By Haley Johnson | Date Posted: 11/27/13 | Jump To Comments
The Current State of Google Maps
The Eyes Have It
It has been proven by a number of web analysts that local Internet search users rely heavily on Google Maps listings to make decisions about where to buy products and services. While it doesn’t always mean that they will click the links to investigate a particular business, Heat map analysis indicates that searchers’ eyes are trained to look at the first 3 to 4 map listings. As you might imagine, this factor is very important to any local business that hopes to be visible at that magical point at which someone is searching for their product and service.
Ranking Factors for Google Maps
Google’s directives state openly that there are three factors that formulate the search rankings for maps listings: distance, relevance and prominence. While the ranking algorithm is in a constant state of flux (as understood by marketers), there are strategies that any business can at minimum used to influence all three factors.
Ranking Factor: Distance
With respect to distance, there isn’t much for a business to do to try to cover more ground in making their business appear closer to searchers than they actually are. However, they can accurately communicate their address into their website listing and subsequently make sure that address is standardized across the myriad of local review sites available as well as Google Maps itself. Although this is elementary, it is a factor that many businesses do not take into consideration until there is a problem or a competitor that is seemingly dominating the category.
Ranking Factor: Relevance
With respect to relevance, this factor hasn’t changed over the 3 to 4 years that Google Maps has been a serious concern of web marketers. However, the emphasis on the web has been moving from keywords to semantic architecture. As a result, companies must begin to adhere to those factors presented by Schema.org to communicate relevance.
What this means to small business is that they must clearly identify their products and services to the web in markup language that is becoming standard. This may mean, communicating details such as menu items, hours of operation, and even reservations.
Ranking Factor: Prominence
With respect to prominence, it’s easy to read Google’s boilerplate content and walk away with the impression that a ranking algorithm is being created specifically for Google Maps. This is never been stated, although there is evidence that traditional website ranking is not the whole story.
In fact, Google has been presenting a numerical score that is very heavily influenced by customer reviews. You might say that the primary goal in influencing this factor is to make sure that customers. routinely, yet honestly provide feedback to the business through Google’s social network (Google Plus). That being said, it also appears to be necessary that the business’ performance would be seen as positive by those that have visited.
Loopholes: Forget About It
There is no doubt that there are some factors that can be influenced by understanding loopholes in the rules. However, Google’s history in working with small businesses is that while these gaps in coverage occur for seasons, they are also often closed after some period of time.
Over the course of the last four years, many of the loopholes that marketers used in 2009 and 2010 have been closed through algorithm changes and map reconfigurations for the customer. In other words, gaming the system is probably not worth the time for a business to undertake.
Basic Strategy for Google Maps
Therefore, to develop a workable everyday strategy for marketing one’s business on Google maps is fairly simple. First, make sure that the details of products and services offered over time are meticulously communicated through the new semantic markup as outlined by Schema.org. Second, increase the business’s presence and prominence using social media, video marketing and online public relations (including press releases). While these things do not guarantee that a business will be featured in the first map position for their category of business, it does give them the maximum opportunity for visibility through Google Maps.