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Local SEO & Google Maps Marketing – How to Unlock Google My Business and Google Maps platform’s Full Potential
Local SEO is one of the hot topics right now when it comes to digital marketing and making your business stand out from the competition. The reason? Simple: it works. What a lot of small companies are beginning to realize is that using Google Maps´ platform (and its related components, like Google My Business) have become fundamental pieces of any Local SEO strategy.
When done right, these systems can give you a definite strategic edge over the competition, allowing you to leverage Google’s robust data infrastructure to stand toe-to-toe with bigger companies that might have deeper pockets when it comes to marketing budget. And all of it at a fraction of the investment.
“Google Maps marketing has long been, and will continue to be, a prime source of phone calls and walk-in traffic for local businesses.” Guy Sheetrit.
The ultimate objective of any business engaging in local SEO – via Google Maps marketing or any of its related platforms – is to make sure their business listing is the first one to come up in search engine results, and there are three elements that interplay to achieve this goal: Proximity, Rank, and Reviews.
So, before we move on to more involved techniques, let’s briefly go over these three elements, as their clear understanding is paramount in ensuring the long-term success and profitability of any local SEO game plan.
Proximity is a big piece of the local SEO puzzle. Search results are displayed prioritizing whatever is nearer to the person searching (as long as it also fits with their query, of course.)
For example, search for grocery stores on your Maps app, and Google will sort out their result list based on their proximity to you. It is a fundamental component of the service they want to provide.
Immediately after proximity, we have Rank. Not everybody has location data sharing enabled. Some people have setups for their maps´ searches based on a fixed position rather than where they are currently. In instances where your real-time location isn’t available, Google goes down a step on its priority scale and fetches results based on other criteria. Like your designated “Home” or where you usually connect to the internet. Rank, then, takes precedence.
Engines are always striving to improve the quality of their results. Once the algorithm has accounted for the current location (or lack thereof,) and rank, it turns to consider reviews, which act as a subjective reflection of quality based on star ratings. These are the customer testimonials on Google My Business profiles. It is crucial to understand that trying to “game” these ratings can bring you a lot of trouble, and isn’t worth the risk. Offering quality service and organically improving your ratings is the only way to go.
Claiming your “Google My Business” Listing – First Step Toward Unlocking the Full Potential of Local SEO
Every day, more and more people are using their Google Maps app, or Local searches, to find business nearby providing what they need. It is a dramatic change in paradigm that is passing under most people’s radar!
Think about it for a second, right now inbound marketing is the name of the game. But inbound marketing comes with a lot of hurdles to overcome, not the least of which is walking your would-be customers through the buyer’s journey stages, so they eventually buy from you. Local SEO bypasses a lot of that! People are directly looking for products and services to purchase, so there’s no need to beat around the bush trying not to oversell them.
On the contrary, Local SEO is all about being there, front-and-center. Prominently and professionally displayed in their local searches so that they’d choose your business and your services whenever their need arises.
Mobile is making these types of searches ever more prevalent, making Local SEO strategies and Google Maps Marketing more relevant by the second, but many businesses are letting all this potential go to waste. But yours isn’t like most, and we don’t want you to leave all that potential (and money) go to waste!
So, let’s start getting your Local SEO strategy rolling right away. First Step? Claiming and verifying your Google My Business profile. Fortunately, it’s a pretty straightforward process you can take care of in just a few steps.
Create Your Google My Business Listing
1. Sign into the Google account you want to use to manage your business or go to the Google My Business page. Once there, click on the start now button and log in.
You’ll see a screen asking for your business’ name, input it and click next.
2. You’ll see the address information section. Fill each section as accurately and detailed as possible.
Note: The checkbox marked by a truck icon applies when you are a service area business and serve your customers at locations on top of doing so at your business address. Checking this enables another checkbox that says “Hide my address (it’s not a store)” You should only check this one if you do not serve clients on your business address. Otherwise, keep it unchecked.
3. You are prompted to choose a category for your business.
Pay close attention to this! Try and be as accurate as you possibly can, taking your time to find the category that most closely reflects your business. With this selection, you are telling Google in no uncertain terms precisely the kind of services you provide, and by extension, the type of customer you wish to connect with.
Click Next and you are almost done.
4. Now you just need to provide additional contact information. Namely phone and your website’s URL.
5. Choose the verification method, that is, the method by which you’ll prove to google that this is indeed your business. You have a few choices, so here are the details of each, for you to decide which suits you best:
Verification Via Snail Mail:
Regular mail verification is pretty straightforward, but it can take a while.
Check that the address displayed is correct, and edit it before requesting your postcard if it isn’t. Click “Send Postcard.” These usually take around 14 days to arrive, so be patient. Do Not edit your business name, address, category, or request a new postcard in the interim.
After you’ve received your postcard, log back into your Google My Business account, click “Verify Location” from the menu, and the “Verify Now” button. Enter the 5-digit code from your postcard and click “Submit.”
Verification by Phone:
Some businesses are eligible to be verified via phone code, if yours is, it will be there when you click “Verify Location.” If you choose this option make sure you have immediate access to the phone you are going to use for verification (ideally, your business´ phone,) since you are going to receive the code within moments from choosing this option.
Just enter the code you receive on your phone and you are done.
Verification by Email:
Same deal as with confirmation by Phone, some businesses are eligible, and just like with phone verification, make sure you can access the email that’s going to receive the code before you choose this method. Just click the verify button and enter the code you receive on your email.
Instantly Verify a Business´ listing:
If you have already verified your business´ website with Google Search Console, then this verification method might appear among your options. Just make sure you are logged in with the same google account you use on search console.
Do keep in mind that some business categories are not eligible for this verification method, even if they had already verified a website in search console.
This method becomes relevant if you are trying to verify a business that manages ten or more locations. This method requires some additional considerations, so if your business is eligible for this verification method, please refer to Google’s detailed explanation on the topic.
Congratulations! You are done listing and verifying your business. However, this is only the first step. Now that you enjoy a foothold on Google’s primary local SEO tool, you need to optimize your account to ensure you are getting the most bang for your buck, so to speak. Let’s go over how to do that, shall we?
How To Optimize Your Google My Business Profile – A Step by Step Checklist
You are now the proud owner of your GMB profile, a sort of virtual storefront that is already strengthening your business’ online presence. Now, it’s time to make sure you enhance it to get on Google’s best graces and increase your chances of getting ranked even better than those that settle with a default account.
Step 1 – Complete General Information
A lot of business owners make the mistake of settling with seeing their business’ name pop up on their Google My Business card; this is a mistake. Completing and expanding on the information available of your business’ profile not only helps customers get every piece of information about your company they might need, all neatly organized in a single location, but it also benefits you in two critical ways.
First are your optimization benefits. The more information you provide google about your business, the more accurately its algorithms can understand precisely what it is you do (and to what extent you do it) thus giving you better matches (and effectively, better ranking results) to clients who might be after whatever it is you can provide for them. More info = Better Ranking.
Second, failing to fill out this information leaves you exposed to griefing. Whatever field you leave open represents a potential vulnerability you are leaving exposed for unscrupulous competitors to fill in for you with misinformation, via Google’s “Suggest an Edit” or “Answer a Quick Question” functions.
Sections to pay extra attention:
● Business Description
● Service Area
Seize these advantages and avoid these issues by being thorough and providing as much information as you possibly can on your GMB profile. Lastly, remember that you can edit this information at any moment, so keep it up to date as time passes and you change your service.
Step 2 – Set Perfect GMB Photos
Here’s a nifty statistic you should know, from Google itself: Business with photos receive 42% more requests for driving directions to their locations, and a whopping 32% more clicks through to their websites than those businesses that don’t have pictures!
Yeah, having professional looking photos of your business in your profile it’s kind of a big deal.
Cover Photo: Your business’ cover photo is one of the most important, and a definite must on your way to having a truly optimize GMB account, as it acts as the main picture for your business´ listing.
Make sure to select one that showcases the best side of your business and feels entirely on brand with your corporate image.
Profile Photo: Your profile photo is the one that appears whenever you upload new images, videos, posts, or review responses (more on these in a little bit) So it basically acts as your business avatar. The company logo or community manager photo is ideal for this one.
● Try to use photos with a minimum resolution of 720 x 720 pixels.
● Stick to JPG or PNG files, as they take less to load.
● Google recommends including three pictures of exteriors, interiors, employees, rooms, and staff. Furthermore, they advise to include one image per common area, and one per product or service you provide.
Step 3 – Add a GMB Video
Most guides tell you that your GMB profile’s video is optional, we look at it more as missing out on opportunities.
The internet is getting more audiovisual by the seconds, as higher bandwidths and connection speeds even on mobile devices allow for a more seamless integration of video content to regular navigation.
Pair that with the fact that users are more likely to share and like video content, and you start to get why you need to add a video to your profile.
If you have already created some sort of promotional video that showcases your business before, here’s the perfect place to add it. Otherwise, consider investing in one, or record one yourself. As long as it looks professional and showcases your business in the best light, you are on the right path.
Step 4 – Fostering GMB Reviews
Reviews are one of the most powerful tools you have to encourage potential customers to give your business a try is by having a lot of positive reviews, however, the way to accomplish this – since these reviews are not in your hands – might not be readily evident.
The secret of encouraging reviews on your GMB profile is to reply to current ones. Even if it is a brief “Thank you” an exchange with someone who has engaged with your business and taken the chance to leave a review motivates others to do the same, while also giving your business the added benefit of projecting approachability and warmth.
Here´s a basic template you can use to reply to good reviews, feel free to customize it further:
Hi! And thank you very much for your visit [Client’s Name] We are glad you liked our [Service name]. Hope to see you back soon!
In the same way, it is important to address negative reviews as well, as these could severely harm your reputation if left unattended. Dealing with negative reviews requires more care and thought, but here’s a basic template you can use to give you a sense of how to do it:
Hello [¨Client’s Name], We are incredibly sorry to hear of your issue with [Service Name]. We appreciate your feedback and wanted to let you know we are already making trying to remedy the situation. (Here’s a good place to mention any actual changes or improvements that might be relevant) If you’d like to talk through your problem in more detail, please contact us, as we care for your experience and would like a chance to make it right.
Interacting with client’s reviews in this way has a powerful way to motivate other to leave reviews, and these, in turn, give confidence to new and potential customers to try your services as well.
Step 5 – GMB Posts
Posts are another fantastic GMB tools whose potential often gets wasted by most business owners.
Think of posts as a platform to advertise new services or exciting content that will prompt potential customers to find and interact with your business. Sort of an “Advertisement-Meets-Social-Media” kinda deal.
To create a new post, just go to your Google My Business dashboard and selecting “Posts” from the left menu.
Just like you would on any advertisement, appropriate call-to-action should accompany your posts, but using them on this way exclusively would hinder their efficiency. Combine your best advertisement copy with genuinely interesting information about your business, staff, products, or services, to create a post that not only shows your company’s best side but also work as conversion tools.
Just as your posts on social networks, GMB post are best handled by your community manager or SEO agency, but if you are doing it yourself, here are a couple of posts ideas to get you started:
● New events announcements
● Sales and Promotions
● Excerpts of your website’s blogs
● Announcing New products or services
● Wish your customers happy holidays
Get creative! There are a lot of ways you can use your posts to benefit your company’s local SEO, as they are a tool to showcase information your potential customers would find relevant.
Step 6 – Pay Attention to your Google My Business Stats
By this point, you are GMB pro and are head-and-shoulders ahead of most other business who underutilize this powerful local SEO tool. Yet, before we move on, there’s a final feature I want to make you aware of, one that can give you a lot of intel on how your profile is working and to what particular things your visitors are responding, and that’s your GMB Insights.
Insights is the name Google My Business platforms gives to their analytics, which can be viewed by week, month, or quarter.
Some of the useful stats you can keep an eye on Insights reports are:
● How your customers found your business
● Where they are coming from (Google searches, maps, etc.)
● Customers Actions (Whether they clicked to your website, requested directions, called you, etc.)
● Photo Views
● Phone Calls
To view these stats, merely select “Insights” on your “Google My Business” dashboard. Although you can only see up to the past quarter on the site, you can also download the reports going back up to eighteen months.
Now, not only do you have a properly optimized Google My Business profile as a cornerstone for your local SEO efforts, but you can also keep an eye to your analytics and see how your customers are responding to it!
Optimizing Your Business’ Google Maps Marketing Advanced Tactics – The Secret For Improving Your Local SEO
Now we are going to get a bit advanced.
What follows is a couple of tools that are a bit more involved than what we’ve seen so far, but can set your business a mile away from the competition. Marketing strategies that are underestimated by the most, even today.
Set Up Your Business’ 360° Virtual Tour on Your Street View Profile
Science fiction has given us reason to dream about going to places without physically being there, and now marketing seems to be the driving force behind it.
Virtual Tours are a Google Street View option that any business can set up, and allows people using Google Maps´ Street View mode to go inside and take a look around your shop. Did you want an advanced local SEO strategy? Strap in.
The technology works just like it does in Google Street View, allowing any curious potential customer to move around inside your business by clicking. With VR tech already becoming an affordable household staple, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out the incredible marketing potential this thing has.
The first thing you’ll need is a set of 360 degrees pictures displaying the inside of your store.
There are plenty of businesses online that can do a professional job of it, and if you have already hired the services of a competent SEO agency, they can most certainly arrange one that can bypass the limitation some business suffer on uploading 360 degrees pictures. Once you have taken care of that and you have the image files ready to upload to your street view, these are steps to follow:
Note: Keep in mind that this tech is new and Google is constantly updating their requirements to display like “see inside” for business in Google Street View, and it going to be slowly rolling out the “see inside” function for a “Google Maps 360 Gallery.” So, keep this guide handy and check back for updates.
How to publish and connect 360 photos using the Street View app:
Before starting, make sure that your pictures are at least 7.5MP (4K) with a 2:1 aspect ratio and no more than 75 megabytes in size.
Step 1 – Publishing Your Photos
● Go to your Google Street View app.
● Under Private, tap Select.
● Choose the photo you want to publish.
● If you blurred a photo, choose what to do to your published photo:
Add blur: Tap the More button (three dots) and then Apply blurring.
Clear blur: Tap the More button (three dots) then Remove blurring.
● Tap Upload File.
● Tap Publish. You’ll see your photo under “Profile.”
Step 2 – Connecting Your Photos
Your photos can be automatically connected within 24 hours if you’ve made and published a set of 360 pictures according to these spacing recommendations, “Geotag 360 photos” is turned on,
you’ve used auto-capture to make indoor 360 pictures within two small steps of each other, and you’ve used auto-capture to make outdoor 360 pictures within five steps of each other.
You can also connect them yourself by following these steps:
● Open the Street View app.
● On the “Profile” tab, find a photo and tap Select.
● Pick the photos you want:
Choose two photos: Tap the ones that you want to connect
Choose all photos: In the top right, tap the More button (three dots) and then Select all.
● In the top right, tap the More button (three dots) and then Connect 360 photos.
● Your photos will show up on the map as numbered markers.
● Tap and drag each photo to the correct location. Swipe left and right on the picture to see all directions.
● To try your new connection, open your photo in the “Profile” tab and tap the white arrow.
Google’s Local Search Ads – What You Need To Know
Dubbed “the next generation” of local searches by Google itself a couple of months back when they announced changes to their ads systems, the introduction of Google’s new local search ads format is having a massive impact on local SEO. Taking the full advantage of the popularity that the Google Maps service is having recently.
The new Google maps ads service is intended to allow businesses to increase their visibility and exposure for consumers searching their services online, doubling down on those searches made in mobile devices.
They work fairly similar to traditional PPC ads, but their formatting and focus turn particularly useful for potential customer searching for businesses nearby on Google Maps.
For example, when a user searches on Google Maps’ website “Grocery stores near me” or similar queries, they might see local search ads featuring business nearby subscribed to the program featuring prominently at the top of the list and displayed in a different colored pin on the map.
In the same manner, ads that feature your business location can also appear when users make similar searches on the Google Maps mobile app.
These types of ads even provide benefits on regular searches. When users search something on Google.com and click the “More Places” option in the local results, your business may be featured at the top of these results!
The benefits of this new programs are pretty self-evident, as your business will enjoy:
● Increase number of walk-in visits: Google Maps presence and proper local SEO has already proven to impact positively the amount of foot traffic you receive.
● More Calls and Lead Generation: Local search ads can be set up to include a “call” option using the phone number featured on your My business profile, which acts as a one-two combo, you get more customers inquiring for your business and increased phone leads.
● Provide Further Information at a glance: Local ads formatting allows you to convey a lot of information about your business at a glance. Such as store hours, customer reviews score, address, and even photos. Everything you’ve been optimizing on your GMB account through this guide!
If you are already using Google’s PPC Ads service (a stable service in any advanced local SEO strategy) then you can enable advertisement on Google Maps with a few simple steps:
(We’ll include further documentation on each step via links to further facilitate the process)
● Enable location extensions for your Google Ads account.
● Set up or update your Google My Business listing. If You’ve been following this guide up until now, you have a flawless, updated, and optimize GMB account already.
● Use location targeting and bid by location. Target a specific area and set bids by location, so that your bids increase for people located near your business.
● Optimize your keywords: Just as you do with any other Google AdWords or PPC campaigns, make sure to optimize your Ads using the proper keywords that yield more benefits to your business.
If you are a business owner and are already looking into strengthening your local SEO, you are on the right track, as mobile searches are gaining more prominence by the day. If you have applied the game plan described on this guide, then you are already ahead of the game from most of your competition.
However extensive though, we’ve only scratched the surface as far the strategies and benefits powerful local SEO marketing can bring to your bottom line! If you want to know more, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free diagnostic analysis of your business current local SEO status, and give you even more in-depth advice of further approaches you can benefit from.
However extensive though, we’ve only scratched the surface as far the strategies and benefits powerful local SEO marketing can bring to your bottom line!
If you want to know more, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free diagnostic analysis of your business current local SEO status, and give you even more in-depth advice of further approaches you can benefit from.
What to do now?
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