How important are maps and directories to a digital marketing strategy?
As the digital marketplace continues to replace traditional brick and mortar stores at a rapid pace, there is no denying that for most businesses (especially local businesses) have a physical location where customers can find you. remains an important part of business success. But how is it doing in the digital landscape?
After all, there are a number of ways to get customers to find your business online. Apps like Google Maps and directory sites like Yelp are an all too often overlooked part of SEO and content marketing strategy, but can ultimately be the key to attracting new customers (in some cases literally) to your company.
This is something that should be treated both on site and off to ensure the best possible results. For example, most web development programs provide the option to include a Google Maps widget on the site, which allows users to open the location in Google Maps and then get directions to the location. Another popular option is to include a screenshot of the business location next to the address and other important contact information (like in this example from Fusion 360).
However, optimizing offsite maps is perhaps even more important than including such onsite information or installing a Google Maps widget. As Search Engine Land explains, local business searches often tend to be cluttered with results from Google Maps, Yelp, and other directory sites before organic search results start filtering. For example, let’s look at these screenshots from a Google search for “Utah advertising agency.”
Note that after the paid search results, Google Maps results appear, listing agencies that have a Maps listing through Google My Business. And even after that, the top organic search result is for a directory site.
What does this mean for small businesses? Quite simply, if you don’t include a Maps listing as part of your SEO and content marketing strategy, you may be missing out on an important part of your business. So how do you go about optimizing your offsite Maps list to improve the return on your digital marketing investment? Here are some important steps.
Use and optimize Google My Business
To claim your business location on Google Maps, you must first create a Google My Business account. This free account allows you to either create a list of locations for your business or claim an existing location that someone else has already entered. And without that account, there’s no way to get your business listed on Google Maps in the first place.
However, it’s not just about entering the name and address of the business. Google Maps locations can be incredibly detailed, and the more information you provide in your ad, the better that ad will rank in Google Maps results and the more useful it will be to your potential customers.
Basic information like what category your business belongs to, hours of operation, phone number, and your website are great places to start (and will definitely help customers), but Google My Business also allows users add photos to provide potential customers with a better idea of ââthe venue’s offerings.
Google My Business also allows businesses with multiple locations to manage multiple sites from a single account. If you need to add more than 10 ads, a spreadsheet file can be created and uploaded to facilitate the process (see this article for more detailed information on this process). Sometimes a duplicate or “closed” listing will also appear for your business due to information that others have entered into Google’s system. It is important to merge or remove these lists to avoid negative ranking influences.
After submitting your information, be sure to request a verification PIN. Google will send a postcard with the code to your business address (usually in about two weeks) which you then need to add to the business listing to have it verified on Google Maps. This is extremely important, because without verification your ad will not appear on Google Maps.
Claim and optimize other directory listings
Webologist Remarks that there are several other directory sites that can play an important role in helping customers find your business online. Yelp is a high authority site that is primarily used by customers to leave reviews about a business, but business owners can also claim their listing of places and include information similar to what would be included.included in a Google Maps list. Angie’s List and Foursquare are other helpful directory and review sites where businesses can claim and update a profile with specific and useful information.
Other business directories, such as Yellow Pages.com (yes, the Yellow Pages still exist) are also good places to get your business address, phone number, and website. Businesses would also do well to consider listing their business in specialist local directories related to their industry (such as the Utah Advertising Agency Directory Site discussed earlier). Social media can be another great source for SEO, as Facebook Pages allow businesses to share their address, phone number, website, and even email contact details.
Another potential advantage (or disadvantage) of many of these sites is the ability of consumers to leave reviews about the business. While more reviews can provide increased visibility on Google Maps or Yelp, an overwhelming number of negative reviews will almost certainly drive businesses away rather than attract them. As a business owner, it is important to monitor and respond to these comments.
Be careful when responding to negative reviews and use them as an opportunity to demonstrate your dedication to customer service, rather than giving in to the temptation to leave a sarcastic response. And in some cases, it may be a good idea to take a look at these negative reviews and see if there are things your business needs to improve.
Don’t forget the other influences of content marketing
Building and optimizing listings on Google Maps, Yelp, and other directory sites is important, but that shouldn’t leave other parts of the content marketing strategy in the dust. Even the prettiest Google Maps entry won’t appear at the top of those lists without serious content marketing and SEO work that supports connected URL.
Optimizing your website content to be relevant to the localized target market with useful keywords, titles and page headers and optimized images also plays an important role in improving your ranking. SEO, while generating useful articles and other content to publish both on your own site and on third-party sites helps strengthen relationships with Google. And these ongoing elements of digital marketing certainly shouldn’t be left behind when trying to build your presence on Google Maps.
Optimizing your locations on Google Maps and other directory sites should be done in support of your overall content marketing strategy, not in its place. That way, as your other content marketing efforts pay off, your business will increase in search results, not just in organic rankings, but also in the surprisingly high rankings in Maps results.