The commuter’s best friend may just be one of the best tools in your Local SEO tool belt.
Many years before Google Maps became available, local businesses relied on billboards, ads placed in roadmaps, and sheer luck to bring in prospective customers. This might even seem barbaric to some modern internet dwellers.
Nowadays, as GPS technology has advanced, many people don’t even leave the house until they know everything about all the shops within a 5-mile radius; they’ll look over every bit of information, reviews, photos, etc. until they’re certain it’s worth the trek. You could say the appearance of your Google Maps listing demands almost the same amount of attention as your physical storefront.
In this article, we’ll go over the history of Google Maps, what Google Maps marketing is, and some of the best Google Maps SEO practices that you should be aware of.
The History of Google Maps
Google Maps started off as a simple C++ program designed by the company ‘Where 2 Technologies,’ but after the company pitched the idea to Google in 2004 they were swiftly absorbed into the Google family of services. Combined with Google’s purchase of a real-time traffic program, Google Maps was starting off with the tools to become the best web-based GPS service on the market.
After launching in 2005, Google updated the program in 2007 to be compatible with the mobile phones of the time. This update also included the first version of the ‘My Location’ feature that we all know and love.
Now, 15 years after the launch of the service, Google Maps has become one of the greatest tools for customers and business owners alike by providing a platform to list, review, and share businesses across the world.
What Does Google Maps Marketing Entail?
Google Maps marketing as a concept is quite simple: optimizing and maintaining your business’ presence on Google Maps.
Think of it like taking out an ad on the world’s most circulated newspaper; all the basic information needs to be there:
- Full Address
- Phone Number
- Business Hours
- Brief Description
If your business listing lacks all of this basic information, it’s very likely that potential customers will overlook your business in favor of someone with a more robust listing. Think of it like choosing between the well-lit, clean gas station or the one with flickering lights and a broken window. Appearance is a major factor when it comes to Google Maps SEO.
Creating Your Google My Business Listing
Before we go any further, you’ll need to claim your business on Google My Business if you haven’t already. This service is completely free but absolutely essential when it comes to managing your business’s image on Google.
Creating your Google My Business account is simple. All you need to do is:
- Go to the Google My Business homepage.
- Sign in with your Google account.
- Find and claim your business.
- Put in all of your business’ important information.
Google My Business will become your ‘command center’ to maintain all aspects of your business’ online presence so it’s important that you fill out your profile with as much relevant data as possible. Now we can get into optimizing your Google Maps SEO.
Keeping Your Information Updated
While this may seem like a no-brainer, keeping your Google Maps listing updated with accurate information is extremely important, not only for SEO purposes but also for your business’ reputation.
If a customer acts on false or misleading information they received from your Google Maps listing, they’ll more than likely never take a chance on your business again. Your listing has proven that it’s unreliable and your now ex-potential customer will never click on it again.
On the SEO front, maintaining accurate business information encourages Google Maps to present your info to the customers in your area. Google compares the information you’ve provided them with the information you have listed on your website for accuracy and uses this to ensure they’re providing their users with the best options.
List in the Correct Categories
Listing yourself under several categories can really help broaden your audience. Let’s say you have a landscaping company and you’ve put yourself into just one category: lawn care.
While this is completely true, odds are that your business falls under several categories such as tree limbing, raised bed construction, grass seeding, etc. By only listing yourself under one category you may be shutting yourself off from many other potential customers who may not know the extent of your services.
As I mentioned earlier, appearance is pretty important in Google Maps SEO. Maintaining a gallery of up to date images should be just as important as cleaning your physical workspace. Even if you offer services and not specific products, adding nice photos to your listing can give you a tremendous advantage over your competitors.
Picture this: you’ve just arrived in a town that you’ve never visited before and you’d like to check out the local cuisine. You pull up Google and type in the sacred phrase that we all know too well: ‘food near me’.
Once you’ve made it past all the listings for the generic fast-food restaurants, you’re presented with 2 Google Maps listings: Harry’s Seafood and Gary’s Seafood. Both have good ratings but there’s a key difference: Harry’s has an entire gallery full of gorgeous photos of all their offerings while, on the other hand, Gary’s has exactly one picture of fish & chips. Not even a high-quality picture, mind you.
Who would you choose?
Encourage Google Reviews
After you’ve found businesses near you and looked over their images, your eyes will probably gravitate to the 1 – 5 stars that business may have received from former patrons.
Not only are good reviews a glowing reflection of your business, they’re also usually full of keywords related to your business (or at least they should be. Not too often that an auto mechanic has been complimented on their selection of wings but you never know.)
Encouraging your clients to leave reviews if they’ve enjoyed your product is a great way to interact with your customers and it helps boost you in the rankings and expand your keyword profile.
Embed Google Maps on Your Website
Building on what I mentioned earlier about how Google Maps checks your website to make sure they have the correct information, one of the best ways to ensure this is by embedding a map of your business somewhere on your site. As an example, Techwood’s Atlanta page provides all the information you’d need to reach out to us + our location as seen from Google Maps.
This further confirms with Google Maps that the contact information that you’ve provided them with, like your address and phone number, is accurate. In our experience, we’ve seen this positively influence our ranking and the rankings of our clients.
Google Maps SEO Summary
As you can see, most of these suggestions are pretty straightforward and have definite counterparts in the physical world. After following these recommendations, take a step back, act like you’ve never heard of your own business before, and ask yourself: Would I click on this?
Just about all of us use Google Maps so we know the kind of things that we would click on and the places we would like to visit. As long as you’re following your gut (and our recommendations) you’re well on your way to implementing Google Maps marketing into your SEO strategy.
Connect with Us
Do you still have questions about your Google Maps listing and how to further optimize it? Whether you are a digital marketing professional or business owner, we would love to connect with you and pass along any tips that we can to help you reach your goals. Drop us a line or connect with us on our contact page and we would love to reach out for a conversation.