Consider this situation: You’re a marketing agency owner who wants to attract more local customers. When a startup entrepreneur in your area is looking for a marketing agency to collaborate with, they perform a search on Google. The first thing they see is the top 3 Google Maps results before they even reach the organic search results.
Now, the big question: Will your marketing agency show up on those top 3 results?
If your answer is no, then you're losing customers and revenue daily. And this applies to every type of local business. To help local customers find your business, it’s critical to prioritize your marketing efforts on Google Maps.
In this article, we’ll address the following questions:
- What is Google Maps Marketing?
- Why should you prioritize Google Maps Marketing?
- What are the ranking factors for Google Maps?
- How can you optimize your Google My Business Page?
- What are the top strategies for Google Maps Marketing?
- How can you monitor your Google Maps ranking performance?
What is Google Maps Marketing?
Google Maps Marketing is optimizing your profile on Google Maps. By doing so, you'll increase your chances of ranking higher on a Google Maps search which can lead to more business opportunities.
Why should you prioritize Google Maps Marketing?
In a Google study, they discovered 50% of people who performed local searches on their smartphones and 34% of those on tablet/desktop visited a physical store within a day.
Additionally, the Google maps results (aka local pack results) makes up 28.8% to 32.3% of clickthrough rates on the results page according to a Brightlocal study (the percentage varies based on the use of local services ads).
Customers are making fast purchase decisions based on a business’ online reputation and reviews; both of which can be found in a Google Maps listing. Additionally, customers can quickly go to a business’ website, find directions, and call the business directly in the Google Maps results. This makes it crucial to optimize your website and Google My Business account for local SEO.
With a solid Google Maps marketing strategy, you can increase:
- Awareness about your business
- Store visits
- Website visits
What are the ranking factors for Google Maps?
For local Google Maps results, the key ranking factors are a combination of relevance, distance and prominence to ensure users get the best match for their search.
How well does a local listing match what a user is searching for? By adding completely detailed information to your account, Google can rank your listing to more relevant searches.
In the example below, Fresca Pizza and Pasta comes up as the first result for “pizza toronto delivery” because they have thoroughly filled out their listing by including “pizza” in their description, selecting “pizza restaurant” as their business category, and updating that they do “delivery” services.
How far is the potential search result from the location term in the search? If a user doesn’t include a location term, Google will automatically show listings based on their known location.
By fully completing the listing with their address, Boulangerie Cheskie appears as the top search result for a customer looking for the closest bakery in the Mile End neighbourhood in Montreal.
How well-known is the business? As some businesses are more well-known offline, such as museums or landmarks, Google’s local search results try to reflect that in the rankings. Plus, Google takes into consideration the information about a business across the web, Google reviews and scores, and position in organic search results.
How can you optimize your Google My Business Page?
This involves adding details such as:
- Phone number
- Website address
- Business category
- Opening hours
- Busy hours
- Business description
- Questions & answers
- Posts about your business
While adding these details, keep in mind to sparingly insert keywords related to your business and location. As a result, you'll boost your chances of ranking higher on Google.
More importantly, a visitor to this page can discover vital information about your business and get in touch right there. Here's an example of an optimized Google My Business page that includes the details mentioned above:
What are the top two strategies for Google Maps Marketing?
In this section, we’ll go over two main marketing strategies that’ll help boost your rankings on Google Maps:
- Acquire Google Reviews
- Build Local Citations
1. Acquire Google Reviews
Which source of information will convince you to make a purchasing decision? Information from the business or its customers?
A BrightLocal study found that 91% of consumers are more likely to select a business after reading positive reviews from customers. Without reviews, it's almost impossible to rank on Google Maps.
a) Getting started with customer reviews
If you’re just starting a new listing on Google maps, here are ways you can begin getting customer reviews:
- Ask satisfied customers to leave reviews.
- Share Google review form link to customers.
- Add links to review pages to your website.
- Send email requests.
- Monitor and reply to reviews.
Here’s an example of a Google review request page with instructions and a review link on FCP Live-In’s website:
Make it easy for customers to leave a review
You need to make the process simple for your customers to leave a review which you can do by using a Google review link generator:
Once a link is generated, you can include it in your emails or on your website as a ‘Leave a Review’ button.
You can also use a QR code that links to your local listing which you can place on menus, flyers, invoices, or store sign to get customers to leave a review.
Monitor reviews and reply promptly
It’s also important that you monitor the reviews and reply promptly as it shows potential customers how attentive your business is. Take a look at how this chiropractic business responds to their reviews:
Handle negative reviews professionally
When your business receives a negative review, you shouldn’t jump the gun and respond with the first thing you think of. Remember, anyone can see your response to the review when they come across your listing, so you need to ensure that you’re responding in the most professional way to upkeep your reputation. Here are guidelines for your responses:
- Respond as quickly as possible (within 24-48 hours)
- Acknowledge the issue in the review
- Apologize -- even if the review is wrong, you should take the high road and show that you can provide excellent customer service in a negative situation
- Offer to make it right -- this could be a freebie or a discount which shows you’re willing to go the extra mile
We’ve also put a list of “don’ts” when it comes to responding to negative reviews:
- Don’t blame the customer -- it’ll come off as an attack and people who see it won’t be inclined to interact with your business
- Don’t make excuses for the issues brought up in the review
Here’s an example of a well-handled response to a negative review:
b) Get more Google reviews
So you’ve got your first few Google reviews. Now, it’s time to think about how you can acquire more customer reviews for your listing. Here are additional tips to achieve that:
Send an email request
Just simply ask your customers! Make sure your email request is simple and contains the link to the review page. It’s also important to remind your customer about the specific product or service that you offer so that it can lead them to include the keyword in their review -- it’s a ranking factor!
Here’s an email request example for a phone repair business:
Working with another business? Leave reviews for each other!
If you’re working closely with another business or industry partner, leaving reviews for each other is one way to boost your reviews and credibility.
For example, if you’re a wedding planner working with a banquet hall, a florist, a DJ, a caterer -- it would be advantageous for each business to write a review for one another.
And while you’re at it, why not ask the customers you share to leave reviews on your pages? It’s a win-win situation!
Monitor your mentions through social listening
By using social listening, you can keep tabs on when your business is mentioned on social media. Customers like to share their experiences on social media which provides you with a great opportunity to interact with your customers and to ask for a review.
To take an extra step in thanking your customers for their reviews, you could offer an incentive such as a discount, coupon, or a freebie for their next visit to your business.
Add your business to popular directories
Having your business on Google My Business is important, but you also need to register your business on other local listings to further improve its reputation and visibility.
These local listings include:
- Bing Places for Business
- Yellow pages
Aside from the popular local listings, you need to show up in your city/state local listings and professional business directories such as:
Here’s an example from Julie Rendelman, one of the Maps Pack results for “defense attorney New York”, on Avvo:
Across all your local listings, the following business details must be consistent:
- Phone Number
This way, your business appears as a single entity and appeals more to Google and prospects.
Earn local backlinks
It's best to prioritize local link opportunities before attacking national, topically-relevant opportunities. SEO expert Nathan Gotch explains this as The Relevancy Pyramid.
A few years ago, Google search quality strategist, Andrey Lipattsev, named backlinks as one of the 3 most important ranking signals. Unsurprisingly, that's also applicable to local searches.
Earning local backlinks to your website is evidence of your business's high reputation in that location. Ultimately, this leads to higher organic rankings and increased chances of getting more customers. And with more customers, you get more reviews!
Here are some ways to earn local backlinks:
- Guest blogging for local blogs
- Getting featured on local publications
- Participating in local events
- Hosting local events
- Sponsoring important causes
- Contest marketing on a local scale
- Find competitor backlinks and replicate them
Beyond higher rankings, these link building efforts increase your popularity and put your business in front of many potential local customers. Here’s an example of local charity in Toronto sharing news about their feature on Global TV:
Use Google Maps ads
Achieving a high rank on Google Maps Pack can take time (read months), especially if you're in a competitive business category. But when you use Google Maps ads, you can start showing up for important business keywords tomorrow.
Whichever way you want to reach potential customers in your area, there are ad options to achieve it.
Popular options include:
- Local search ads to display your listing for valuable local search terms
- Promoted pins to display your business prominently on Google Maps
- In-store promotions for discounted products
- Local inventory search to show products in stock
2. Build Local Citations
What are local citations and why are they important?
Simply put, local citations are any mentions or references to a business on the internet and it’s a major local ranking factor. A complete citation includes the business’ name, address, and phone number -- commonly known as NAP. It’s also important to note that your citation needs to be consistent across the web so it doesn’t hurt your rankings.
You might be wondering, “What’s the difference between backlinks and citations?”
According to Hubdo, backlinks are created when a website links to another site whereas citations are only mentions of the NAP of a business on online directories, websites and social media. Backlinks are a signal to search engines that other sites vouch for the content and if there are a lot of sites linking to the content, search engines view it as a more credible site and pushes it up the rankings. Citations typically don't include a link to site -- just the NAP info. If there is a link, it's a "no follow" link which signals search engines not to follow the link and that it doesn't have SEO value.
Local citations are important because it helps Google verify the authenticity of your business and builds trust.
What does Google do with NAP?
Google crawls your NAP information across the web in local directories, press releases, online publications, social media sites, and more. Every time your NAP info is mentioned (it doesn’t have to link back to your website), you get credit. And, the more credit you accumulate, the more it will help with boosting your local rankings
How to Build Your Local Citations
To get started with building citations, you can use these tools:
Then, you can also perform these additional strategies:
- Check out your competitors: Perform a search on your competitors and track which directories and citations they have. Then, you can work on building your citations on those directories.
- Determine the relevant general citation opportunities for your business: Make a list of the popular sites that you want to be cited on such as Yelp, Facebook, Yellowpages, Better Business Bureau, etc. These sites will add a lot of value to your citation profile.
- Determine the industry-specific citation opportunities for your business: Many industries have specific magazines, professional organizations, and conferences that list businesses on their website. These citations will help establish your business’ presence and authority in an industry.
- Check local listing sites: There are often local organizations and city-run websites (i.e. Chamber of Commerce) where you can submit your business’ information.
Tips for an optimized citation
- Always submit consistent NAP info
- Always select a consistent business category
- Use a business email
- Use a local phone number over a 1-800 number
- Add photos, logo, operating hours, social media accounts, and other details when possible
- Claim your listings on Google my Business, Apple Maps, Bing, Yelp, etc.
How can you monitor your Google Maps ranking performance?
With all the effort you’ve put into executing your Google Maps marketing strategy, the next step is to continuously monitor your ranking performance. By using a SEO tool with a local rank tracking, you can check how you’re performing for specific keywords on Google Maps overtime.
It takes time for your rankings to climb up on Google Maps. But if you’re going to focus your efforts anywhere, it should be on acquiring reviews and building local citations -- two major ranking factors.
If you’re new to Google Maps Marketing, which tips are you keen on trying out first?
If you’ve already implemented a strategy for improving your Google maps rankings, which tactics have impacted your rankings the most?
Let us know what you think in the comments below!
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