Google Maps is one of the most successful Google products, with over a billion active users looking for businesses, addresses and directions on their devices.
Considering a combination of increasingly localised Google search results and their focus on providing local recommendations within Google Assistant, it’s NEVER been a more important time to focus on your local SEO.
Don’t be the guy staring through the shop window and looking at all the business your neighbours are capturing.
Today I’ll present to you some ideas of how you can take advantage of this new era of local SEO and help you to create a killer Google Maps strategy to dominate the local results.
But first, there are some core concepts you need to understand before diving deeper into Google Maps’ secrets.
First, Let’s Review the Basics of Google Maps
What is Google Maps?
I could try to define Google Maps myself, but in this case, I think it’ll be much easier to use the definition that appears in Wikipedia for it:
“Google Maps is a web mapping platform and consumer application offered by Google. It offers satellite imagery, aerial photography, street maps, 360° interactive panoramic views of streets (Street View), real-time traffic conditions, and route planning for travelling by foot, car, bike, air (in beta) and public transportation. As of 2020, Google Maps was being used by over 1 billion people every month around the world.”
It’s also worth mentioning that Google Maps offers information about local businesses with physical locations that can be edited and updated by business owners and users within Google My Business.
These locations can also be connected with the directions feature, which makes it useful for users trying to find out how to get to them.
The Local Pack.
The “Google Map Pack” or “Google Local Map Pack” appears in Google results when a user introduces a local query and showcases the top-ranking local listings for your search query. A local query can be something like restaurants near me or veterinarians in London.
If a local query is used, Google will use your device location to find places nearby their location. However, if the searcher is not currently in the city in which they are searching for, Google will use the centre of the city as a reference.
The Local Pack includes a map of the area, highlighting the top physical locations with big red pins (and some extra locations with small buttons, but without mentioning the name) and the contact details of those 3 locations, including their address, phone number, opening hours, link to the website and star rating.
Here is an example of the local pack for the term seo agencies in brighton: (Look who appears first 😊)
The local pack usually appears right after the traditional paid ads, but in most cases, it’ll come before the organic results.
For this reason, it can be a great shortcut to appear at the top of the search results.
Google My Business Explained
Google My Business is a free platform created by Google that allows businesses to manage their physical locations. Business owners can claim their locations, edit their details and upload images that will appear in Google Maps, or in the Google Search Result Pages in the form of a featured panel (see below).
Google My Business also offers some valuable insights that you can use to feedback to your Google Maps Marketing Strategy. I talk about them in one of my previous posts and you can find it here.
So, What is Google Maps Marketing?
Having covered all the basic concepts, we can define Google Maps Marketing as the combination of all the tools and resources available for a company to optimise its presence in Google Maps.
It isn’t simply to enable them to appear as high as possible in the Maps results, but to provide the best experience for users and to improve the engagement with them.
Why You Need a Local SEO and Google Maps Marketing Strategy
Having a Local SEO and Google Maps Marketing Strategy in place can improve not only the visits to your website, but also the number of leads that you generate, and the number of phone calls and visits to your physical location.
7 Key Factors for Your Google Maps Marketing Strategy
1. Your Business Location
Like it or not, proximity is one of the most important elements when it comes to appearing in Local SEO results and on Google Maps.
If your restaurant isn’t close to Brighton, don’t expect to appear in any searches for the best restaurants in Brighton.
This seems obvious but some companies are still keen to appear in results for areas where they aren’t located.
Note that workarounds like building landing pages to target specific areas and trying to get local links and citations pointing to it are almost worthless when it comes to Local SEO and Google Maps as they’ll only impact organic results.
Quite simply and as mentioned in the Local Search Ranking Factors survey published by Moz, the proximity of address to the point of search is the top ranking factor to appear in the Local Pack.
2. Google My Business
Despite being the top ranking factor, being close to the point of search isn’t the only thing Google considers when showing business locations in Google Maps.
It’s also important to fill out all the key details on your Google My Business profile.
By doing so, you’ll make sure that Google has all the information it needs to display the correct data in your local listing.
Think about it. If key local SEO information like your phone number isn’t provided or is wrong then you could be losing valuable leads.
Google is getting increasingly smarter at collecting business information and displaying it by itself however, claiming, verifying and updating your listing is always a good idea and should be one of the main elements in your Local SEO Strategy.
Your Address and Category should be two of your main concerns when editing your listing but don’t worry, I’ve also created a Google My Business guide that you can use to optimise your listings like a pro.
3. Citations and Links
Another important local ranking factor in the Moz study was the consistency of citations and the quality of the inbound links.
Links are a common player in Search Engine Optimisation and the same applies to Local SEO.
We all know that having high-quality links pointing to your website (especially if they are coming from local sources) will help to improve your chances of appearing higher in Google Maps, but, when it comes to citations, mentioning your name, address and phone in different websites online will give Google more information about your actual location, strengthening the possibilities to appear for the right queries.
With more and more people using local results to find businesses, one of the key elements you should consider if you want to appear higher in the Google Maps results is the number and rate of your reviews, particularly Google reviews.
It’s pretty simple, the more reviews and the higher rating you have, the more people are likely to trust and contact your business.
Not long ago, you needed to have 5 reviews to have a star rating appearing next to your name in Google Maps. However, this has now changed and all you need is one review to have this golden snippet appear next to your name.
With more Google reviews for your business, you’ll be able to:
- Improve the trust in your business
- Increase your online visibility
- Drive traffic from local SEO
- Provide and respond to feedback from your customers
- Boost your sales
So, when you have a happy client or a happy customer, ask them for a Google Review. The simplest way to do this is to share the review link via your Google My Business profile. This has become even simpler recently. You can simply log in to your account and then you’ll be able to manage your Google My Business account directly on Google:
From there, you can click on the Ask for a Review button in the bottom right-hand corner. You’ll then get a unique link that you can share with your customers or clients directly to leave you a Google Review. Simple!
Note: If your customers leave you a Google Review, make sure to take the time to respond to it, whether it’s positive or negative!
5. On-page optimisation
As well as Google Maps, your website is another key element that cannot be overlooked if you want your local SEO strategy to succeed.
The first thing you would need to do is make sure to include all the elements you have edited on your Google My Business listing on your site.
- Address (Don’t forget to include the exact same address, including the city)
- Phone number
- Opening hours
You’ll also want to include a map that features your site location, using an embedded Google Map with a marker on your address. Make sure to include a step-by-step guide on how to get to your business using different mediums (by walking, car or public transport).
Note: It always helps to mention local elements like the nearest bus stops, parking buildings or roads.
Remember: The ideal scenario is that if you have more than one location you should create an optimised local page for each of them and link to these local pages from your Google My Business listing.
6. Google Maps Images
Moving away from positioning, let’s discuss some of the elements that will help users engage with you, starting with images.
Google My Business allows you to add images and videos to your listing that will appear on Google Maps and are a great way to showcase what your business is all about.
You can upload images that show the interior and exterior of your business, your team, the work atmosphere and even identity images such as your logo.
Simply log in to your Google My Business account and click the Add Photo button to do so.
One thing to consider about the Google Search local panel for your company is that Google will use images taken from Google Street View to show the exterior of your company, instead of the images you have uploaded. The same thing will happen with Google Maps images.
Google Street View is another of those Google products that you have probably used at some point. It features street images from all over the world, creating an interactive map and allowing you to have a 360 walk at street level.
This could be a problem if your business has just recently opened as Google Street View may not be up to date and might not show your business signage. It may even display the old business that was in that location. Other issues that you may face include cars parked in front of your business, blurry images or just bad-quality images. Unfortunately, you cannot ask Google to update the images in Google Street View. You can report the existing ones but you can’t add new ones directly.
However, to solve this issue we can offer two solutions.
The first option is to move the marker of your location in Google My Business. You don’t need to move it much, just enough for Google to change the image displaying for your location. Note that although this is an option offered in the Google Support pages, I found it a less than reliable solution!
The other option is to hire a trusted photographer to create an internal tour with Street View. This will change the See Outside link showing your business from Google Street with a See Inside link, showcasing your internal tour. This will appear in Google Maps and in Google Search and is definitely a great option to show your users what they can expect when they visit your business.
Here is an example of how it would look within Google Search:
And this is where you can access the 360 tours on Google Maps:
If you want to know more about the Google Street service and how to hire a trusted photographer, you can visit the official website here.
7. Ads on Google Maps
Moving away from SEO, there are other ways to get the most out of Google Maps. If you are using Google AdWords to manage PPC ads, you’ll be happy to know that you can also promote your local business in Google Maps.
The Maps Ads will appear before the rest of the organic listings in the left side of the screen and they will look different from the rest of the listings as they’ll appear with a purple pin instead of the normal red one. The Ad label appearing next to the rating also uses the same colour:
Using Ads in Google Maps is a great way to differentiate yourself from your competitors as this feature is sometimes overlooked by business owners. Remember to use Google My Business insights to see how many people are using Google Maps to find your business and be in a better position when planning your Ad strategy on Google Maps.
That’s it. Now you should have all the knowledge you need to create a killer Google Maps Marketing Strategy.
Here’s a recap of what we’ve covered and what you’ll need to do:
- Claim your business listing with Google My Business and update your local information
- Encourage people to leave amazing reviews
- Build links & citations
- Ask sites to include address & phone numbers as well
- Optimise your own site with your localised information
- Include an embedded Google Map
- Include directions to your building
- Consider an internal tour of your business
- Upload high-quality images to Google My Business
- Consider Ads on Google Maps
The key thing to remember is to always be proactive and keep an eye on your Google My Business Insights. Do this to identify gaps in your strategy and improve your listings.