Getting your business ready for the new Google MapsCategory: Management and HR Posted on 31-05-2013
A couple of weeks ago at Google’s I/O conference in San Francisco they announced (http://google-latlong.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/meet-new-google-maps-map-for-every.html) a new version of Google Maps. It’s currently invitation only and while there is no official timeline yet, it should start becoming more widely available over the summer. It’s cleaner and less cluttered than the current version. As you can see from the screenshot below it has a different layout when you start searching for places. The results that currently show in the left hand margin are gone, with business names now appearing directly on the map.
To access more information about a particular business you simply hover over the name and click. Hovering brings up a mini-card that highlights the business name and shows you how many reviews they have. If you have over a certain number of reviews you also get some nice red stars under your name. When you go ahead and click on a business their information card pops up. This gives you links for directions, their website and their Google Places / Google+ Local listing.
Below are 5 things you can work on to make sure your business is ready for the new Google Maps.
1. Google Places for Business
Make sure you’ve claimed and optimised your Google Places (http://www.google.co.uk/business/placesforbusiness/) listing. After your website this is the most important piece of online property you manage, especially if you’re trying to attract local customers. Follow the guidelines to ensure you do everything correctly – that means no keyword stuffing or using a fake business name – and complete your listing to 100%. You can add a description, hours of operation and a link to your website. That will help to ensure that the information shown for your business on Google Maps is up to date and accurate.
2. Local Citations
These are basically mentions of your business name, address and phone number on other websites across the internet. Usually you’ll find them on directory and information sites like Yell, Yelp, TouchLocal and Freeindex. The most important thing is to ensure that all your business data across these sites is consistent. If it’s not then you run the risk of confusing the search engines and that could have a negative impact on your local search visibility. This can become an issue if a business decides to change its name or moves to a new location.
3. Get social
Set up a Google+ Business Page (http://www.google.com/+/business/) and start to build your Circles, along with using other social networking sites where appropriate. Search is becoming more personalised and one of the things Google is pushing with the new maps is tailoring them to the individual. It knows what places you’ve looked at and if you’ve checked in to places or left a review it knows all that too. Combine that with places your friends have visited and Google can start to build a pretty good idea of what you’re interested in. This all feeds into how the “Social Graph” (http://mashable.com/category/social-search/) is helping to augment search and provide us with more personalised results. If your business can build a stronger social presence and connect with people locally then you’ll be in great shape.
4. Use images
There are a couple of things that can really help to make a business listing stand out on the new Google Maps and one of those is photos. Using images that are relevant to your business will only enhance your listing. That’s easier for some businesses than others! For example, restaurants can show their dishes, florists can show their bouquets and salons can show the latest trends. It’s a bit harder for accountants, solicitors and other service businesses but there are ways to do it. You can also find a photographer (http://maps.google.co.uk/help/maps/businessphotos/get-started.html) to take photos like in this example (http://goo.gl/MeHiw), which allows searchers to actually see inside your business. It can really help your listing to convert better.
5. Customer Reviews
These are becoming even more important with the new Google Maps. Getting those red stars to show up under your business name will help set you apart from the rest. Reviews can be tricky to get and many businesses still try to game the system with fake ones. Google is getting clever about those unethical tactics and is looking for consistent reviews from real customers. Developing a good strategy to get more local reviews is something most businesses should consider.
I’ve been using the new Google Maps since the invites went out (get yours here) (http://maps.google.com/help/maps/helloworld/desktop/preview/) and already prefer it over the old style. It has more options for directions, even including the ability to choose routes with less walking! The exploration tools, images and photo tours are quite stunning. For businesses, follow the 5 steps above and you’ll be in a good position to take full advantage of the new Google Maps when it rolls out fully over the next few months.
Bio Option 1:
Nick Rink (http://gplus.to/nickrink) writes about local search, social media, the mobile web and other online marketing issues affecting small business owners. He heads up Smart Local (http://smart-local.co.uk), a local SEO company based in SW London that helps to put businesses on the map.
Main photo credit: flickr.com