in the business address on your GMB profile, you have to make sure that you get the exact details used by the UK Postal Service or the equivalent postal service where your business is located. The address information includes a room or suite number, a subdivision name, a complete post code, and other details that make it easier for anyone to locate your business. Don’t forget your contact number either. Additionally, you must spot all the formatting mistakes. The slightest of errors in your address format can affect your ranking on Google Maps. It is best to play it safe.
You should also take note that your address appears on your GMB profile. In your profile settings, you will see a box that states whether you like your business address to be displayed or not. Putting customer safety and other sensitive concerns aside, you should always check that box. The more data Google receives from you, the higher the chances of ranking well on the results listing.
State Specific Areas You Serve
Many businesses registered on GMB actually have physical stores or establishments where customers can visit. And these businesses serve bigger areas. For example, you have the package delivery and pizza or fast food delivery services. If you have similar types of businesses, then you should clearly specify on your profile the areas where your services are available. You can include the names of nearby cities, counties, or towns. You can also provide a geographic radius, having your location as the base point.
You should also state whether your customers can avail of your services at your physical storefront or not. It is a major turnoff if people go to your location and look forward to getting served when your business only deals with customers through phone. You’re not only getting bad reviews but also bad rankings on Google Maps. Be very careful with that.
Have a Verified GMB Listing
With so many incidents of internet scams nowadays, businesses on GMB need to prove their legitimacy. They have to let their customers know that they are doing legit and legal work.
For this reason, you should make sure that your GMB profile is verified. You should have patience as the verification process usually takes 14 days. This is because Google mails a postcard with a PIN to the physical address you use on your profile, confirming your business. In some cases, Google will allow you to verify your business ownership through your phone.
Select All Relevant Categories to Your Business
I have seen so many GMB profiles that only show their respective primary categories. Such practice negatively affects your optimisation effort, and you have to avoid doing the same mistake again. Although Google My Business requires you to list your business’ primary category as you create your profile, you have the opportunity to add other categories that are relevant to your business.
Stating all relevant categories on your GMB profile is a significant factor, especially if your business offers different kinds of services. Let’s say that your business provides health and beauty services, you can set “Health and Beauty Shop” as your main category. For the additional relevant categories, you can check Beauty Supply Store, Beauty Product Supplier, and Health and Beauty Shop among others. Always keep in mind that the more information you send to Google, the more optimised your GMB listing becomes.
Optimise Profile with an Introduction and Photos
Just like managing your personal social media accounts, optimising your GMB profile with an introduction and photos helps improve your listing visibility. But both of these factors provide more benefits than just boosting online presence. Allow me to discuss each of them further
The introduction gives an overview of what your business is all about. It tells your customers what products and services your business offers, and it should also state the things that set you apart from your competitors. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t even give importance to the introduction. They don’t know how much it positively affects their GMB profiles’ online presence.
As much as possible, write a straightforward introduction that speaks to your target market. But make sure all the important details about your business are present. Potential customers should already know what your venture is, what it provides, your location, contact details, what makes you different, and why should people avail of your business.
To optimise your profile’s introduction, you can insert links to some of your website’s relevant pages. However, you must not stuff the intro with too many keywords and links. Google has editorial standards, and if it finds out that you are putting too many links and keywords in the introduction, you’re giving a bad impression. Google will not only think that you’re spam, but you will also lose the chance to rank well on results listings. The best way to do this is to write a compelling and well-written introduction while using decent and relevant keywords.
Another effective tip for businesses with various products and services is to create a bullet list instead of writing everything in the introduction. The format makes it easier for users to read and understand. It will also help if you use simple words rather than technical ones. Don’t confuse your potential customers.
If you have noticed, Google Maps is a visual platform. It does not only show different kinds of maps but also photos of businesses on GMB listings. GMB profiles with photos stand out, attracting more visitors and customers. But the pictures are not only for aesthetic purposes. Like the introduction, you can also optimise the images you include on your profile to increase your online visibility.
To do this, you can download third-party apps that generate metadata for your photos, making them more searchable online. Some examples of metadata that you can add to your images are the following:
- Location or address of your business; you can also use the latitude and longitude information
- Cities, geographic locations, or country tags
- Relevant keywords or hashtags
- Comments about similar products or services available within your current location
- Other categorisation details that are also relevant to your business
In addition to those points, remember to post good-quality photos. People, especially those who are not from the locality, appreciate clear pictures of your establishment or products.
Be Open for Customer Reviews
Do you remember the example I gave on the search engine ranks? I pointed out that Google doesn’t necessarily rank the businesses according to ratings and user reviews. There is no clear data that can tell how much reviews affect the search algorithm of Google Maps. But if a business doesn’t have any user reviews, it won’t be able to compete well with other businesses that have many reviews. With that in mind, it is important to include reviews on your GMB profile.
I also need to mention that reviews don’t appear on your Google Maps listing unless you acquire a minimum of five reviews. So whenever you have satisfied customers, ask them to post their reviews about your business. Without a question, we always want positive feedback, but it is impossible to please everybody. If ever you receive negative reviews, the best thing to do is respond to them without breaking Google’s guidelines. As much as possible, keep yourself updated with the feedback of your clients. If they raise issues or concerns, give them a response right away.
Ads on Google Maps
Ads are a common sight on search engine results pages. But recently, they have become visible on Google Maps results listings. You can see four types of ad features on Google Maps:
- Promoted Pins, which include logos and branding
- Customisable business pages
- Promotions of in-stores
- Search box for local inventories
The ads are also present on the result listings on Google Maps app, expanded map results on Google.com, and the mobile and desktop versions of the Google Maps website.
If you search using the primary Google Maps app, there are times when you can see a single ad at the top of the results listings. The maximum number of ads you can see on the app is two. They used to be colour purple, but Google changed it to green.
Patience is a Virtue
We have come to the end of this guide. And as parting words, I’d like to say that patience is a big part in the overall run of your Google Maps marketing.
Like most, if not all, digital marketing journeys, improving your business’ visibility using Google Maps marketing does take time. The good results don’t happen overnight, and there are no shortcuts, quick hacks, or easy ways to reach success. Even if you have applied all the points on the checklist, it will take some time to see the desired improvements on the Google Maps result page.
But you shouldn’t always focus on the marketing side of the business. Yes, you should be on top of your game, do your optimisation strategies, and keep your business profile updated. However, you must not forget the most important thing in your business, and that is to prioritise your customers, giving them the satisfaction that they deserve.