Google Maps Marketing
Local SEO is a hot topic for small businesses. Many are just starting to realize that it’s strategic use can give them an edge over bigger, perhaps global competitors with deeper pockets. Google Maps marketing is a specific part of local SEO that helps businesses use Google’s data and infrastructure for various local marketing efforts.
How Google Maps Aids in Local SEO & Marketing
The ultimate objective for businesses that participate in Google Maps marketing is to make their business listing the first one that comes up in Google searches. Two factors are important for achieving this end goal: proximity and rank.
Local SEO Factor: Proximity
Search results based on proximity display whatever is nearest to the searcher, that best fits their query. For example, if you’re searching for grocery stores, Google will serve up search results based on your location. The nearest one to you is tagged on the Google Map result as “A,” the second nearest “B,” and so on. Google wants searchers to use these results to find local businesses.
Local SEO Factor: Rank
Not everyone enables location data, or has a location feature on the phone they use to make a Google search. Google Maps shows results based on your internet location, even if you’re not necessarily physically there. For example, if you’re out shopping, you might expect search results to reflect your current location. However, it’s more likely that your location-based search results will reflect the location you’ve designated as “home”, or wherever your home internet connection is based.
Local SEO Factor: Reviews
Besides location, Google often ranks results by star ratings. These star ratings are a result of customer testimonials left on Google My Business profiles. As such, it’s important to provide an excellent customer experience to encourage customers to leave 5 star ratings. That said, you should never pay for Google reviews. If Google finds out that you’re “unethically” influencing reviews (through some sort of reward or compensation), there may be repercussions for violating their terms of service.
Furthermore, don’t just ignore 1 or 2 star ratings – reach out to those customers and let them know that their voice is heard. Don’t barter with them to change their review, but know that the simple act of outreach might influence them to change reviews to be more positive
Google My Business
For rank-based listings, customer reviews aren’t the only contributing factor. A businesses’ Google Business page is also an important factor.
Google My Business was introduced in 2014, and was formerly known as Google Places. Google My Business integrates with Google Maps, Google , Google Search, Insights, Analytics and Reviews to give the complete online profile of a given location.
As business owner, you have control over your business listing and the information it contains. This information includes your address, phone number, website, opening hours & ratings. If you have a Google page for your company, your Google My Business profile will have been created already.
If you don’t yet have a Google page, here’s how to setup a Google My Business profile:
- Enter in all relevant listing information as detailed below. Aim to be as accurate as possible, and make sure that any information you enter mirrors existing information on your website.
- Next, you’ll be asked to verify your business listing, and demonstrate that you’re authorized to manage the business and that you agree to Google’s Terms of Service.
- Google My Business will next ask you to verify your business via mail. If you’re setting up a listing for a location you don’t yet have access to (like a new business), you can opt to verify the listing later.
- Once you’ve decided how you’d like to verify your business, you’ll be redirected to the initial setup of your Google My Business Profile.
- Note that you can make edits immediately, but they won’t actually appear until you’ve verified your Google My Business profile. Regardless, it’s a good opportunity to complete your information with a profile photo, hours of operation, contact info, and photos. If you’re ready to take things to the next level, consider adding a virtual tour that walks searchers through your business.
It’s also necessary to note that some elements of your Google My Business profile, like the reviews and insights sections, will remain locked until your business is verified. The sooner you take care of this, the sooner you can reap the benefits associated with Google Maps marketing.
Improving Google Maps Marketing Components
There are many simple things you can do to improve the different pieces that go into Google Maps Marketing:
- Implement Local SEO best practices. Provide the complete NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number), preferably one used by the US Postal Service. The more of this information you add to Google My Business and your company’s website, the higher your search ranking will be since Google can easily trace back the source to your business.
- Update company listings often, and match those to the ones found in your website.
- Be specific with listings. This means thinking like a person optimizing for long tail keywords, instead of simple terms. Think “organic grocery store” instead of the more generic “grocery store.” What sets your business apart from other similar types of local businesses?
- Get your listing verified. Businesses that have been Google verified are twice as likely to be considered reputable. Don’t underestimate the value of trust.
- Embed Google Maps on your contact page. Search your business name while in Google Maps. Once you’ve found it, click on the three lines beside your business name in the search bar on the top left. You can then choose the option to “Share or Embed Map.” If you need more help from a technical perspective, shares a number of Google Maps WordPress plugins worth considering.
- Respond to reviews. Customers that see reviews being responded to will likely give their own. Google will most likely rank a business with more reviews higher than another, since they can see that there are people interacting with it.
- Have a profile photo for your business. This adds credibility and helps people to “see” themselves there.
Adding Google 360 Photos and Videos
As mentioned, embedding a Google Map on your contact page, and having a profile photo for your business, may aid in Google Maps marketing efforts. To take things a step further, complete your Google My Business page by adding a Google Business View virtual 360 tour.
This virtual look at your business is an interactive tour that will take a customer around the store, all from within the comforts of their own home. It will make them feel as if they are walking through the store. Using a Google Business View virtual 360 tour, you can zoom in on objects or just “walk” around normally.
This Google Maps marketing feature is available on desktop, mobile or tablet and does not require a website.
Why Add a Google Business Tour 360 Virtual Tour?
The Google Business View 360 virtual tour will accompany the data for your business on Google Maps, will appear on relevant Google searches, and will be available to those looking at your Google Business page. To summarize, when people search for your business, or keywords relating to your business, your Google Business page comes up, as well as photos and a map to your business.
If you offer a virtual tour, potential customers will see a section beside your business photos that says “See inside”, and looks like this:
The “See Inside” call to action looks even more prominent on mobile searches:
Besides showing up on Google searches and Google Maps, you can also embed the virtual tour on your website.
Customers that perform local searches act quickly once they’ve found the information they need to make a decision, and are more likely to contact a business that has images, and especially a complete profile. Having a virtual tour will allow potential clients to see what your business looks like so they know what to expect.
Besides your website, a virtual tour can also be added on your company’s Facebook page to assist the customer decision making process. Implementing a virtual tour may also increase traffic to your Places page or website, which shows up in your Knowledge Graph and Maps tab.
Google Street View
The Google 360 virtual business tour is free to put up in your business. You may notice it otherwise branded as Google Street View (as this is the technology behind the offering, which was originally called Google Maps Business Photos. Specific types of “Street Views” include the Business View and Virtual Tours.
Here’s what each of those view include and involve:
Google Street View is a project by Google Earth and Google Maps that provide panoramic views from positions along many streets around the world. For the Street View, Google takes photos from their Street View car, trolley, trekker, snowmobile or trike, but it also accepts contributions from users.
Photos from users are given corresponding attribution and ownership, and anyone can contribute.
Contributing to Google Street View
To add your own Street View content, take 360 degree photos of your business or hire a professional photographer. These photos must be high-resolution, and follow the basic standards set by Google. For reference, make sure your images comply with the standards set for Google Trusted Contributors. Google provides a list of recommended tools and even allows people to borrow 360 cameras to be able to contribute.
After taking 360 photos of your business premises, you can upload them to the Street View app. Alternatively, you can also take photos directly from your phone using the app.
If using a camera, you’ll have to take a series of photos–not just one. Google will stitch these photos together later on to be turned into a 360 photo. To make this possible, make sure to follow these steps:
- Place the camera at a certain height (20 – 1.80 m / 4 – 6 ft) and angle by using a helmet, tripod or monopod
- Space the photos about two small steps apart (1 m / 3 ft) when indoors and five steps apart (3 m / 10 ft) when outdoors
- Walk along a natural path so that there is a clear line of sight in photos
Of course, If you’re using a 360 camera, all you have to do is connect it to the app.
Choose the photos you want to publish ,and upload them to your business profile. This also applies to indoor shots, called Business View.
Business View uses the Street View technology to take you inside the business. This view was specifically created for businesses. So, if you have a website and verified Google Business page, you can create your Google 360 Business View whenever you’re ready with no further verification needed.
If you’re taking photos for the Business View, follow the same general guidelines set for Street View contributions. Also, make sure to limit the photos within the Indoor collection to a total of 100.
Because Google allots money for arts and sciences and likes to use its resources to educate people, we’ll be referring to the tours of popular landmarks that Google takes people on as Virtual Tours. These tour types aren’t for any other purpose but to educate. To give a few example, these include the Abbey Road virtual tour which is interactive, a tour of the CERN (European organization for nuclear research), Kennedy Space Center and even a tour of the breathtaking Taj Mahal.
How to Add A Google Business View Virtual Tour to Google My Business
Google My Business is a dashboard that encompasses everything that connects your business: from your Google Business page, Insights, Maps, Search and Analytics.
To add a virtual tour to your Google My Business listing, you have to first publish your photo spheres on the Street View app. Then, you have to add them to a Maps listing to link them to the business.
When the photo spheres are published and approved on Maps, you can connect them into a virtual tour using the Street View app. Once they’re on Google Maps, they can be seen on your Google My Business listing.
You and any customer can contribute photos of your business via the Street View app, which seems to be Google’s way of encouraging user generated content. Note that photos added by Google Trusted Photographers take precedence over others in the Google 360 gallery, so it’s definitely a good idea to hire a Google Trusted Photographer who can upload your images for you.
Note also that only the Google Trusted Photographers accepted into the program before July 25, 2016 will have the “See Inside” feature when their photos are added to a Google My Business page. For photogs accepted after that date, this call to action will be replaced with a Google 360 gallery. So if you want the “See Inside” feature to appear, you have to hire one of the photographers who got in with Google early on.
How to Add A Google Business View Virtual Tour to Your Website
Only the Street View (panorama from the street) and Business View are applicable to business profiles, with the latter of particular significance.
To add the virtual tour of your business to your website, first go to the page where your virtual tour shows up, and click on it so it fills the screen. You’ll have to choose a starting point. For this example, let’s take a look at the CERN virtual tour.
Click on the 3 dots and select “Share or Embed Image”
Click on the “Embed Image” tab and choose which size you want to add to your site. You can also enter custom dimensions. Next, copy the source code.
Paste the source code onto the HTML page (or HTML editor for the page), wherever you want it to appear on your site. Change the width setting to 100% to ensure that it scales to fit the device it is being viewed on.
Lastly, check your website to see if everything is working properly and is on brand, then let your customers know about this new feature!
Reviews: Why They’re Important for Google Maps Marketing
One important Google Maps feature is the ability to receive reviews from users, which is an important ranking feature when people are performing a search to find a relevant local business. Of course, it’s also important to note that Google’s ranking factors change all the time, and currently the focus seems to be on content, uniqueness, being mobile-friendly, and social sharing.
According to a presentation made by Chris Bullick to Brighton SEO, review signals account for 9.8% of total ranking factors. As such, it’s important to focus on getting good reviews to increase your likelihood of connecting with a relevant searcher when they’re performing a local search.
Why Online Reviews Are Important
Aside from SEO rankings, reviews bolster the customer experience, and help people when making purchasing decisions. When someone is at the end of the buyer’s journey and has already made their mind up as what they need/want, the specific terms they use to perform a search reflect the intent that they’re looking for a business to fulfill that need/want.
Reading online reviews can help influence that decision, and are often an important consideration in the buyer’s journey. 90% of customers say that their buying behavior is positively influenced by online reviews, while 86% said negative reviews deterred them from transacting with the business. It’s hard to deny the power of customer reviews when it’s clear that they could easily tip a prospect one way or another!
Online reviews are a form of user generated content. Having good reviews can also influence future customers, because they will see that others have worked with your business and had a positive experience (or vice versa!). 84% of people trust peer-to-peer recommendations more than any other form of advertising. The best online reviews can be reused as testimonials on your website, social platforms, and even on email sends to your list.
Online reviews also help to earn favor with Google. Put simply, businesses with plenty of positive reviews translate to social proof and authority, which Google likes and will help you rank higher.
Online reviews also help boost social conversation. Receiving reviews, whether good or bad, means the customer cares enough to write about their experience with your business. The least you can do is respond, even to bad reviews, because they give you insight on which parts of your business may be in need of improvement.
How to Encourage Reviews
Before you ask for reviews, first determine which sites are best for reviews specific to your type of business and industry. To do this, start with a simple Google search of “[industry] reviews”.
Some websites allow reviews directly on their site (usually product pages in e-commerce sites), while others sync reviews with other search engines. While a major player like Amazon might be able to keep all their reviews in one place, a local business should expect reviews to transcend their own platform. That said, allowing the option to leave reviews directly on your website may make them easier to respond to, and can help negative reviews from spreading to third parties.
In regards to third party review websites, take note of each review company’s policies. For example, Yelp does not like it when others solicit reviews and immediately takes action when something feels fishy, while others don’t run their platform with the same big brother attitude.
Some common review platforms where you might want to be proactive in claiming your local business profile:
Obviously, you’ll want to start with Google Reviews, primarily because they also appear on the search results. That said, having a presence in other review platforms can also help with ranking on relevant search engine results pages, and shouldn’t be ignored just because they lack Google branding.
Though there are some customers that give out reviews just because, you have to create a strategy around getting them, because Google reviews are only displayed when you have more than 5 Google reviews. In case you forgot (or skipped ahead!), reviews help boost SEO efforts, so having a review acquisition strategy really is vital for ranking.
Google recommends doing these 3 things to get reviews:
- Get verified on Google . Only verified businesses can respond to Google reviews
- Ask your customers to give reviews. If you’ll recall the saying, “Ask and you shall receive?” you’ll understand that the simplest way to get reviews is to just ask for them! People can do this by using their Google accounts, and going to your Google Maps business listing, then clicking on “Write A Review”. At the same time, they can also rate the business with a star rating from 1 (bad) to 5 (excellent). Alternatively, they can search for the business and see the “Write a Review” button on the right where Google My Business results are displayed.
- Respond to your customers’ reviews to build trust. If they leave a bad review, this also opens up a discussion that may result in them changing their review.
Other Tips and Strategies to Get Reviews
A few additional tips for getting reviews on Google:
- Make it easy for the customers. As mentioned above, it can be hard to get a review due to the multiple steps required to get customers to go to the Google Maps or search your business. Make it easy for them by linking directly to this page when asking for reviews via email, social media, or directly on your website. Create an email template to send to customers to automate this process after they’ve made a purchase or some other important action.Integrate with an email service provider to execute this automation.
- Give incentives. It’s unethical to buy reviews, but to encourage reviews, give customers an incentive, like a discount code or something similar.
How to Handle Negative Reviews
Every now and then, you will receive negative reviews. Don’t sweat these–they’re normal, and you can’t please everyone.
Before getting worked up, it’s important to remember is that it’s nothing personal; bad reviews are just a result of mismatched expectations or a bad day for the business/reviewer. And not all bad reviews mean bad things for a business: 52% of buyers trust a product if it has a few negative reviews, according to research from Capterra.
Bad reviews demonstrate that your products/services are authentic. They show that sure, you have negative reviews, but a lot of people also loved your product. Alternatively, too many positive reviews look like you might have purchased them, and can act as a factor that goes against trust.
Furthermore, negative reviews can create buzz, like Botto Bistro, a California pizzeria that gives discounts to customers that write bad reviews on Yelp. For businesses such as Botto Bistro, they’re essentially nullifying the power of this review platform (Yelp), which has been known to engage in shady business practices that work against the businesses represented on their website.
How to Respond to Negative Reviews
First of all, keep the bad review. You may be tempted to erase it, but keep it published. It shows that you have nothing to hide. A troll will only repost it anyways, potentially with a screenshot framing you for the act of deleting their review in the first place. This will hurt trust with your non-troll audience.
Second, decide whether a review is actually worth responding to. Some reviews might just be from people trolling around, and looking for fights. When you feel the bad review is worth responding to, respond immediately and publicly. It shows that you care about the issue and care to resolve it with a public response. Of course, not all issues can be solved publicly. If there is a need for further discussion, communicate with the person via email or on the phone. If more than a simple acknowledgement is needed, provide contact information so you can take the issue offline.
There are also times that you’ll receive a review that is false, malicious or inappropriate. Ask the website or poster to take it down. If you control the reviews, don’t publish it.
When responding to a negative review, remember to be polite. If dealing with an especially harsh feedback, remember to be calm. You don’t want to say anything you will regret later. This goes back to not taking anything personally.
In any situation, deal with the problem ASAP. Show the customer that you value their feedback by acting on the issue immediately. Once a review has been responded to, follow up with the customer to ensure that they’re happy with how their issue was handled or resolved.
As always, continue to solicit more reviews, so you have a broad spectrum from which to work from, presenting a well-rounded view of your business for people to solicit for their own purchasing decisions.
Checklist for Google Maps Marketing
There’s a lot you can do to make the most of Google Maps marketing. The following can be helpful in ticking off one thing at a time.
- Implement Local SEO practices by providing the complete NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number), preferably one used by the US Postal Service
Google My Business
- Start setting up your Google My Business profile by entering the necessary information. Make sure the information entered matches the one on your website.
- Verify the business listing by postcard, phone, email or Google Search Console
- Edit your GMB profile by filling in other information, like operating hours, contact information, and photos of the place. Note that these edits will not appear unless the business is verified.
- Add a profile photo to make your listing look professional and trustworthy.
- Be specific with listing by optimizing for long tail keywords. The more specific, the better.
- Take photos of your business using your camera phone or 360 camera, borrowing one from Google, or hiring a Google Trusted Photographer.
- Upload the images to the Street View app. For camera phones (or those without a 360 camera), you can take the panoramic photo directly from the app so Google can stitch it together later.
- After uploading the photos on the Street View app, add it to a Maps listing. If the Maps listing is connected to a verified business, it will appear on the GMB listing.
- After the photos appear on a Maps listing, you can connect them to be a virtual tour.
- Embed the virtual tour on your website by going to the Maps link. Choose the starting point of the virtual tour, copy the source code by going to the Share/Embed option, and paste the source code to the part you want your virtual tour to appear on the site.
- Add a Google Maps listing to your contact page.
- Look for review sites that complement the industry of your business.
- Read up on their policies, because some review sites are more strict than others.
- Assuming the Google My Business profile is created and verified, create additional profiles for review sites, such as
- Ask for reviews from customers by emailing them.
- Make it easy for them by linking directly to the review page.
- Provide incentives to encourage reviews.
- Respond to reviews to engage and build trust with customers.
Dealing With Negative Reviews
- Determine if the review is meant or if it’s just spam.
- If it’s real and particularly aggravating, be calm. You don’t want to say things you don’t mean.
- Respond courteously, publicly and professionally.
- Respond to more serious and long winded issues privately.
- Deal with the issue ASAP.
- Take down defamatory reviews.
- Follow up with the customer to ensure that the situation was handled the way they wanted it settled.
- Continue soliciting more reviews to have a variety of them.
Google Maps Marketing: How to Optimize Your Website
Optimizing your site for Google Maps is a straightforward, but multi-faceted process. If you want to make sure to get it right the first time, hire someone who can assist with local SEO services, including considerations for Google Maps marketing.
What are your best practices for Google Maps marketing? Tweet at @OverTheTopSEO, and we’ll share our favorite insights![/fusion_text]