Last year, Google Maps launched a series of quiet updates to their systems, designed to make the app more accessible to smartphone users. The updates included favorite listing locations, alterations to the way reviews are displayed, and more.
Google Maps is a valuable service that helps billions of us get to work each day, meet up with friends, or get immediate local help whenever we need it.
Google has found that over 30% of smartphone searches are done with the intent to find a business that is local.
To make the most of localized search, you have to make sure you are out-performing other local business with your company listing.
This post will run you through the top changes you need to take note of moving forwards into 2018 and beyond.
‘Permanently Closed’ Listings Removed From Results
If you have not already, set up Google My Business and ensure that 100% of the details are filled out for your company listing. You will be able to see how complete your profile is within the progress display bar.
Businesses that were not keeping up-to-date with their business information were previously listed towards the end of the local search results. They included the classification of ‘permanently closed.’ Google has, over the last year, removed most of these ‘dud listings’ from their results, making the results more relevant to internet users looking for immediate help.
This could end up being a blessing for your brand, as there may be fewer options to compete with in the search results. At the same time, users are becoming ever more demanding when it comes to brands displaying correct information, down to holiday closures. Ensure that yours is entirely up to date with all of the latest features, pictures videos, etc.
User-Generated & Visual Content for the Win
Adding photos of your location adds legitimacy for those using local search to find your business, and it’s nice to have something branded rather than an awkward shot of a tree or uninspiring business park! Try going 360 and creating a more immersive photographic experience. You can even get your friends and customers to share their own pictures of the exterior and interior of your premises.
Google is heavily investing in user-submitted content for 2018, dishing out ‘badges’ and ‘goodies’ to its community managers and ‘Local Guides’.
Through 2018 and beyond, you should also consider adding video to your Google My Business listing. Adding video can make for a more engaging experience for potential visitors. To add a video, head to your Google Maps app and add a 10-second clip. Alternatively, you can upload 30 seconds of footage taken from your smartphone’s camera roll. (Make sure you comply with their terms of service for video).
In the following example, this restaurant owner is using a 30-second clip to talk viewers through one of their most popular dishes. You can also show off your venue’s atmosphere or use the airtime to promote any aspect of your business you wish.
Alter Your Primary and Secondary Listing Functions
In 2017, Google redesigned their Maps app to make it easier for users to find what they are looking for with visual coding. Locations that may be of interest to the users may be highlighted in a different color.
Previously, if you were looking to get noticed ahead of your competition, you may have reconsidered your primary and secondary categorization in an attempt to make your business more relevant for precise searches.
As an example, you may be a coffee shop owner in a small town with over 10 competitors in a small area. To appear as ‘fresh’ in your localized listing, you may have listed yourself as a ‘coffee roasting’ business that sold its own coffee blend as a product. The ‘cafe’ listing, in contrast, may have appeared as a secondary categorization for your brand.
With the color-coded update, it may now make more sense for you to reconsider your listing to brand yourself as a ‘cafe’ rather than a retailer, moving forward.
Here’s what Google says:
“Papa John’s” offers pizza takeout and delivery but does not offer on-premises dining. It should use the category “Pizza Delivery” and additional category “Pizza Takeout” (instead of the less specific “Delivery Restaurant” or “Takeout Restaurant”). (source).
It’s all about being as specific as possible, and not trying to stuff or overuse categories like keywords. Your best bet is to focus on fewer core categories and just have really quality listings.
Make sure you bear your category color-coding in mind when setting up your Google local search ads through Google Maps. Promoted pins especially take into account query context and locality, so the more accurate and comprehensive you are the better your conversion rates will be.
Customers Can Ask You Questions
On Google Maps, there’s now an option for Maps users to ask businesses questions about their services. If you scroll down to the listing, customers can quickly submit their inquiries in an input box. This means that it is essential that business owners install the Google Maps app on their smartphones. You must ensure you make the effort to submit timely and helpful responses whenever they occur.
The benefits of doing this are building ‘social proof’ over time with local searchers. They may have similar questions on services and will be looking for your answers for reassurance. Make sure your responses are detailed and helpful if you want to have a positive impact.
The Return of Google Street View
Ten years ago, Google first introduced Street View to its map application. This provided 360-degree views to users to help them plan their journeys.
Earlier this year, Google announced that it will be re-booting this feature. Anyone can now contribute Google Street View panoramas. However, 360-degree images have to be submitted using the Insta360 Stitcher software (RRP $3,499).
It is hoped that this latest addition will help Google get more detailed views of previously uncharted territory. Further, updates to the environment, ten years on, will also need to be captured to enhance listings. This helps ensure the application stays up to date and relevant to the search results. If your business would benefit from a spectacular 360-degree street view, consider investing in the tools and updating your Street View listing.
There you have some of the latest Google Map updates to look out for for 2018 and beyond. Make sure you are maximizing your listings — don’t turn your back on local searchers in 2018, and make the most of the Maps community features too.