A Breakdown of Google Maps Marketing

According to Google, local searches on Google and Google Maps drive consumers to 1.5 billion destinations each year. That makes Google Maps a uniquely potent tool for local digital marketing. In fact, many brick-and-mortar businesses now treat Google Maps marketing as its own marketing channel.

Google Maps marketing takes a combination of local SEO, paid search, and reputation management, with an assist from local listings management. In this post, we’ll look at how local businesses can use these tools to boost their visibility on Google Maps.

The Basics of Google Maps Marketing

Before we get into the details of Google Maps marketing, let’s cover some basics.

When we talk about Google Maps marketing, we’re not talking about a single platform. Google Maps results are shown on multiple platforms, including the Google Maps app and the Google Maps mobile and desktop sites. Google also includes Google Maps results in a feature called the Local 3-Pack on Google.com search results, which includes the top 3 local search results from Google Maps.

The good news is that your Google Maps marketing efforts can pay dividends across all of these platforms. The same actions that boost your visibility in the Google Maps app will also boost your visibility on the Google Maps website and in the Local 3-Pack.

But is Google Maps marketing really worth it? That depends on the type of business you run. But for most local businesses, the answer is a resounding YES!

Just consider the following stats:

  • 84% of Google users conduct local searches
  • 46% of all Google searches are local queries
  • 75% of local searches result in a store visit within 24 hours
  • 28% of these store visits result in a purchase
  • 92% of local searchers choose a business on the first page of results

Based on this data, it’s clear that Google Maps drives a massive amount of purchase traffic. So, let’s examine how Google Maps marketing efforts can boost your organic visibility in local search results.

Organic Google Maps Marketing

There are two types of organic results on Google Maps: proximity results and ranked results. Here’s a quick look at how both work…

Proximity Results. If a user performs a local search with location data enabled on their device, Google will use that location data to serve results based on proximity to the users’ device. In simple terms, this means that if you search for “coffee shop” on the Google Maps app, Google will show you the coffee shops closest to your current location. The closer the coffee shop is, the better it will rank in the results.

Ranked Results. Ranked results in Google Maps include all businesses within a given area, with no preference given to proximity. Google Maps will generally serve ranked results for one of two reasons. The first is when a user has location data disabled, so Google can’t judge their proximity to local businesses. The other is when a user is in one location, but they’re performing a local search for another location (e.g., when a user in Houston searches for “restaurants in Memphis”).

Google Maps Optimization

So, how can you boost your rankings in Google Maps results?

In proximity results, the distance between the user and your business is the biggest ranking factor. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to change that. However, if you have strong Google Reviews and an excellent Google My Business profile, you can leapfrog nearby competitors in proximity results.

For ranked results, optimizing for Google Maps can give you a significant boost. These results are mostly based on your Google Reviews and Google My Business profile. So if you optimize these two areas, you can dominate ranked results.

For higher rankings, your Google Maps marketing strategy will need to focus on these three areas:

  • More & Better Reviews. The higher your average rating on Google Reviews, the higher you’ll rank on Google Maps. But Google also rewards businesses based on their volume of reviews. A 4.4 rating based on 100 reviews is more valuable than a 4.6 rating based on 10 reviews.
  • Optimized GMB Profile. Google rewards businesses with rich Google My Business profiles by awarding them higher positions in Google Maps. Make sure that your profile is as detailed as possible and includes multiple photos.
  • Local Listings Management. To avoid confusing Google, you need to make sure that your NAP (name, address, and phone number) are listed exactly the same across the internet. If your NAP is inconsistent from one website to another, Google may exclude your business from Google Maps listings. Alternatively, it might overwrite your preferred NAP with one that it scraped from another website.

Paid Google Maps Marketing

Every local business should invest in a strong organic strategy for Google Maps marketing. But once you’ve done this, there’s an easy way and cost-effective way to further boost your visibility: local search ads. These ads appear at the top of local search results on Google and Google Maps, ahead of organic results.

Local search ads are part of Google Ads. So if already have a Google Ads account, it’s easy to start advertising through Google Maps. However, you’ll need to make sure that you have location extensions enabled on your Google Ads account, and you’ll need a complete Google My Business profile. When running local search ads, you’ll also need to use location targeting, bid by location, and optimize your keywords for local search.

Starting in January of 2018, Google introduced three new features to local search ads that can be used for Google Maps marketing.

  • Promoted Pins. In addition to displaying your ad in Google Maps results, Google will display a custom pin with your logo in the Google Maps display.
  • In-Store Promotions. If you’re running an in-store promotion, you can list this promotion in your local search ad.
  • Local Inventory Search. Users can tap a button to search your store’s inventory and find out if a specific product is in stock.

If you’re just introducing local search ads to your Google Maps marketing strategy, we suggest starting with basic ads. But if you’ve had success with paid ads on Google Maps, these features could drive additional traffic to your location.

The 5 Best AdWords Extensions for Mobile PPC Ads

Mobile PPC AdsMobile devices have reshaped every corner of digital marketing over the past five years, and PPC advertising is no exception. With mobile’s growth, it’s now more important than ever that brands optimize their mobile PPC campaigns.

 

That’s especially true in Google AdWords. No other platform plays a bigger role in modern PPC advertising. And thanks to a handful of great AdWords extensions for mobile devices, AdWords is one of the best platforms for optimizing PPC ads for mobile search.

 

By optimizing your mobile campaigns with the best AdWords extensions for mobile PPC, you can see huge gains in the way your campaigns perform on mobile devices.

 

Why Optimize PPC Advertising for Mobile?

If you’re not already optimizing your AdWords campaigns for mobile, you’re missing the mark with the majority of modern searchers. Nearly 60% of all Google search traffic now comes from mobile devices and tablets. That number is even higher for searches in specific product and service categories, like food, health, and automotive.

 

Searches on mobile devices also tend to be more conversion-friendly for PPC advertising. AdWords content occupies a much more prominent position on mobile devices. On some mobile Google SERPs, ads appear first and take up more than twice the size of the device’s screen. Users on mobile devices also search with more urgency and impulsiveness than users on desktop devices. People use their laptops to research products and services, but they use their smartphone when they’re ready to convert.

 

Optimize for Mobile with AdWords Extensions

Extensions are always a great tool for optimizing your AdWords content. First and foremost, they make ads bigger. Whether your ad is appearing on a smartphone, a tablet, or a laptop, the more real estate it occupies, the better. AdWords extensions also offer unique functionality that can drive huge gains in the performance of your ad and they’re free to use.

 

When you’re optimizing mobile PPC ads, the AdWords extensions you choose will often be different than the ones you would use for desktop ads. Some AdWords extensions only work with specific devices. Others change appearance from one device to another. Performance can also fluctuate significantly between devices.

 

The best AdWords extensions for mobile PPC ads offer key advantages for mobile ads. They offer mobile-specific functionality, they provide information that’s especially relevant to mobile users, and they adjust content to the “buy now” mindset of searchers on mobile devices.

 

Here are the five mobile AdWords extensions that are best for optimizing mobile PPC campaigns.

 

Call Extensions

1. Call Extensions

Inbound phone calls are typically the most effective way to generate leads. AdWords call extensions mean mobile users can call your business at the click of a button, creating a quick, obstacle-free avenue to conversion.

 

 

 

Message Extensions

 

 

 

2. Message Extensions

Message extensions are only available for ads that appear on mobile devices. This extension works just like a call extension, but for SMS messages. It’s perfect for capturing users who feel more comfortable communicating by text than by phone.

 

 

Local Extensions

 

3. Location Extensions

Location extensions list your business address. Over 30% of mobile searches have local intent, so this is a no brainer for any business with a physical location. It’s also one of the best extensions for making your ads larger.

 

 

App Extensions

 

 

 

4. App Extensions

An app extension links directly to your brand’s mobile app in the Google Play Store. This extension can decrease conversions — at least in the short term — so only use it when the long-term gains of app downloads are worth the trade-off.

 

 

Price Extensions

 

5. Price Extensions

The AdWords price extension generates a menu of offers and prices. Users who click on an offer are directed straight to a landing page for that specific service or product. This extension is tailor-made for the “buy now” search mindset of many mobile users.

 

 

 

 

 

Google My Business Posts: Tips for Optimization

Google My Business OptimizationIf you’ve logged into Google My Business in the past few weeks, you might be looking for tips on a brand new feature: Google My Business Posts.

Google My Business Posts are short, social-media style posts that your search engine marketing team can post to Google for free. When someone searches for your business in Google search or Google Maps, your posts appear directly in their search results. Google calls Posts “a new way to share relevant, fresh content with the people who are searching for you.” But in terms of search engine marketing, you might as well call them “free ad space.”

Sound enticing? We think so too. But before you jump in feet first, here’s what you need to know about this new feature. We’ve also included five crucial Google My Business Posts tips that you can use to optimize your results.

Google My Business Posts 101

While Posts is a new feature for Google My Business users, Google has been toying with this product for over a year. It was first available to candidates in the 2016 presidential primaries, and Google has been testing it with different types of verified users ever since.

Each post is made up of a few, simple elements. When you make a post, you will be asked to choose a post type (i.e. “Event” or “Offer/Special”), add a photo, write content, and choose a call to action (i.e. “Buy” or “Learn More). You’ll also be able to assign URL or phone number for the call to action button. If your post is an “Event,” you’ll be asked to write a title.

Posts appear when Google considers your business the most relevant search result for a user’s query. This is usually when someone searches for your business’s name. It could also be for a product or service query where your business is the top local result. Posts are displayed in a carousel format within the knowledge graph in organic search. In Google Maps, they appear as part of your business listing.

This feature has a number of search engine marketing advantages. It’s free (for now), it’s a great way to take up real estate in search results, and it’s an effective tool for promoting offers directly within Google search. That said, it’s a new product so there’s minimal data on its effectiveness. You also might need a few tips on Google My Business Posts before you get started…

Google My Business Posts Tips

Posts is a new feature for Google My Business, so search engine marketing professionals are still testing the limits of what this tool can do. But if you’re looking for some quick tips on optimizing Google My Business Posts, the five tips below should give you a head-start:

 

  1. Optimizing Content. Posts have a limit of 15,000 characters, but Google recommends only using 150-300. What they don’t tell you is only 100 characters appear in search results — users need to click on your post to see the rest. So, put as much time as possible into the first 100 characters. And remember: Google will punish posts that use gimmicky language or formatting.
  2. Optimizing Images. Google allows images as small as 250 x 250 pixels, but your images will appear best at 720 x 720 pixels. To avoid ugly accidents with cropping when your image appears in search results, use square images with a central focal point.
  3. Optimizing Visibility. Your carousel will contain up to three posts, and users can scroll through as many as ten posts in the carousel. Have at least three posts at any given time to maximize visibility. Keep in mind that posts appear chronologically, so users will always see your latest post first.
  4. Optimizing Scheduling. Google Posts will disappear from search results within seven days, so successful use of this feature demands a commitment to regular posting. Unfortunately, there’s no way yet to pre-schedule your posts.
  5. Optimizing Analytics. Google Analytics cannot track posts. Even worse, Posts data is extremely limited for Google My Business users. To get around this, use UTM codes for your call to action URLs. This will allow you to track hard data within Google Analytics.

 

Surveys: Local Retailers Struggle with Local Listings Management

local listings managementWhen it comes to search marketing, organic success in local search depends on proper local listings management. But if you’re the average local retailer, chances are that you’re ignoring this crucial part of marketing your business online.

In fact, recent surveys have shown that:

  • Less than half of local retailers have claimed their Google My Business listing.
  • Only a third have claimed their listing on Yelp.
  • Less than a quarter report claiming a listing on Yahoo!, Yellow Pages, Bing, or the Better Business Bureau.

According to the same surveys, nearly three quarters of local retailers don’t invest time in local listings management. If you’re one of these businesses, this might not seem like a big deal. But without proper management of local listings, it can be tough or impossible for users to find your business when they search for it online.

Listings Key to Local SEO Success

Local listings perform two key functions in local SEO. First, Google and other search engines use local listings to double-check your business’s address, phone number, and name. If major listings are wrong or enough smaller listings contain false information, Google can tell users the wrong information for your business.

Second, search engines use local listings to measure the popularity and relevance of your business. The higher the quality of your listings and the more listings your business has, the better your business will perform in search results.

So, when more than half of local retailers fail to claim their Google My Business profile — the first and most important step in local listings management — they make their businesses far less competitive online. That opens up opportunities for businesses that put in the work when it comes to local listings management.

Self-Managed Listings vs. Using an Agency

Local listings management can be a complicated process. It takes the right tools and experience to track down listings for your company. Meanwhile, building new listings or correcting problems with existing ones can take seemingly forever without local listings management experience. As a result, 38% of business owners who attempt local listings management on their own believe that their work is ineffective.

On the other hand, an agency with local listings management experience can cut the time and costs associated with hunting down, correcting, and building local listings. Agencies have a range of tools and systems at their disposal to hunt down inaccurate listings and discover new listings opportunities. Most local businesses find that agencies perform effective local listings management work, with nearly 40% of local retailers who use agencies saying their work is very/extremely effective at local listings management.

Need a hand with local listings management? The team at Qiigo can help. Call our agency’s experts today at (888) 673-1212 to find out how we make local listings management easy for brands and local businesses.

You Verified Your Google My Business Profile. What’s Next?

google my business From Google Maps to Google Places and Google+, there’s a lot of Google these days. And now, to add to the complexities, there’s Google My Business. If you’re not familiar with GMB, it’s simply a free tool that helps your business manage their online presence across Google – and claiming your GMB profile is an essential part of local SEO.

Why Does GMB Matter?

If your website has been around for a while, Google likely already has your business contact information. However, if you don’t verify it via phone or postcard, then Google doesn’t give it the same relevancy as your competitor who did verify their GMB profile. That means the simple act of claiming and verifying your GMB profile can impact your local search engine rankings.

If your business is a major corporation with customers across the country, it’s not as relevant. However, if you’re a small to medium size local business in a small or mid-size market, it can be the difference between beating out your competitor down the road for a first place listing on Google…or losing out.

What’s more, according to a 2014 report by Google, 50% of consumers who search for a local business using a mobile device visited it within a day of the search; 34% who searched on a computer/tablet did the same. In addition, 18% of local searches lead to a purchase within one day.

Are you really willing to pass up those sales numbers?

So go to google.com/business and click “Get on Google” to claim and verify your GMB profile. Make sure your company information – including name, address and phone number – is all completely accurate. Also, be sure to include your operating hours, verify your website address, and select categories that best represent your company.

Beyond that, what else can you do to improve your Google My Business profile? Here are a few idea starters:

 

Include Photos On Your GMB Profile

Photos serve to enhance your profile, which search engines and users like to see. In fact, Google reports that those business listings with images in their profile get 35% more customers clicking through to their website compared to those listings without images. Just make sure the photos you do post are professional and represent your company well.

Fully Complete Your Profile

There’s more to a GMB profile than just your company contact information. Leverage its full potential by adding more detail to it. Write a short intro that describes your company to potential customers. Include a 360-degree video view of the inside of your business to further entice customers. And add regular updates to keep it fresh. You don’t have to post to it daily. However, when you add new content to your website or blog, for instance, you can share it on your Google My Business page – which enhances your GMB profile and builds quality backlinks to your website.

Encourage Customers to Write Reviews.

Reviews on your profile are like a word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend, making them invaluable. They can also help your website stand out on in the crowd on Google. So encourage and remind your customers to write reviews – and make it easy for them to do so. Link to your GMB profile on your website, social media profiles, and in email newsletters. The more positive reviews, the better!

 

Too busy running your business to manage your local SEO efforts? Call the search engine marketing experts at Qiigo at (888) 673-1212. Whether your business is large or small, we can help you fully leverage the power of Google My Business and dominate your local rankings.

 

Google Sued for Errors in Google Maps

Google-Maps-Logo

What percentage of your business comes from Internet inquiries? What if online listings with your business’ address, phone number or hours of operation suddenly changed? Would business drop off? Could a notation of “Closed Saturday, Sunday and Monday” result in a 75% drop in sales? According to one business owner it did.

Rene Bertagna, owner of the Serbian Crown, closed his Washington DC-area restaurant after he claims a change to his Google Maps listing resulted in significant and long lasting declines in business. A 75% drop in customers in one weekend was the start his business’ decline. Within 18 months, his business closed for good.

After a customer called to find out why the 40-year old business was suddenly closed on the weekends, Bertagna hired an internet consultant to try to fix the problem. It was too late. With the Google Places listing showing incorrect business hours, the Serbian Crown was fated for closure. Now he’s suing Google claiming they turned a blind eye to his problem and others like it.

Google Maps is a crowd-source project. While Google populates Maps with reliable information from sources including infoUSA and Axciom, listings can be changed by anyone on the web. If your business listing goes unclaimed, anyone using Google Maps can modify phone numbers, addresses, hours of operation, and other critical information. In a well-documented event, a whistle blower set up fake listings for the FBI and Secret Service. While he routed phone calls to the correct number, he was still easily able to set up fake listings that could have been detrimental to a small business.

While the lawsuit filed by Bertagna against Google is not expected to progress through the court system due to immunity given to crowd-source websites, it highlights the need for business owners to be aware of and to continuously monitor their online presence.

If you are concerned about your brand’s reputation and online business listings, call Qiigo today. Our Local Listing Management and Reputation Management offerings make it possible for you to ensure your business name, address, phone number and business hours are accurate across hundreds of online business directories.

Call Qiigo at (404) 496-6841 to learn more about Local Listing Management.

You’re the Star of Ads on Google

You’ve always wanted to be a model or movie star, right? Now’s your chance! Starting November 11, 2013, Google will start using your photo in advertisements that appear on Google+. You’ll be famous!

Wait…you didn’t sit for any photo shoots? Didn’t sign any modeling contracts?
It’s ok; all you needed to do is make a recommendation
on Google+. Here’s how it works.
google photo in ad

You find a great product or service and review it on Google+. That company decides to start advertising on Google. When the company’s ads run, your friends will see a version of the ad that includes your Google+ profile photo and your review of their product or service. Here’s an example of what the ad may look like.

While this may seem a bit like an invasion of privacy, Google assures us you are in control of your content and images. According to Google, “Your content is only shared when you choose, and shared endorsements don’t impact who can see your content or activity.” The concept of shared endorsements is intended to “help your friends and others find cool stuff online.”

You can control what information is shared through Google’s new shared endorsement policy. According to Google, “you can choose whether your name and photo may be used to help your friends find stuff you love (and avoid stuff you don’t).” You should be aware that any activity including reviews, follows, shares and +1s can be used by Google along with your name and photo for commercial and other promotional activities if you participate in this program. If you choose to participate in this program, the name and photo visible in advertisements will be the “public profile name and photo you have chosen on Google+.”

To learn more and to opt out of the Google shared endorsement program, simply visit this page and uncheck the box.

Google Launches Google+ City Experts Program

city experts

Looking to encourage more quality reviews for Google+, Google has launched its City Experts program. Available in selected cities in the United States, the U.K, Australia, and Japan, the City Experts program is available only to those individuals who have written 50 or more reviews and who can continue to contribute at least five (5) additional reviews each month.

Those who are eligible to participate in the program will enjoy a few perks including Google swag and access to an “exclusive” community where members can “discuss new tips and tricks for using Google+ Local and Google Maps.” City Experts will also receive a monthly newsletter with offers, contests and invitations to exclusive City Expert events.

To join the City Experts program, Google Maps and Google+ Local users must sign up via the registration page. Once they have written 50 high quality reviews, they will receive a welcome letter into the City Experts program. A high quality review is defined as “three to four sentences long and contains specific, helpful and balanced information about a particular business.” City Experts must then continue to post at least 5 high quality reviews each month to maintain their active status in the program. The focus on quality reviews is meant to discourage spammers and others from flooding the program just to get free stuff.

Cities in the U.S. participating in the City Experts program include Austin, Chicago, New York, Phoenix, Portland, Raleigh-Durham, and San Francisco. Those who do not live in participating cities are encouraged to sign up for the program as Google hopes to expand the City Experts program to additional cities in the future.

Reviews and Local Search Results: What You Need To Know

reviews

Local search drives business. Reviews are essential to consumers as they search for reliable, trustworthy businesses to purchase from. Merging the two is what Google does best.

Roughly 40% of searches are local. This means that your neighbors are searching for places to shop in your town on Google. According to the 2012 Local Consumer Review Study, 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation. Better yet, 52% say positive online reviews make them more likely to purchase from a business. The importance of local searches and online reviews of your business has never been greater.

Google has said recently, “…we at Google are committed to helping people to get ratings, reviews, and recommendations that are relevant, helpful, and trustworthy.” In an effort to provide their users with the best possible experience, Google has been tweaking their algorithm to ensure consumers find the information they need. In doing so, they have laid out some guidelines on what not to do to generate reviews. Here’s what you need to know:

Don’t ask your employees to review you.

Google doesn’t allow reviews from current owners or employees. They have the technology to remove individual reviews, so don’t give them reason to come after your page.

Don’t pay someone to write reviews for you.

Some SEO companies will claim that by generating reviews for you they can boost your ranking. This is what Google says about these claims, “We’ve seen companies make up fake glowing testimonies — and we’ll take them down.”

Negative reviews can’t be removed.

Some will say they can remove negative reviews about your business, but it simply isn’t true. The best you can hope for is to bury the negative review with oodles of positive ones.

Don’t set up a computer in your business for people to provide reviews.

Google doesn’t like this and recommends you send follow up emails asking for reviews instead.

Don’t bribe your customer for a review.

Seems obvious right? Well, even discounts or incentives are considered bribes. So don’t do it.

Don’t enter comment cards as reviews.

Google wants each review to “come from first-hand experience and does not allow posting reviews on behalf of others.”

So how are you supposed to increase your review count? Here are some tips you can use to get more reviews from your very satisfied customers.

  • Send emails reminding customers to write online reviews after a purchase.
  • Include a link to review your business on Google+ in any email blasts you send out.
  • Post reminders near the register, on the door or in another well trafficked area of your store.
  • Getting lots of positive mentions on social media sites? Follow up with a reminder to post to your Google+ Local page.

And what do you do if you receive a bad review. UGH. Don’t just stick your head in the sand. Action must be taken! First, respond promptly with an apology. Ask what you can do to make the situation whole. Work closely with the disgruntled customer to turn them around. They are likely to become a fan for life if you can prove you are responsive to their needs.

The importance of reviews on local search results is only going to increase as Google continues to place more weight on these online entries. Now is the time to build up a strong base of reviews.

If you are not currently monitoring your online reputation and reviews, call Qiigo today at (404) 496-6841 to learn more about our Reputation Management program.

The New Google Places Dashboard: What You Need to Know

Google Places

Google recently announced some noteworthy changes to the Google Places dashboard. Overall, the reviews have been mixed, but there are some changes that will make it easier for SMBs to manage their Places account.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The new ‘Places for Business’ dashboard is designed to make things easier and more clear for SMBs. With the new dashboard, it will be easier to use and promote within Google’s local products.
  • This new roll out is coming in stages. The new dashboard is considered a v1.0 evolution and users should expect to see more announcements about additional features.
  • As this is a roll out, don’t expect that you will have access to the new dashboard immediately. The new dashboard is only available to new listings, those newly created or newly verified. If you’ve already claimed your listing, you are going to have to wait until the roll out reaches you.
  • The new dashboard is cleaner, faster and easier to use. This is good. Changes made in the new dashboard feed directly into Google’s updated ‘knowledge graph.” This new structure makes it easier to manage data and Google will put more emphasis on the data submitted here.
  • On the downside, the verification process remains the same. A PIN is still required to take control of your listing. However, if you need to dispute a listing, there is a new, clearer appeals process. Also, Google is now preventing listings from being claimed by multiple accounts. This should eliminate some problems with ownership and administration.
  • The new dashboard features tips and advice on how to complete individual fields. With fewer fields to complete and clear instructions on how to fill out the fields, it should be easier for SMBs to manage their listings.
  • All core updates to your profile should go live within 48 hours. Photos will take a bit longer. Google is working on a fix for this delay. If you want to add video to your profile, you will need a Google+ profile.
  • With the new dashboard, Google has acknowledged SABs (service area businesses) for the first time. SABs can now get a Google+ Local page and hide their address.
  • Users will see a significant change in the categories portion of their profile. No longer will you be able to create a custom category (although custom categories for older listings will remain). Now you will be prompted to select up to 10 categories to list in. Google even provides examples of how to complete these fields for maximum effect.
  • Please note, Google has advised SMBs to not merge their old Google Local Listing with the Google+ Local page. This process is fraught with problems Google is trying to solve. So just sit tight and wait for Google to figure this out.