The world’s leading navigation app can double as your company’s secret weapon in your local marketing strategy.
When you're running a local business in the tech-savvy world, sidewalk signs and mailed-out coupons are no longer enough to capture all the local traffic you want. If you want customers to go to you, you need to tell them where to go first.
Perhaps the most efficient way to send the crowds in your direction is by adding Google Maps marketing to your business strategy. Google estimates that users make 3 billion searches for hotels and 1 billion searches for clothing stores each month. The majority will visit a nearby store the same day. On top of this, Google Maps completely dominates in the navigation sector, with loyalty from nearly 67% of smartphone users.
All these trends go to show that local SEO matters in digital marketing. When you claim your business listing and make Google Maps marketing a priority, your ranking will rise and conversion rates will begin to spike.
In fact, when you follow these tips and connect your Google My Business account to Podium, that spike will increase your clicks to call by over 85% and your website visits by over 67%.
Before getting started - Creating a Google My Business Account
Before you begin planning out your Google Maps marketing strategy, create a free Google My Business account. This account is absolutely necessary if you want to manage and optimize your company's Google Maps listing—which is what we're here to do, after all.
To create your Google My Business account, all you need to do is:
- Head to the Google My Business landing page.
- Select "Sign in" and log in with your Google account.
- Search for your business name to claim its current listing or to create a brand new listing.
- Follow the prompts to input accurate business information into your listing.
If you need any assistance during this process, our guide to adding your company to Google Maps will provide you with helpful details about each step.
Google Maps marketing tips
Use the following location-based marketing practices on Google to quickly turn your business into the first destination—online and offline—for nearly all searchers. Since 92% of clicks on Google are made on the first page of results, getting your business on the first page can skyrocket your traffic.
Most brick-and-mortar business owners already know that Google Maps is a helpful way to provide basic information about your company and where you're located. What will give your brand the leg up is understanding different ways to optimize your Google My Business listing for local SEO.
1. Fill in the blanks
The first and easiest way to improve your ranking is by fully filling out your company's information on its Google business page. This is an additional step beyond what you did to claim or create your Google listing, as it requires you to enter the backend of your Google My Business profile and provide optional information. For example, you may add:
1. Specific cities you service to improve your rank for users located within those markets.
2. Business categories to get ranked for commonly searched for and preset categories.
3. Business hours to get listed for users searching for companies open at specific times.
This is also a good time to double check that all of your information—including your phone number, business location, and other contact information—is completely accurate. Google gets its authority by delivering the best information to users possible, so having any incorrect details can hurt your rankings. For example, businesses in the United States that have their exact, standardized USPS address listed (proper abbreviations and all) can be listed higher than those that don't.
2. Add images
Also included in your Google Maps marketing strategy should be the use of images within your business listing. No matter what type of business you own, attractive photos draw users' eyes to your listing, while giving you the chance to further your Google Maps SEO.
So how exactly can your SEO improve if images don't have any words? Well, images not having words doesn't exactly have to be true on the internet. A common digital marketing strategy is adding metadata to your images that boost your ranking without making keywords directly visible to searchers.
If you upload a picture of your office or store taken on a mobile device, it may already have metadata about the physical location it was taken. With Google Maps, you can further add alt text that includes keywords, as well as location tags.
3. Collect Google reviews
While many Google searches are seeking out nearby locations for a specific type of product or service, there are often times when you and your competitors will all be in close proximity to the searcher. In these cases, you can easily rank the highest by gaining the highest star rating from the most amount of people.
Customer reviews aren't the only factor in determining your rank, but they do play a huge role in telling Google about your relevance in the area. They not only impact traditional search results, but drive your ranking up when locals search by relevance and rating.
With Podium Reviews, you can gather handfuls of authentic Google reviews by sending automated review invites to your customers. Podium Reviews will further help you respond to your online reviews to improve customer loyalty and manage negative reviews.
4. Use keywords
Metadata isn’t the only place you can type in keywords. You can also add keywords to any customer-facing descriptions you type for your Google Maps listing.
For example, when you are asked to create a short description for your business, try to fit in a few keywords that you want to rank for, while still making the introduction natural. Do the same anywhere else you see fit, such as your “Categories” or “Labels” section.
5. Create local search ads
While Google Maps marketing can be a cost-free digital marketing effort, you can boost your online presence even further by using ads to drive potential customers to you. Rather than just getting organic results from your efforts, you can manually drive up your ranking in local search engine results with a bit of money spent.
Google's local search ads will boost your business listing to the very top of Google Maps search results whenever relevant—even if your company isn't as relevant as your competitors—on mobile and desktop.
The search engine states that when companies use local search ads, they are guaranteed to receive more store visits, phone calls, and clicks in general. You will have to pay a varying cost per click, as this is a form of pay-per-click or PPC advertising, so it may be smart to test how effective this is for you before investing a ton in these ads.
6. Verify your business
A final way for you to maximize your Google Maps marketing is verifying your business. Because Google wants to prevent any of their users from being scammed by businesses they recommend, the Google Maps app will often list verified results higher than those they're unsure about.
Most small businesses choose to verify by mail, though you do have other options, like verifying by phone or email. When you verify by mail, you'll receive a postcard at your business address with a code you can input in your Google My Business account.
While verifying your business will only be an effective SEO strategy if you're pairing this effort with other methods we listed above, it takes minimal effort. At the same time, it will make you appear as more of a legitimate business to locals and Google without requiring any updates in the future.
Connect with more customers
When you turn your company's Google Maps listing into an ultimate guide to your services and how to access them, new customers will be driving over to your location. Since the platform has over 154 million users, Google Maps marketing is one of the most important aspects of local marketing.
When you want to target customers in a specific area, don't miss the big marketing opportunities that other business owners neglect on Google Maps.
Luckily, Google is always adding new features (including Messaging) to its Google My Business platform, helping small businesses gain competitive footing in their industries. Even if you're not looking to spend any money, marketing with Google will always help you reach new audiences to grow your sales.