Google Maps isn’t going anywhere. And lucky for local marketers, neither is Google Maps marketing.
In this post, we’re digging into what Google Maps marketing is, why it’s so important, and how local business can take full advantage of it.
What is Google Maps Marketing?
Chances are, you (and your customers) are one of them. And more than likely, you’re not just using it for directions.
Imagine you’re out and about and have the sudden urge to make a quick coffee pit stop. What do you do? You enter “coffee shop” into your Google Maps app, and wait to see where the closest one is.
As the customer, you’re relieved to find a shop close to you. But as the business owner of that coffee shop, you’re thrilled that Google Maps just gave you some advertising – and a new customer.
That, essentially, is how Google Maps marketing works: it makes your business easy to find.
Enter in a search for a type of business product or service, and Google will pull map with three results at the very top of the results page. This, technically, is a SERP feature called the Local 3-Pack.
And, as we’re coming to realize, optimizing for SERP features is essential to modern SEO. For local business, that means going for the Local 3-Pack.
And the cool thing about it is that it doesn’t just cater to the Starbucks of the world. If optimized correctly, smaller, independent stores have a great chance of popping up for a related search.
Why Does Google Maps Marketing Matter?
If you operate a local business, having a local SEO strategy in place is a must.
That local strategy will help you reach those customers closest to you and lead them from their mobile device to your physical door.
And, though it may seem like Amazon and e-commerce have overtaken traditional in-store shopping, Google revealed that approximately 90% of all global sales will happen in stores, as opposed to online.
That’s not all:
- Nearly a third of mobile searches are related to location.
- Location-related searches have been growing 50% faster than mobile searches overall in the past year.
- Google searches (on Google.com and Maps) guide consumers to 1.5 billion destinations every year.
- 84% of consumers conduct local searches.
- Three out of every four people who search for something nearby using their smartphone end up visiting a store within a day, and 28% of those searches result in a purchase.
So, we know people are searching locally. Often.
And when they search local, odds are they’re looking for a physical location to visit, and often make a purchase.
Generally, when people perform a local search, they already know what they’re looking for it. They just need the most convenient location that offers it.
Which means they’re searching with purchase intent, and as marketers, that’s absolutely something you want to take full advantage of.
And quite often, people don’t even know a specific business name when they search for it. Instead, they discover it on Google Maps. While that evens the playing field a bit, you want to do everything in your power to give your business a leg up.
Google Maps Marketing: Major Factors
Google Maps marketing doesn’t play by traditional SEO rules.
Rather than the usual collection of ranking factors, it relies heavily on just three to determine how results will rank.
The first is proximity.
This is based on an individual user’s physical location, and it’s major in local SEO.
It’s designed to return the most accurate and closes results possible, based on where, exactly, you are.
So when using proximity, results will be displayed based on how close they are to the searcher’s location.
If I type a search in for “drug store,” my results pull the closest drug stores to me, in order. “A” is the closest, followed by “B” and “C.” Note that map results are displayed in three’s, and will expand to include more options when clicked on.
This is a bit of a good news/bad news situation.
Good news: it’s great for searchers, and means every business has an equal shot. You can’t out-optimize someone here; whichever business is closest wins.
On the other hand, if you don’t happen to be the closest business, there’s not much you can do to alter the results.
While proximity is the most common factor when it comes to Maps rankings, it’s not the only one.
Sometimes, people don’t have their location settings turned on, or they fail to update if they change locations.
Or, sometimes people simply aren’t searching for something all that close to them.
Case in point: if I type in a search for “burgers in Nashville, TN”, ranking by proximity won’t do me much good, as it’s states away.
Instead, Google relies on a Rank system.
Unlike proximity, this one you do have some control over.
But again, relying on your usual SEO strategy won’t quite cut it. Here, the rules of local SEO apply.
To see what I mean, take another look at that “burgers in nashville” image. Specifically, the star ratings of the businesses listed.
You’ll notice that the top spot doesn’t have the highest aggregate score (a 4.6, compared to the second spot’s 4.7), but it does have the highest number of reviews.
So we know a few things. One, collecting reviews (and a lot of them) is important. And two, it’s not the only factor Google looks out – and the highest rating doesn’t guarantee the top spot.
For that, you need a mix of great reviews, and a really well-optimized Google My Business page.
1. Google Maps Marketing: Setting up and Optimizing Your Google My Business Listing
As a local business owner, I hope you’re already familiar with Google My Business (GMB).
GMB is a free online directory that allows business owners to claim their listing. Google uses this listing to collect important information often displayed in the SERPs – think phone number, open hours, address, etc.
At its very basic, A GMB account allows your business to be seen across the Google network. Beyond that, it gives you a platform to interact with your customers, and even gives you valuable insight into how your customers are searching for your business.
It’s also what Google relies on when it pulls its information for search results. So if you haven’t claimed your listing, chances are, you won’t show up in Google Maps. And if it’s claimed and not optimized, you’re hurting your chances of ever claiming a spot in the Local 3-Pack.
To add or claim your listing, go to Google’s business site or app and follow the given instructions.
But don’t stop there.
Remember, how well your business performs in rank-related Google Maps results is all about optimization.
Here are some tips to get you started.
- Make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number) is consistent across the board – as in, matches exactly. The information on your website, Yelp, Facebook, GMB, etc. should be the same.
- Choose the most relevant category for your business. There’s plenty to choose from here, and you should go with the one that most accurately describes your business (go as specific as possible, and Google will still associate your biz with more general categories.
- Always link your GMB to your homepage. If you run a multi-location business, create separate pages for each.
- Enter a description using the most relevant, target keywords. Include both keywords about your business and its location.
- Always add photos. Start with 5, and continuously add more. Straight from Google: Business with photos receive 42% more requests for driving directions to their locations, and 32% more click-throughs to their websites than with no photos. If possible, try adding a video as well.
- Get reviews! As discussed earlier, reviews are an extremely important factor in local SEO.
The most important thing to keep in mind: fill your listing out completely.
Users can filter by price, hours, rating, etc., so it’s essential that you have everything included. Otherwise, you could get left out of a search.
For more about these tips and more, check out my full article on Google My Business optimization.
2. Google Maps Marketing: Advertising
As with most digital marketing, there are two sides when it comes to Google Maps: organic and paid.
In the local SEO world, the paid part is Local Search Ads.
So, why go paid? Because it’s the surest way to get your listing to the top.
As Google describes, benefits of ads include:
- More store visits. Local search ads can mean that you don’t miss out on foot traffic nearby your location.
- Calls. Local search ads may include an option for users to call your locations. They use the phone number of the featured business location.
- Help customers learn more about your business. Local search ads link to your business’s location page, which includes information such as store hours, address, customer reviews, and photos.
Traditionally, Local Search Ads appear in the top one or two spots after a search is made, with a small “Ad” box to differentiate them from traditional results.
Like other results, these ads can be clicked or swiped on to find more information like photos, reviews, address, hours, etc.
Google recently announced a few changes to Local Search Ads at its 2018 Performance Summit, highlighting the following new features.
These will appear like Local Search Ads – listings that take the top slots and are designated with a purple “Ad” box and pin on the map.
What’s different here is that the business’s logo will also appear, helping to set it even further apart from the organic competition.
These work similar to your usual Google ad campaigns; they’re set up through AdWords and operate on a pay per click (PPC) basis, meaning you only pay when someone clicks on your ad.
This one takes Promoted Pins one step further.
Here, advertiser’s can entice even more traffic by including coupons and other in-store promotions in the ad.
Clearly, this gives you a leg up on the competition.
If a user is searching for a “pharmacy,” they’ll have their pick of all the matching businesses in the area (and more then likely, it’s a lot).
But if just one of those businesses has a visible a store-wide or product-related discount, I’m more than willing to be that’s the one they’ll choose to visit.
Local Inventory Search
This one is another feature beneficial to advertisers and users alike.
When a user taps on your listing, it will bring up a local inventory of all products.
According to Google, many hesitate to visit a store – especially a big box or non-specialty store – because they’re unsure if the actual product they’re looking for will be in stock.
The Local Inventory Search removes that search. Users can see right in Google if a certain store has what they need.
And, rather than turning potential customers away, it helps advertisers weed out unqualified customers and instead attract those most likely to purchase.
To use this, you’ll need to submit your local product inventory feed directly to Google. More on that here.
3. Google Maps Marketing: Optimizing Local Search Ads
Those familiar with AdWords should be pretty well-equiped to handle Local Search Ads.
First thing to keep in mind: you must have location extensions (address, phone number, hours, star rating, etc.) turned on.
This is a good idea regardless of if you’re running an ad – they’re known to increase CTRs and conversions by as much as 10% – and required by Google to run a local search ad.
Then, when creating your ad, remember to think local.
Because this is Google Maps marketing, you want to choose specific locations. Google allows you to target users close to your business that search for one of your target keywords, which is a great route to take for these ads.
As for how Google chooses which ads to show, as with all things Google, we’re not entirely sure.
We do know that it evaluates multiple factors when determining rank, including:
- Search and browsing history
- Time of day
Again, your best bet is to make sure your Google My Business page is fully optimized and updated.
If Google thinks your store is closed at the time a search is being performed, it probably won’t pull your listing.
So remember: check your listing consistently and add any new information regarding holiday hours, etc.
Also keep user interests in mind. If you run a big box shop like Walmart and the current searcher has a history of only browsing small, mom and pop shops, they probably won’t show your ad.
On the flip side, if you run that mom and pop shop, all the better for you.
Wrapping Up Google Maps Marketing
Google Maps marketing is a must for any local business looking to improve awareness and store visits.
Remember, while organic results have a lot to do with proximity, you can still help improve your rank with a fully optimized Google My Business page.
Additionally, looking into running Local Search Ads will give you the best shot at beating the competition and reaching more searchers.
Have questions? Let us know in the comments!