You might be old enough to remember a time when finding your way from Point A to Point B meant either flicking through the hundreds of pages of a road atlas, or unfurling a giant map that was always too big for the car you were in.

How times have changed.

In February 2005 Google announced Google Maps – a free tool that offered people access to digital maps, which marked the beginning of the end for the road atlas industry.

In 2007, the same year that the original iPhone was released, Google added a GPS feature, replacing the dedicated navigation technology of TomTom, Navman and Garmin.

In the years that have followed, Google Maps has become more and more integrated with Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business), to the point that any company that deals with their customers face-to-face, from corner stores to professional consultancies, needs a presence on both.

Rankings in Google Maps

Success on Google is all about ranking as high as possible whenever your target audience types in relevant search terms. But when you look at Google Maps, the businesses displayed at the ‘top’ are simply those that are further north than the others.

But as soon as you type a local search query into Google Maps, like ‘plumber Christchurch’, you’ll see something else: a side menu that lists all the plumbers that are found within that locality.

Google Maps draws information from your Google Business Profile to serve up a snapshot of your business to anyone who might be searching on Maps for what you offer. This allows a user to quickly compare similar businesses within a certain area, then choose one to visit or contact.

If you hear marketers refer to your ‘Google Maps ranking’, this is what they’re talking about. Working your way up this pop-up listing is key to the success of any business with a physical storefront, so today we’ll be taking a closer look at how Google Maps listings are ranked, as well as how to rank higher on Google Maps.

Add your business to Google Maps

To get better rankings on Google Maps you first have to ensure you’re listed on Google Maps. Jump into Maps and search for your business name. If you’re already listed, you should see your business come up as an autocomplete suggestion, in which case you can move straight to the next section!

If your business name doesn’t come up as an autocomplete option straight away, add your suburb too. If you can’t find your business at that stage, you may not have a listing. To be sure, type in your exact address and see if it features a pin (perhaps your business name is misspelt.)

If none of the above works, you’ll see a button that says “Add a missing place to Google Maps.” Click on the link and follow the prompts to add your business.

Claim your listing on Google Maps

Creating your listing is distinct from claiming your listing. Claiming a Google Maps listing is the process of verifying that you are its rightful owner. If you found your business on Google Maps, you should see a button marked ‘Own this business?’ or ‘Claim this business’.

If you created a new listing, the process will flow on to verification after you’ve added the basic info like name, category and location.

The verification process begins by asking for your mailing address. This is the physical address of your business – post office boxes aren’t permitted.

After entering your address, you’ll be sent a five-digit code. If you have a physical storefront you’ll be sent that code the old fashioned way: through the post (businesses that don’t have a premise and instead service an area, will be sent the code via email.)

Once you receive your code, enter it and click ‘Verify’. You’ll now have complete control over your Google Maps listing!

Add basic info and maintain your Google Maps listing

At this point, you’ll be the proud owner of a Google Business Profile and a Google Maps listing. The task now switches from setting everything up to making the most of it.

Log into your Google Business Profile and navigate to the ‘Info’ tab. Here you’ll be met with a dashboard featuring all the vital information regarding your business.

The basics – business name, industry, address – will already be filled out, but there will be a wealth of other info that customers will be looking for:

  • Business description and attributes (e.g. gift shop, free Wi-Fi, food delivery)
  • Normal hours and special hours (e.g. public holidays)
  • Contact details (phone number, email, website)
  • Products and services (link to price list or menu)

Be sure to update this information whenever it changes. This is particularly important for your opening hours and contact details.

Add content to your Google Maps listing

Your Google Maps listing is designed to deliver information at a glance – it will only display the first 250 characters (~50 words) of your business description, for example. But pictures, well, they tell a thousand words a pop. In the process, they give customers a far better idea of what your business is about.

Add compelling, high-quality photos and videos of your business to your Google Business Profile. When a potential customer finds your business on Google Maps, this content will give them an instant sense of your business, increasing the likelihood that they’ll choose you over an alternative.

Treat your Google Business Profile as another social media profile. Ideally, you’ll upload new content regularly – aim for at least once a week.

Encourage customer reviews

Social proof is critical to the success of any modern business. The reality is that people don’t trust brands to talk about themselves. They do however trust other people, even if those people are mysterious strangers on the internet. According to this study:

  • 90% of consumers read reviews before visiting a business.
  • 88% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Another fact: Buyers require an average of 40 online reviews before believing a business’s star rating is accurate, so you need to build those reviews up.

Thankfully doing so is simple: when a customer – particularly a happy customer – makes a purchase, ask them to review you on Google. You might even consider incentivising reviews, offering a freebie or discount to those who take the time to provide one.

Always respond to your reviews, thanking the customer for their time and their thoughts. See negative reviews as opportunities: if you feel the feedback is fair, it’s a chance for your business to improve.

If you honestly feel that the feedback is unfair, your response is an opportunity to show other customers who you are as a business.

Regularly post on your Google Maps listing

As we mentioned above, your Google Maps listing can be seen as another social media profile. Like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, you can publish posts within it.

The great thing about posting on Google Maps is the call-to-action button feature. You can add a button that says buy, book, order online, learn more, sign up or call now, which helps to compel the audience to act.

Google Maps also allows you to create special posts that are designed to advertise events and offers, and by posting regularly you’ll get in Google’s good books, ranking higher and higher.

Make use of purpose-built tools

There are a wealth of tools designed to help businesses make the most of their Google Business Profile and Google Maps listing. Making use of these tools is key to fully capitalising on the opportunity at hand.

One of the most common questions that businesses have is ‘how do I test my ranking on Google Maps?’

In Surfer Local you have a tool that does that and a whole lot more. It helps users view how they’re ranking on the Google local maps based on geolocation data, then offers advice on how to work your way up to top spot (and stay there in the long run.) You’ll apply much of the advice listed above, but in a more efficient and effective way than doing it all yourself.

Gone are the days when you paid for a listing on a paper map or in a road atlas. For the very best local marketing results in our modern, digital world, it’s worth getting in touch with a team of experts – people who live and breathe all things digital marketing, and who have a passion for helping local businesses get in front of their target audiences.

That’s where we come in.

At Traction, we’ve built a reputation for helping businesses make the most of the endless opportunities that the internet presents. Local marketing efforts, headlined by Google Maps, are key for businesses that have a physical storefront or service a specific area.

If that’s you, get in touch with our friendly team today!