A Beginner's Guide to Google Maps: How they Help Businesses for Free
Google Places and Google Maps - Why they're important for your business
Have you ever gone looking for a local service - say, a hairdresser - and noticed that when you type in “hairdresser Bristol” (or Birmingham, or Bangkok) a small map appears with local hairdressers listed? Didn’t those businesses instantly catch your eye?
Those listings are a FREE service from Google - and they’re the next, crucial step after optimizing your website for search engine results.
Registering with Google Places (previously called Google Local Business Centre) should be one of the first things you do to increase website traffic and improve your SEP (Search engine placement) - it’s certainly the first thing GWS will do on your behalf if you ask us to take care of your Online Marketing work.
The Google Places service is invaluable if:
- you are looking to sell a good or service in a particular locality;
you are a small business relying on personal recommendations and need to underscore your credibility;
- you need your customers to be able to find your premises easily;
- you want more information about how your website attracts traffic, for more effective marketing;
- or, you simply want to give your business a leg-up in the organic search listings.
How do they work? Read on...
Google Places Listings are technically separate to organic SEO, yet rely largely on the same criteria for success - the cornerstone of which, of course, is the use of good relevant, and better still original, content which matches your target search terms.
It’s a little bit of initial effort - but that’s the only downside.
The good news is, if you’re a small business with a good local base but you’re finding that large national competitors are swamping the organic SEO results - Google Maps is where you can really come into your own.
Imagine you own a small printing firm in Bristol.
A large national chain, with a website telling customers to ‘find your nearest store,’ is obliterating your business in results for the search term ‘Bristol printers’(even though you know most clients would prefer your quicker, cheaper and more accessible service).
GWS’s plan of action goes something like this:
Register the firm for Google Places, writing a good description of your services; listing your categories carefully (“commercial printing”, “printing and binding” “colour printing” etc). We also upload a picture of your premises and examples of your work. Importantly, we verify your business with Google (this just means they make certain you are at the address you claim you are).
If possible, we encourage some of the business’ regular clients to leave a review.
All this means that Google can “see” the website’s credibility.
Google - whose primary aim, of course, is to aid searchers to find the relevant content for their search term - will (usually) display map results, front page top, for all search terms qualified by a location - and you will be on that list.
This means that if the national chain doesn’t have a local branch, it’s quite likely you could end up at the top - we’ve seen it happen.
The bonus is that Google will ALSO bump up your own webpage in relation to ‘local - because a site on Google Maps gains in credibility.
It’s win / win.
10 Other Benefits of Taking Advantage of Google Places
Free advertising with no strings is enough of a reason in itself to register, but there are plenty more benefits:
1. Map listings don’t just state your address. They can (and should) contain detailed information about your business, what services you offer, brands you carry, staff qualifications, opening hours - in fact, it’s like having another website, but this website boosts traffic to your official one. (And no sales calls, as with many other online directories with similar benefits).
2. It allows your potential clients to see, at a glance, that you are a real company with a bona fide premises - you can even put a picture of yourself, and/or the company premises if you wish. For e-commerce concerns, or other businesses who need their target customers to really ‘trust’ the service, this can be an important way to communicate the message “This business is for real.”
3. Your clients and customers can be encouraged to review your service, and these reviews will also be displayed - another great way to build up a sound business profile online and get some free PR. Why not mention it to clients, and reciprocate for mutual business connections? Online reviewing is, of course, the 21st century equivalent of “A friend of a friend recommended….”
4. Searches conducted on iPhones and other mobile phones often display Google Map listings at the very top of the page. Think how small the screen is on those gadgets - and think how tempting it is for a user to click on the business displayed on the map rather than spend time scrolling through the results.
5. Any potential clients using Google Earth have the ability to zoom into the local region and view businesses relevant to their topic of interest - thus, your business becomes instantly visible to casual browsers who may then come and visit you directly.
6. The link to your Google Maps listing can be quickly emailed, or phoned through, to clients or business associates who need to know where your office is - saving your administrators time, since they don’t have to give people detailed direction - Google does that for you.
7. If you have several different premises for different business purposes, are hard to find, or have had previous addresses (which sometimes confuses potential customers), it’s a great way to clarify the situation and make sure your business keeps coming to you.
8. You can further enhance your listing for free by listing special offers; qualifications or specialist skills (for example, if you’ve attained a diploma in hypnotherapy or are an accredited RICS member); brands offered (if you’re a distributor of a niche brand name, or you are an accredited fitter/parts specialist).
9. If there’s any information floating around about your business on the internet - (which is increasingly likely - since Google Maps crawls information from many sources, chances are you even have a map listing already) - the official Google Maps listing regarding your name and your business’ name will be given greater weight in the SEPs, thus offsetting any incorrect information. The old marketing adage “any publicity is good publicity” does not apply in the internet age - when your customers may be reading ex-staff member’s diatribes about the firm in internet forums, or driving 50 miles to your old address which is now an old people’s home.
10. Listings with the company logo will probably rank higher than those without (apparently- Google Maps listings are a relatively new way of boosting SEPs, so search engine marketers are still testing the water!) Since you have space for 10 photos on the listing, making sure your logo is one of them will ensure your brand is visible in the marketplace.
A word of warning
Google maps has its glitches. Don’t expect your listing to go live instantly, for one: it takes around 24 hours.
Equally, you may find that other ‘unverified’ listings hang around without disappearing.
You can click on them and request they be deleted, but it is never certain they actually will be; the best route is to simply concentrate on building up the official one so it is clear to users which listing they should click on for the most up-to-date information.
Quite aside from the maps, Google’s business tool portfolio (which you can find easily once you have a Google account) contains something called Google Analytics which allows you to analyse data about visitors to your site.
We’ll be writing about that as part of future blog posts - but in the meantime, Google’s own help pages should be of some assistance, and if you have any questions about Google Maps and how to use them, please do get in touch.