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Google Maps for Small Business: Everything You Need to Know to Get Found by Customers
By Kitty French, Manta Contributor – March 28, 2018
A simple listing of your business info on Google Maps can direct customers straight to your door. Here’s what you need to know to put your business on the map.
It’s easier than ever for people searching for products and services online to find and connect with local businesses, thanks to Google Maps. Whether using desktop computers or smartphones, your potential customers are just one click away from your business hours, address, phone, and more info — and they can get directions right to your front door.
How Google Maps Works
Chances are you’ve used Google’s mapping service to find a business near you, whether you realize it or not. For example, a simple Google search of the word “breakfast” doesn’t return as the top result a Wikipedia article with the definition and history of breakfast (this result will now show up further down in the search results page).
Instead, your Google search for “breakfast” will show a map with pinned locations of nearby diners, below which will be descriptions of each diner and a link to each restaurant’s Google My Business listing. The most popular breakfast restaurants will be the top three listed in the Google search results.
Whether you’re on a smartphone or a computer, you’ll see brief profiles of each of these businesses and a map that you can use to navigate to them. Depending on how much information these businesses have added to their Google My Business profiles, you may see a lot more details and photos. Customers even search for businesses directly in the Google Maps app on their smartphones.
Thanks to location-based search, small businesses have better odds at standing in search results without spending a ton of money. If you’re trying to horeach nearby customers, this is your chance to beat the big guys at the digital marketing game.
“Utilizing Google Maps, the searcher focuses on only local searches. This means the small businesses have a greater chance to be seen,” said Anne Hoglund, a digital marketing consultant for Netmark, an Idaho-based digital marketing agency that specializes in small local businesses.
“For brick-and-mortar storefronts, being found on Google Maps is vital to get new customers coming through the door,” said Hoglund. “Not only does Google Maps bring new customers, but it provides free SEO and digital marketing for your business.”
Simply put, a Google Maps listing is money in the bank for a local business.
How Does Google Maps Get Business Information?
When you type a word into the search bar, Google takes a number of factors into account when delivering results. With the rise of smartphones and voice-enabled search technology (like Siri or Alexa), location information is a key data point that Google uses to provide people with the most relevant search results.
Information about your location and the location of businesses near you are the reason that Bob Evans, Waffle House and your local diner show up at the top of your screen (and the Wikipedia article on breakfast near the bottom). Thanks to all of the knowledge Google has about when and why we search for certain things, Google’s algorithm knows you are most likely searching for “breakfast” because you want to find a restaurant nearby.
To capitalize on this, the restaurants in your town will have claimed or added their business information to Google Maps using Google My Business. For example, here’s how a local Waffle House listing looks when it shows up in Google Maps results:
This listing has everything customers need to buy breakfast from the local Waffle House chain: location, hours of operation, busy times, and customer reviews.
Why Should My Business Have a Google Maps Listing?
You already have a website and a Facebook profile. Does your company really need to worry about having a profile on Google Maps, too?
Yes. Definitely, without a doubt, yes!
“Google maps allows users to find your business for relevant searches for your brand and business category and engage with the business without even visiting your website,” said Lincoln Rinehart, an SEO analyst for Adept Marketing, a firm in Columbus, Ohio, that helps companies manage their search rankings and online reputations.
The direct connection that customers can make to your company through Google Maps effectively eliminates the middle-man between their searches and generating a lead for your business, said Rinehart. Remember, instead of visiting your website to get more information, customers can click on your Google Maps profile and navigate right to your door. They can also click to call you directly, see your business hours and read customer reviews.
If you’re in a competitive niche market, Rinehart cautions that your competitors are likely already active on Google Maps.
Another reason you should claim or add your business to Google My Business and manage your Google Maps profile is because if you don’t, someone else might.
“If you do not have maps active and verified, you do not have as much ability to control your business information online,” warned Rinehart. “Users (or Google itself) could create a listing for you if you do not have one.”
So take the proactive approach and join your competition on Google Maps.
Using Google My Business to Show Up on Google Maps
“Google Maps is a great way for businesses to connect with new customers. The steps for success with Google Maps are simple,” said Mazdak Mohammadi, owner of Vancouver-based digital marketing firm BlueberryCloud, which serves businesses in the United States and Canada.
“Step one for Google Maps success is to create a profile on Google My Business,” he said.
Next, make sure your business information is accurate and consistent. This means making sure that your Google My Business listing has the same company address, local telephone number, hours of operation and descriptive information about your products and services as are listed as your website and all other online directories where your business info appears.
Using your local area code (rather than a toll-free 800 number) signals your locality to Google. Inconsistent information between your Google My Business profile and your website or Facebook page will signal to Google that your business info is unreliable. That is very bad for your search engine ranking — so make consistent, accurate information a priority.
To test the consistency and accuracy of your business information and see what customers see when they search for you, check out Manta’s free Local Search Report.
The final step to building an attention-grabbing Google Maps profile is to add profile photos, a logo, and solicit satisfied customer reviews. “Encourage happy customers to write you a Google Review on your Google My Business profile,” said Mohammadi. “Give your customers a direct link to make it easy on them.”
How to Improve Your Google Maps Ranking
Once your company’s Google My Business profile is online, you’ll want to focus on helping your business rise to the top of Google Maps results.
“What it all comes down to is getting in the Local Three Pack — the top three local results displayed on Google’s search results page,” said Cyndee Ashlock, lead marketing technology consultant at Miles Technologies, an information technology and web design firm serving businesses across the country.
To earn a place in the top Google Maps rankings, a local business should have a completed profile, which includes the following:
- hours of operation
- website URL
- phone number
- business category
- logo and cover photo
Photos of the inside and outside of your business, along with product photos, work remarkably well at attracting customers, said Ashlock. “The more pictures the better. Having customers upload pictures helps, too!”
Using Listing Sites to Improve Google Maps Ranking
In addition to an optimized Google My Business profile, your company’s listings on other websites will help boost your Google Maps ranking.
By claiming or adding your company listing on online business directories, you improve your ranking on Google. This is a tactic called “authority optimization,” said Jason Berkowitz, founder and CEO of New York City-based digital marketing firms Break The Web and SEO Services New York.
“Businesses can take advantage of authority optimization, ensuring that the Google Maps algorithms see their listing as the most trustworthy and relevant, thus placing them highly for specific search terms,” said Berkowitz.
Reputation in this matter is vital, he added. “Ensuring that your business details are syndicated in various directory sites — as well as having a healthy mix of reviews from multiple platforms — you have the head start to get your business ranked well on Google Maps.”
The value of listing sites as a marketing tool for your small business cannot be underestimated. Your Google My Business listing, because it determines how your company appears on Google Maps and in Google searches, is arguably the most important listing site you can use.
“One of the most recent clients I worked with was really struggling to get new customers coming in,” said Anne Hoglund of Netmark. “After some work on his site and helping him to build and claim his Google My Business profile, we were able to double the amount of traffic that he got in only a few weeks.”
Another thing that really helped her client get more visibility was “getting more Google reviews from his previous satisfied customers,” said Hoglund. “Getting good reviews will encourage customers to read more about your business. And if you have a good set of reviews versus a competitor who has none, you’ll likely be the winning choice.”
What are customers saying about your business? Find out with a free Online Reviews Report.
How Reviews Help Improve Your Rank on Google Maps
“The best and most effective way to get your business to rank higher on Google Maps is to get more reviews than your competition and to respond to all of those reviews,” said Blake Aylott, a digital marketer for Project Build Construction in Orange County.
“Google Maps helps our business by putting Project Build to the top of the search results,” said Aylott. Since Project Build Construction ranks highly on Google Maps, the company appears in the map pack top three when locals search for construction services.
“That sets us up nicely to get more quotes every month,” he added. The positive customer reviews on Project Build Construction’s Google profile and Yelp give them a reputation boost, which helps them appear in front of more customers in their service area searching for home contractors.
“Project Build did a great job on my bathroom remodel! I would recommend them to anyone in Orange County. … The owner told me they do everything from kitchens to roofs,” wrote one happy customer in a Google Review of the contractor. That customer went a step further, posting an image of the company’s work with the caption: “Check out the photo of my new shower :).”
In response to that glowing review, Project Build Construction made a smart move — both for their customer service and their search ranking: The owner posted a reply.
“Thank you…for the review. It was (a pleasure) working on your home. … I’m glad you love your new bathroom.”
That’s how you build a positive online reputation and keep customers happy. You show your appreciation for their feedback, good or bad, and demonstrate your willingness to address concerns when reviews are negative. This is a principle that will serve your business well on Google Maps, across the web, and in the real world.
How to Optimize Your Google Maps Profile
You can push your Google Maps presence higher by optimizing your Google My Business listing. “Optimizing” isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. It just means that, when completing your Google My Business profile, you should be thorough and use descriptive keywords to describe your products and services.
According to Kevin Namaky, owner of Gurulocity, a small business marketing education company, the most important sections to thoroughly complete to enhance and push your Maps presence higher are:
- Complete all contact information, location and hours. Do not leave
any sections blank.
- You may add up to 10 categories to your business profile, including one primary category. Use all 10. Google uses these as keywords to match local searches with businesses nearby.
- Upload at least 10 photos of your business including inside, outside, in action and staff photos. Your ranking is substantially increased once you have at least 10 photos.
- Similar to photos, businesses with at least 10 reviews will rank substantially higher in Maps. If you do not have many reviews now, start asking your customers to leave reviews as soon as they have purchased from you (while they are happy and it is top of mind).”
Namaky added that “businesses who complete the above four steps for each of their locations consistently see much higher rankings and traffic from Google Maps and search results in general.”