Google Maps is one of my favourite apps because it’s an incredibly useful tool for getting around without resorting to folding paper maps and is six times better than other navigation apps. However, its benefit is not only limited to getting around without asking people for directions – it’s a powerful marketing tool.
In this post, I will show you how you can – and you should – use Google Maps marketing as part of your digital marketing strategies to drive more in-store visits as well as online sales.
We’ll cover essential things you absolutely must be doing, as well as some nifty, lesser-known tips and tricks to help your customers find you.
What is Google Maps marketing?
Simply put, it’s the process of using Google Maps to increase the visibility of your business to potential customers. However, it’s not just about visibility and ranking higher on Google Maps, you have to position your brand as an authority on a local map to drive more in-store visits and online sales. You can do this by creating and optimising a Google My Business listing, adding relevant keywords and content, and targeting local customers.
Why is Google Maps marketing important?
There are 200+M businesses and places listed on Google Maps and is often the default mapping application on many smartphones. Google handles nearly 88% of mobile searches with 76% of those searches leading to a local store visit within the day via Google Maps.
Google Maps is integrated with Google Search and Google My Business, making it easy to drive more foot traffic toward your local e-commerce business.
Businesses with a complete and accurate Google Maps listing are twice as likely to be considered reputable by consumers. However, the chance of getting found is exponentially lower if your business doesn’t rank in the top results of Google Maps. That is why it’s important for e-commerce businesses to tap into Google Maps Marketing and consider it as a facet of local SEO work.
Types of Google Maps results
There are two types of Google Maps results based on the user’s query:
1. Proximity-based Google Maps results
This is the most common type of map result based on your physical location. For example, if you search for a chocolate bakery in Hong Kong, the search results will prioritise bakeries that are closest to your location.
You’ll come across a result like this:
The results are determined by using the person’s IP address or GPS location to determine their proximity to the businesses. The top 3 results are prioritised based on the user’s immediate area, with the first position being the closest option.
These top results obviously have higher chances of getting the most traffic, but oftentimes people click on the “more places” button to see what fits the best to their liking.
Additionally, when you search on mobile, you are prompted to search for “businesses near me” in the Google Suggest bar as shown in the screenshot below.
I performed this search shows on my iPhone with location data tracking enabled:
2. Ranked Google Maps results
Google Maps have listings for virtually any destination on the planet, not only near your vicinity. So when a user has location data not enabled on their device, they get “ranked” Google Maps results for their query. These results are ordered by relevance and popularity and best match the user’s search query.
The ranking is determined by several factors, including the relevance of the location of the business, the user’s location history, search history, the number of good reviews, and the completeness of the business’s listing information.
For example, in the figure below, you’ll see Maps results for “dentists” in Kowloon, Hong Kong.
In this search, Google isn’t showing me the results closest to me and if you look at the search results, you’ll see ads in between the organic listings. These are the dentists who have paid Google to appear on Google map results.
Tsuen Wan Ka Yan Dental Center (荃灣家仁牙科中心) is the organic result with the highest customer rating based on 99 Google reviews and a well-optimised Google My Business listing.
What is Google My Business?
Google My Business(GMB), formerly known as Google Places, is a service that allows business owners to create and manage their online presence on Google, including Search and Maps. Businesses can use it to update their information, such as an address, phone number, product descriptions, photos, videos, offers, and FAQs. This information can then be displayed to users who search for the business on Google maps in a particular region. Google My Business also allows users to make direct purchases, book a reservation, and leave reviews.
Google Maps marketing checklist
Many businesses may simply register their business on Google my business and think that they are all set to show up on Google Maps results. But they are wrong. To improve your Google Maps visibility here’s a checklist to achieve surprising results in less time.
1. Optimise your Google My Business profile
This step is the most crucial and requires your proper attention. Follow these steps:
Complete your business information: Ensure that all of your business information is accurate and up-to-date, including your address, phone number, hours of operation, website, and location. Make sure to add an exact address, such as room, suite, or subdivision information, a full nine-digit zip code, etc. You may also add nearby towns when you add a business location to enhance your Google Maps results’ visibility.
Write a catchy business introduction: A short description of your business to attract potential customers. It should contain details a prospective customer might need to know about your business. You can also insert links to relevant pages on your site and keywords in your Introduction. But avoid stuffing keywords and links and ensure that your introduction follows Google’s editorial standards.
Add photos and videos: Add high-quality photos and videos of your business and your products. This will help potential customers have a better sense of what you have to offer. You can use third-party apps to add metadata to your images to improve their visibility on map results. You can use physical address/latitude and longitude, city / geographic location/country tags, Keywords relevant to your business, etc. to optimise your images.
Optimise your categories: Choose the categories that best describe your business. Also, create categories for your products like you do on your website. This will help potential customers find your business when they search for certain products.
Encourage customer reviews: Invite your existing customers to leave reviews on your listing and encourage new customers to rate your products. Also try to respond to each review whether it’s positive or negative, on time. Keep in mind that you must have accrued at least 5 reviews to let them be displayed alongside your Google Maps listing.
Utilise Google posts: to regularly update your customers with the latest news, promotions, and events.
Verify your listing: Make sure that your business is verified on Google My Business, and that you have claimed your listing. The verification may take up to a couple of weeks. You may verify ownership via phone or enter the code that Google sends via postcard to your location. This verification will give you control over the information that appears about your business on Google.
2. Monitor your business on Google Maps to Improve your ranking
Using third-party monitoring tools, you can track not only your own business but also your competitors on Google Maps. Reviews of businesses on sites like Google, Yelp, and Yahoo Local are known as “citations” and can be tracked using tools like Mention. By checking the number of reviews or citations that the top-ranked business in Google Maps has, you can get an idea of the standard and volume of reviews needed to rank higher.
Similar to backlinks, more citations can lead to more potential to rank higher in Google Maps.
Although it is hard to determine the exact importance of citations and reviews to your business positioning in Google Maps, having a high number of positive mentions from reputable sites can be beneficial.
3. Track your performance metrics
Google My Business Insights provides a wide range of metrics that can help you gain deeper visibility on the platform and improve your web analytics. You can also use third-party tools to track metrics such as views, clicks, and direction requests for your business listing on Google Maps.
Following are some common metrics and reports that you should track to identify your Google Maps performance and make informed decisions to optimise your presence.
Where customers see your business on Google
In this section, you can track the frequency of your business being found through general search versus map listings, which will give you an idea of the effectiveness of your Google Maps listing in bringing in new customers. As you make changes to your listing, monitoring these statistics will help you ensure that your decisions are leading to positive results
It will show you customer interaction and engagement in your listing. How many people find your location, call you, visit your website, or send you a message.
Direction requests – where customers are coming from
When you know your target prospects, their location, and the devices they use to find you, you’ll be able to localise and better strategise your other marketing ventures.
The performance of your photos
With this metric, you can see how many times your business photos have been viewed and how they are performing against your competitors. You can see the impressions on photos posted by you and businesses like you, moreover, you can also see the photos posted by your customers. In this way, you can gain an idea of what kind and quality of photos your customers like and you can improve the quality of your photos accordingly.
4. Utilise Google Maps local search Ads
Google Maps Local Search Ads can improve your business visibility by allowing you to create ads that appear when users search for specific keywords or businesses similar to yours on Google Maps.
There are four main local search ad features on Google Maps including:
Promoted Pins: make your business more conspicuous to people in the vicinity or who are likely to pass by your business. An example of this would be, if you own a restaurant, your ad could entice people who are passing by to have a meal. Similarly, if you want people to stop at your gas station, your Promoted Pin could prompt them to pull over and refuel.
In-store promotions: this ad feature enables you to show your latest promotions to users in your location
Customisable business pages: Google map ads also allow you to create a customisable business page to target your local customers where you can only show specific products or promotions you want to sell.
Local inventory search function: Most buyers don’t bother to click on the website to explore your online inventory. This feature will help you import your inventory to your business page so your customers can easily check them and buy instantly.
Google Maps ads can be seen on the Google Maps app, mobile and desktop versions of the Google Maps website, and on Google.com Expanded Map results. Users may come across a single ad at the top of their search results on the Google Maps app.
Additionally, up to two ads can appear on searches conducted within the app. For location-related searches on Google.com, users who select the “More places” link at the bottom of the Local 3-Pack will first encounter a Google Maps ad at the top, preceding other map results.
If you need help in managing your Google Map ads, you can contact us any time.
Improving your visibility in Google Maps marketing, like any other digital marketing strategies, takes time and effort. Don’t expect instant results or a magic formula to skyrocket you to the top. Even if you do everything right, it may take some time to see the results. But don’t worry, by staying on top of your optimization efforts, keeping your information and profile updated, and focusing on providing excellent customer service, your business’s visibility will improve in Google Maps.