Google Maps Marketing Tips
To say that Google Maps is an immensely popular mapping app would be a gross understatement. From being the most popular smartphone app in 2013 to having over 2 billion Android users in 2017, it’s inescapable.
In February 2021, more than half of US mobile users accessed it, only reaffirming its everlasting, massive reach.
In turn, as mobile traffic continues to surge, a new type of marketing emerged; Google Maps marketing. It was the natural response to shifting market trends, audience behavior, and Google’s own intention to facilitate geo-specific searches.
For small businesses striving to captivate local audiences, this proved to be invaluable – as statistics show. Nonetheless, as potent as this asset is, it is not without challenges. Thus, let us explore Google Maps marketing in some depth.
What is Google Maps marketing?
First and foremost, let us briefly define the term itself. As the name suggests, “Google Maps marketing” refers to marketing practices aimed at increasing one’s visibility in Google Maps. To do so, they focus on Google My Business (GMB) profile optimization and adjacent endeavors, like paid local search ads.
Moreover, as we’ll cover below, they typically overlap with local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and synergize with social media strategies. Lastly, they usually focus on local ranking, which Google explains as follows:
“Local results are based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence. A combination of these factors helps us find the best match for your search.”
Google then continues to define these 3 terms as such:
- Relevance: “Relevance refers to how well a local Business Profile matches what someone is searching for.”
- Distance: “Distance considers how far each potential search result is from the location term used in a search.”
- Prominence: “Prominence refers to how well known a business is. Some places are more prominent in the offline world, and search results try to reflect this in local ranking. […] Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business, from across the web, like links, articles, and directories.”
Finally, to highlight the value of local searches, let us cite some of the findings Search Engine Journal reported on:
- 50% of all mobile local searches resulted in physical store visits within one day.
- 50% of all mobile local searches seek local businesses’ Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP) information.
- 78% of all mobile local searches resulted in offline purchases.
Understandably, then, Google Maps marketing can be an incredibly effective, lucrative investment. But using it effectively is no easy feat, so let us proceed to explore just how you may do so.
Using Google Maps marketing to attract local customers
As highlighted above, Google Maps marketing primarily focuses on local ranking. Thus, in this section, we’ll delve into the 2 fundamentals of it; organic GMB optimization and paid local search ads.
#1 Optimize your GMB profile
Understandably, this will be the largest section of this article, as GMB is the spearhead of all Google Maps marketing. Through an optimized profile, GMB will help you rank higher in local searches and edge ahead of the competition.
Put differently, an optimized GMB is the definitive way to use Google Maps marketing to attract local customers. To do so, you may follow these steps:
1. Create your GMB profile.
Initially, you should create a GMB profile if you don’t have one. It is free, and the process is quick and easy. Do note, however, that Google may have already created a business listing for you. In that case, you may proceed to claim it.
2. Add your business information.
If one does not exist yet, you will need to create one with your business info. This will include:
- Your Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) information
- Your opening and closing hours
- Your official website
- Your business category
- A SAB declaration in the case of service-area businesses
This step is extremely important, as conflicting information across different sources can be very costly.
Most notably, customers may grow distrustful, and Google may penalize your ranking. Thus, you should make sure all your information is identical, from content to format, across the internet:
- Your GMB profile
- Your main website
- Social media profiles
- Other business listings
3. Claim and verify your GMB profile.
Having reviewed your business information, you should then claim and verify your GMB profile.
The verification process will confirm you are the owner of your business, so you may then finalize your business info. Local businesses will typically verify by mail, although Google notes that “[s]ome businesses, like service area businesses, can verify by email, phone, or Search Console”.
4. Add a compelling, substantive business description.
Then, you may proceed to add a brief description of your business. This step is equally crucial as regards GMB optimization, so you should ensure your description is impeccable:
- Introduce your business by name as early as possible for clarity.
- Summarize your products and/or services in a compelling way that resonates with your audience.
- Explain concisely how you differ from your competitors.
- Provide social credit such as awards, if applicable, to build trust.
- Add relevant keywords to enhance your SEO, but avoid keyword stuffing.
- Add a call to action, such as a call to contact or visit you, to entice audiences.
5. Add attributes.
Having done so, you may then add attributes to attract local customers more effectively. These may include such perks as free Wi-Fi or such factors as your business being black-owned or LGBTQ-friendly.
6. Enrich your profile with photos.
Next, you should add photos to your GMB profile to enrich it. In essence, this practice is the same in principle as using captivating images in blog posts and social media posts. Indeed, Google notes that “[b]usinesses with photos are more likely to receive requests for driving directions to their location, as well as clicks through to their websites, than businesses that don’t have photos”.
Google specifically notes 3 types of photos you may use:
- Your logo. Your logo drives brand recognition, and maintaining a visually consistent customer journey across all channels is highly advisable. Thus, you should ensure you use the same logo across your online profiles and listings.
- A cover photo. Much like social media, your cover photo will further consolidate your brand image. It will show up at the top of your GMB profile, so you could opt for a clear, well-lit photo that will attract local customers. Do note, however, that Google “doesn’t guarantee the cover photo will show up as the first image for your business”.
- Business photos. Finally, Google advises using business photos “to highlight features of your business to attract and inform customers”. You may expand this, however, to include events, campaign-specific material, and other photos your audience might engage with.
7. Ask for reviews.
Finally, while this point relates to GMB activity rather than your profile, it is imperative all the same. Among other benefits, reviews function as very powerful social credit.
Among other interesting findings, Bryan Caplan finds that “[n]early 9 out of 10 consumers read reviews for local businesses before making a purchase”. Moreover, in the aforelinked article, Google hints that reviews “can help new people find you online”.
Thus, we may safely argue that soliciting reviews is crucial to using Google Maps marketing to attract local customers.
#2 Use paid Google Maps ads to attract local customers
Having covered the organic part of Google Maps marketing, the paid part may also deserve your consideration.
Of course, as with SEO, paid ads will not substitute for organic traffic, but only augment it.
Local search ads are a direct counterpart to Google.com ads. That is, they are standard Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads that appear above organic Google Maps search results. They will be labeled as ads for transparency, and you’ll be charged a standard cost-per-click (CPC) for:
- Get location detail clicks
- Get direction clicks
- Mobile clicks-to-call clicks
- Website clicks
Naturally, Google Maps ads use location targeting, so they will only appear for location-relevant searches. Here, it is notable that both GMB posts and local search ads will appear for searches for products as well.
Therefore, assuming your keyword choices are optimal, you should attract local customers who phrase their searches in different ways, like:
- “best [product or service] near me”
- “[product or service] in [location]”
- “best [business category] near me”
Finally, to engage in local search ads, you will need to enable location extensions. This process is also very simple, as Google clarifies:
- “Click Ads & extensions in the page menu on the left, then click Extensions at the top of the page.
- Click the blue plus button, then click + Location extensions.”
Should you be using the GMB API, you may follow the process outlined in this article instead.
Using Google Maps marketing to attract local customers; complementary practices
As highlighted above, Google Maps marketing also overlaps with other marketing practices. The two most notable ones are local SEO and social media marketing, as many local businesses already engage in both. As such, let us also explore how you may use them to further augment your Google Maps presence.
#1 Using local SEO in tandem with Google Maps marketing
Initially, local SEO and Google Maps marketing overlap somewhat by definition. Both seek to enhance local search visibility, and both do so in similar ways. Local SEO also delves into on-page and off-page practices, however, which may also bear mentioning.
Among them, consider 2 notable ones; location pages and local backlinks.
1. Create Location pages
Should you own a service-area or multi-location business, Location pages can offer immense value to you.
Otherwise known as local landing pages, Location pages are a way to rank for location-specific keywords. However, despite the name, they do not use geographic markers, so they don’t directly rank for geographically-specific searches themselves.
Thus, you may create this type of page to promote your business to different areas using locally valuable keywords.
There is some rightful debate over this subject, however, as some fear Google will view them as doorway pages.
That is indeed the case if Google identifies identical pages that offer no value to visitors and only target keywords. However, you may design Location pages properly to ensure this does not occur:
- Use unique content. As Location pages address different locations, your location-specific content should reflect the difference in its uniqueness.
- List your services. You may naturally list your services to provide visitors with value; you may, however, further diversify your content by listing location-specific services.
- Embed a Google map. Embedding a Google map to each Location page should also help clarify your location and, by extension, your intentions.
2. Seek local backlinks
Next, as with reviews, one cannot use Google Maps marketing to attract local customers and not consider local backlinks. Whether Follow or NoFollow, local backlinks help increase local visibility further and act as social credit themselves. Finally, they do enhance local SEO on the whole, as Google stated.
To acquire local backlinks, you may craft locally valuable content. Consider local history, landmarks, events, and other information local audiences will appreciate and find valuable.
Approach such topics with care, and craft deep, insightful, informative, or otherwise enticing content in accord with SEO guidelines. Finally, promote it to local sites; as with all backlinks, simply asking for them can often suffice.
#2 Aligning your social media strategies with Google Maps marketing
Finally, you may combine your social media strategies with Google Maps marketing to attract local customers.
It’s highly likely you’re using both to similar ends, so you may do so with minimal effort. Among others, consider the following ways to do so.
1. Cross-post your most valuable content
Many local businesses use their GMB profiles very similarly to social media profiles. Consider captivating photos, engaging posts, and other content you may promote on your GMB profile. Thus, you may simply cross-post content between GMB and social media platforms, maximizing your reach without crafting more unique content.
Of course, as with social media platform cross-posting, you should account for inherent platform differences. For example, Instagram now has its own type of SEO you must adhere to. Similarly, Twitter may not support visual content as well, but it does facilitate bite-sized text content better than most.
2. Promote your GMB profile
Conversely, you may engage in the simple practice of promoting your GMB profile on your social media platforms.
Linking to it through content aside, you may provide it to location-related questions you may get. Should you have optimized it, it should also link to your main website the way social media content often does.
As such, you will be creating a more solid customer journey for your audiences, through different touchpoints and entry points.
In conclusion, it has never been easier or more effective to use Google Maps marketing to attract local customers. You may begin by optimizing your GMB profile, which will also serve as a healthy foundation for local SEO.
Then, as with SEO campaigns, you may augment your efforts through paid local search ads. In addition, you may leverage local SEO to drive more organic traffic to your website and acquire local backlinks.
Finally, you can align your social media campaigns with Google Maps marketing, by cross-posting content and promoting your GMB profile. Hopefully, this article shed some light on exactly how you may do so and help your business thrive.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How long does the GMB postcard verification process take?
A: It typically takes a few days for Google’s postcard to arrive. Mail delays may occur for many reasons, such as due to obstacles related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Q: Which is the most common Google Maps marketing oversight for small businesses?
A: Citation inconsistency. It has been the case since 2014, according to SearchEngineLand, and continues to plague small businesses today.
Q: Do my social media signals affect my local SEO?
A: Not directly. Despite the popularity of this misconception, John Mueller, Google’s own Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, has frequently opposed this notion. For example, on the EDGE on the Web podcast, he clarified that “Social media shares of a page and other social “applause” metrics simply don’t play into ranking”. The way social signals affect SEO is indirect; social media engagement builds backlinks, which are a ranking factor.
Q: Is it necessary to engage in local SEO for effective Google Maps marketing?
A: Not strictly so. The fundamental core they share is your GMB profile, but they can otherwise function independently. However, they do synergize very well, as highlighted above, so ideally, you should engage in both.
Q: Am I the only one who can create a GMB profile for my business?
A: No. Anyone can do so, but they should not be able to claim it. Google itself may sometimes generate business profiles as well. In both cases, you should click on the “own this business?” link to claim the profile.