There seems to be somewhat of a disconnect between the overall functionality of Google Maps and the general understanding of the service by most internet users—as well as business owners. Generally, Google Maps is regarded as just an easy way to navigate the world around you, and point you where you want to go.
Being a business which undoubtedly wants to utilize all of the internet’s marketing capabilities, it would be fatal for your organization to have such a narrow view of the Maps service. But here is where you can gain an advantage, not just on how your customers find your business, but also on how your business can gain marketing leverage against your most fierce competitors.
Understanding how to successfully utilize local maps search marketing and integrate it with your own SEO strategy is crucial to strengthening your foothold for your industry. Don’t be alarmed by that. It’s something that is completely accessible to businesses large or small.
The overall goal of this technique should be to increase the likelihood of being included in what are called google’s “Map Packs,” the coveted space which appears at the top of Google SERPs when the search query indicates a location based intent. This spot, if your business is featured, allows potential customers to easily find your business location, website and more based on a combination of factors.
To discover how to be featured within these results, it is important to review the variables—and how to successfully manipulate them—so your business is more likely to be included.
Strategically Design Your Marketing Efforts to Capitalize on Your Ideal Customers:
Before you begin with any SEO project, you need to do a bit of self reflecting. Most importantly in this case, your business should think about your ideal customers, like the ones who you believe have the highest likelihood of converting to a sale. Then ask, Why are they picking THIS company?
Is your target demographic interested in your specific product or service because it is unique? Are they looking for convenience in areas like locality or responsiveness? There are countless reasons why a customer might choose YOU, but the more you can narrow down this list of general customer avatars, the more you can begin to cater your efforts to capture their search energy. This will also help you when you are working to influence the Google Maps results as well, as you can specify the tools and techniques your company uses to do so.
For our purposes with Google Maps Marketing, let’s focus primarily on location based customer preferences. This will likely be one of several SEO strategies that you implement within your marketing roadmap, but thinking about how it connects as a whole will help as your digital marketing efforts become broader in scope.
These initial questions will drive the success of your entire marketing campaign, so spending some time to think critically is important. Some questions that you should consider, and that we will address later in this article can be derived from the following;
- Why are people searching for business close to them?
- Where (and how far away) are your ideal customers?
- What is the search volume like for your niche?
These questions can each generate an abundance of follow up questions. This is a good thing, because the more you refine your parameters for them, the better you can cater to specific markets and customers. This in turn helps you capture those customers with more authenticity and sincerity, especially since you have generated entire marketing campaigns for that specific group. As an added benefit, you can also use similar techniques as you broaden campaigns.
For the first of these questions, also consider your customers’ motivations for searching for a local business. Is it because they want a well regarded and trusted company, where there are on-the-ground testimonials from people in the area? Do they want the convenience of having a local business that can provide quality results to them fast and without hassle? Or are they looking to judge local businesses against each other and see which one is the most competitive in the area? Regardless of the answers, these questions can help you dial in your marketing techniques to provide targeted responses to some of these questions before the search engine users even enter the search phrases. If you’re local and show up in Navigational search results, your content will answer the questions before your customers have the time to ask.
Likewise, you can cater your content to where your potential customers are searching from. If you provide online services, or can service a wide area, you can focus on having a multi pronged approach in several locations. There are strategies to build a network of media assets that encompass a large area, with each asset targeting a specific hub of search traffic. You can organize this from a business that is centrally located without ever having to expand your brick and mortar operations.
Finally, once you determine the search volume for your niche, you can take steps to capitalize on those metrics. By using information from your competition you can try to outrank and out maneuver them so your business commandeers a greater percentage of the initial search volume. There are plenty of highly successful SEO techniques to jump ahead of local competition for certain keywords and phrases, ones that the competition might not be paying attention to. This is especially true of ones that you research and find to be generating significant search traffic.
Optimizing Platform Performance as it Relates to Your Techniques:
The barebones approach to Maps Marketing is to ensure that your digital media assets, along with your Google My Business information are updated, detailed and thorough. If your My Business is missing key information, your organization is already at a disadvantage without even considering the impact that Google Maps has on visitation and success.
In fact, companies that do not have detailed My Business profiles are generally considered to be 50% as trusted as those that do, with customers citing that they are “less reputable.” Once you have, at a minimum, filled out and updated your search platform information on spaces such as Google My Business, you can turn back to your previous findings about your ideal customer.
- For instance, are your customers defined by close proximity to you? This would be especially important for businesses that operate brick-and-mortar locations and provide local services.
- Are your customers looking from around the country, but interested in your business because you are the “Best in ________,” which is another modifier you can use in your content.
- Are you able to capture search volume from a specific area of your city or town, or would you rather target broader regions like your county or state?
All of these are important questions to ask, because they allow you to dial in your approach and harness the search volume for your desired area, niche or customer base. They can also help you determine what Geo Modifiers you choose to use in your content. You can have narrow ones such as City-Specific Modifiers, or modifiers that target a broader area.
If you know that your target audience will be searching for a business in a specific location like a city or town, you can use the more narrow modifiers in your targeting. If they are more concerned with your general area, you can likely broaden the modifiers you use in your content and descriptions.
It’s also important to understand the types of searches your customers may be conducting. Generally speaking there are three common forms of search queries.
For the purposes of Maps Marketing, you will want to focus primarily on the latter form. This is most often the only type of search that results in the Google Map Pack being generated in the Search Engine Results Page.
There are plenty of other strategies that you can use for broad scope SEO which can handle the first two types of search entries, and there are certainly merits to implementing those in a full throttled SEO campaign. For our purposes, focusing on Maps Marketing, we will narrow our focus to capture as much of the Navigational search energy as possible.
Once you have adopted the strategy of focusing on this area of Google search queries, you can begin to tailor your content to include Location-Based Intent Keywords. Intent Keywords are the words and phrases that indicate to the search engine processor what information the user is attempting to access.
Some search engine users will be generic with their searches, using phrases like “buy _____” or “rent ______ near me” and so on. These basic forms of entering a search phrase will indicate to the search engine what they will present to the user in the form of search results. This has certainly become more refined in recent years, with greater ability for the program to determine intent. What we need to focus on is how to anticipate, to a broad extent, the Navigational types of questions and phrases that your ideal customer might present, and how to manipulate Google to present your business among the results that such an entry may generate.
For Navigational searches, a large part of influencing the Google results rely on your geographic location to the search engine user, and their desired (if applicable) search area. By filling out the Google My Business information, as well as thoroughly updating and clarifying your other media assets such as social media, website and any other digital hub, you have already done the bulk of the work to be visible. This is what is sometimes called the “low hanging fruit” analogy, where you “pick” or complete the most accessible and easiest task. But this can only propel your efforts so far.
The more difficult task is creating and modifying specific content so they can capture your ideal customer when they request Navigationally targeted information. Essentially, you should include in your keyword research a healthy amount of information which includes your geographic details and other locationally relevant information. Avoid looking like mapquest to avoid penalties, but also keep a sort of nuance to the way you include this information. It is important to remember that you are creating content that is judged by both machine and human, so it needs to sound authentic to both. Most crucially, BOTH flesh and blood users and the algorithms that drive them to you should know that you are looking to be found.
Measuring Campaign Success with ROI Metrics:
Unless your organization knows how to measure the success of your campaign, there’s no way you can use benchmarks to justify changes or reassessment down the road. It is important to take this into consideration before you even begin your Google Maps Marketing Campaign. Take some time to generate a baseline assessment of your current traffic, sales and any other key metrics that you would prefer to use as data markers.
You should also set up functionality to determine if your traffic is generated organically, through ad spend, through social media reach, or from Map Pack listings. Separating these further into call data, search data, and directional request data will help you to further refine your marketing process as time goes on.
If you are anticipating augmenting organic results with paid advertisements, you should catalogue this information as well, compartmentalizing the time frames in which you expect to operate paid campaigns. Also incorporate and track your ROI from paid SEO campaigns that are separate from your paid advertisements. If one is working while the other fails, you will have no way of distinguishing which expenses are more worthwhile in the long run.
Ideally, when you combine and incorporate the various strategies touched upon in this article, you will have a higher likelihood of manipulating the Google Search Results to include your business listing among the famous Google Map Pack, as well as benefit from other navigationally based search results. As with any SEO effort, it will take time, hard work and dedication to generate results. But with these concepts being used in conjunction with other successful SEO strategies, your business should have an advantage over your local, and broader, competition.