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.

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.

 

Color-Coded Ads in Testing for Google Maps

If Google Maps plays a role in your business’s local search marketing efforts, you may be affected by a new change that Google has been testing for the past few weeks. As Google continues to tinker with the placement and look of ads in both desktop and mobile SERPS, that tinkering is also taking place on Google Maps.

Purple Pins for Ads; Red Pins for Organic

Users who search for local businesses on Google Maps will now see some purple-colored pins dotting their results in between all of the other red-colored organic pins. These purple pins are for paid-placement ads, which allow businesses to boost their local search marketing placements on Google Maps.

Those same businesses appear at the top of the results in the left column of Google Maps when searches are made. The left column listing for the business contains a small purple box that explicitly labels the listing as an “Ad.”

google purple pin

Google Balancing Ads vs. User Trust

This is yet another example of Google’s attempts to integrate ads without compromising the quality of its search results. By color-coding its pins, Google makes it easy for users to differentiate paid-placement ads from red organic results. Google has been working hard for the past few years to find the right balance between ads and organic results, since the company relies on both user trust and ad-based revenue.

Benefits for Local Search Marketing

For local search marketing teams, there are benefits to the purple pins for ad listings. So far, Google is only showing one ad for each Google Maps search and that listing appears prominently on the text-based left-column results. By using color-coded pins and limiting the number of ads per search, Google has made it easy for your ad to “pop” out from other search results.

With this feature still in testing, we’ll probably see more tweaks before Google rolls out a permanent version of color-coded ads. That means it will likely be a few months before we have hard data on how this changes the value, success rate, and ROI of using Google Maps ads for local search marketing.

Work with a team on the cutting edge of local search marketing. Contact Qiigo today (888) 673-1212 to unlock your digital potential.

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.

Skybox Imaging Joins Google

Google-and-Skybox3

Skybox Imaging builds satellites and provides imagery and video, analytics and applications related to their launched satellites. Google announced an agreement to acquire Skybox Imaging in June 2014 for $500 million.

Google is expected to use the satellites and data provided by Skybox Imaging to enhance the already dominate Google mapping system. There is speculation that Google will utilize Skybox technology to drive improvements in other internet offerings in the near future.

According to a Google spokesman, “Their satellites will help keep our maps accurate with up-to-date imagery. Over time, we also hope that Skybox’s team and technology will be able to help improve Internet access and disaster relief — areas Google has long been interested in.”

Skybox Imaging has launched two satellites since their founding in 2009.

Google Maps Riddled with Errors

Google-Maps-Logo

When a consumer searches Google for a business they assume they are getting real and accurate data. Unfortunately, that may not be the case. The instances of blatantly inaccurate and misleading listings on Google Maps are difficult to control.

It’s ridiculously easy to create a false Google Maps listing. By creating a listing in Map Maker and then creating and verifying a Google Places page for the fake listing, you can turn an ATM machine into a hospital, McDonalds, or any other business or office…just for fun. (Not that we would recommend this.)

Google has stated that they “work hard to remove listings that are reported to violate our policies as quickly as possible, and to check bad actors that try to game the system by altering business descriptions once they are live on Google Maps. We encourage users to let us know when they see something that might violate our guidelines by using our ‘Report a Problem’ tool, found at the bottom right corner of the map.”

However, it can still be challenging to get fake listings removed. Many users complain the ‘Report a Problem’ tool is ineffective and Google’s listings editors are often called out for being reluctant to take down fake listings.

So what’s the problem with fake listings? It can cost you money! A recent Google Maps search for ‘locksmith Denver Co’ provided in excess of 600 listings. Few of the reported locations are actually licensed locksmiths diverting customers from legitimate businesses.

How can you ensure your local listings are accurate? Qiigo Local Listings Management claims, creates, edits, and monitors your online business listings on directory, review and social media sites across the web. When your brand’s online business listings are claimed and accurate, your Google+ value increases boosting your position on search engine results pages.

Learn more about how Local Listings Management can help your business thrive, by calling Qiigo today at (404) 496-6841.

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.

Meet Waze – Google’s Newest Acquisition

waze

Waze. Who? Waze. They may be new on the scene, but you’re going to be hearing a lot about them from here on out. Waze is an iOS map and navigation app that was just purchased by Google for an estimated, and whopping, $1.1 to $1.3 billion.

Who or What is Waze?

As we stated, Waze is an interactive navigation and mapping app with approximately 50 million users. Based in Israel and Palo Alto, CA, the app was launched in 2008. This free app offers turn-by-turn navigation for both iOS and Android systems. Since its launch, it has raised approximately $67 million in outside funding from such prominent sources as Kleiner Perkins and Horizons Ventures.

Waze-screen

Waze separates itself from other mapping and navigation apps with its crowdsourcing formula. Instead of trying to map out each and every street around the world, Waze relies on its users to provide detailed information as they drive. Users provide information on accidents, traffic jams, construction, speed, locations, best routes, and other travel information building out the app’s maps in real time. This crowdsourcing formula creates an addictive experience for users who are able to report back a wide variety of information ranging from gas prices to speed traps to points of interest. As more users come on board, the app becomes more robust, more reliable and more effective.

Who Wanted Waze?

Google wasn’t the only one who wanted to add Waze to their empire. Other big tech companies courted Waze before Google swept in and won the prize. With all the major tech companies in need of reliable and effective mapping programs, it seemed Waze was ripe for a buyout. Waze offered what all tech companies need – a reliable, easy to use navigation and mapping program with a nice base of 50 million followers to boot.

Apple was the first to come knocking on Waze’s door. Apple reportedly came in with a $500 million bid. This was a logical match. Apple struggled with the roll out of their own proprietary mapping system. Waze would have helped Apple to recover from this somewhat embarrassing misstep. For whatever reasons, this match didn’t work out.

Then Facebook came to the table. Facebook was reportedly in talks with Waze when Google came knocking. The Facebook offer reportedly came in at a very respectable $1 billion. The Facebook-Waze partnership would also have made sense given Facebook’s recent push to enter the mobile game. But Google came in with the big offer and closed the deal.

Why Google?

So why Google? Waze offers Google’s current mapping system some upgrades they don’t currently have including real time updates and additional routes to avoid traffic. The Waze experience is more interactive and fun. It offers something to users that Google’s current mapping system simply can’t and, while that doesn’t seem like much, over the long term it offers value to Google.

Then there’s the social aspect that Waze offers. Waze has a social networking side that Google can tap into to boost up Google+. Currently Waze offers a single sign on with Facebook, which would make sense for Google to replace with Google+. Waze also offers users the ability to see which friends are on the same route to events, the ability to share drives, to communicate from the road, and to choose meet up spots. All of these social aspects offer value to Google.

Google’s acquisition of Waze also brings an advertising component into the equation. While Waze hasn’t been focused on monetizing its product, it can now turn its attention to building out this portion of its brand. Late in 2012, Waze was already looking at ways to build out ads within the app by allowing businesses to claim their spot on the map and send out targeted messages to people driving nearby. This jives nicely with Google’s ad strategies.

It does seem as though the acquisition of Waze was a good deal for Google. It took a potentially valuable app out of the hands of the competition and added some valuable technology and intellectual property to Google’s already overflowing toolbox. It remains to be seen how the other major tech companies will respond.