As a computer user since the age of 2 who’s seen all the ins and outs of Google and the internet, and now, an SEO professional who studies Google’s algorithms and the strategies that work right now for long-term rankings & traffic, one thing I’ve realized is that Google Maps is one of the most tragically underutilized components of anyone’s local SEO strategy.
Google has been focusing much of their attention on improving the Google Maps user experience lately, to where customers are now able to engage easily with businesses without ever having to leave search results and go to the business website.
Here’s the challenge. Google doesn’t even want to tell local outfits about the brand-new features that enable improved customer engagement. This leaves business owners in a tough spot… they end up doing all the digging themselves if they don’t have specialized knowledge of local SEO. This doesn’t need to be the case.
I bet you’ve wondered at least once or twice… “I can’t figure out how this guy’s taken my #1 spot in Google Maps and kept it for so long.”
And when you dig deeper, the answer starts to become clearer.
It’s one thing to create & claim a Google My Business (GMB) listing. It’s another to set it up & optimize it correctly to be visible for relevant search results.
That’s why I’m happy to be a guest writer here talking about something you guys can benefit from. Local SEO service providers like my marketing agency, Triple Agent Digital Media, know there’s way more than meets the eye to getting exposure to your local target audience and building a loyal tribe of followers in your town or city. In this list, I’m going to show you several strategies you can implement to gain this advantage. Here’s just a tiny taste of the little-known things that are working right now to boost your queries, impressions, clicks, engagement… and hence, visibility & rankings on Google Maps in your locality.
1. Invite Customer Reviews
I’ve noticed that a lot of my favourite local businesses are solely lacking in Google reviews. That is a crime in and of itself. In case you haven’t noticed yet:
- it’s 90% likely that any one of your customers chooses you simply because they read a positive review about you
- 72% of the time, people trust you more right off the bat because of your positive reviews.
These statistics from SoTellUs are real-world examples of what’s just common sense. Having a decent amount of positive customer reviews is common sense not just in the world of Google Maps SEO and Google My Business SEO – it’s common sense in the business world, period.
Businesses can say all they want about how good they are, but that doesn’t matter until their claims are backed by their customers’ real-life experiences. When a local visitor sees multiple competitors in one area on Google Maps, their decision is obviously based on which outfit is doing a better job than the other. Almost in a whim, they’ll likely gravitate towards the ones with either the highest rating, or, better yet, the ones with the most 4 or 5-star ratings.
You know for certain you want to be one of those very businesses with better ratings… because signalling trust in this way naturally improves your Google Maps clickthroughs, which – not surprisingly – influences your prominence on Google Maps.
So… are you looking for a quick fix to boost your clickthroughs? Well, this raises another question… have you got a positive reputation? Wear it loud & proud on Google Maps, plain and simple!
It cannot be any clearer: today, trust is vital to local SEO and Google Maps SEO just as much as, if not more than, it is to offline marketing.
Begin inviting your customers & clients – or if you haven’t already, invite more of your new & existing customers – to leave reviews about the product or service they bought from you, and the great work you’ve done for them. Specificity and clarity about your products/services is what makes those reviews count towards your Google Maps prominence, since it helps Google and your customers to easily identify what you’re good at, and distinguish your customer reviews as genuine. If you were the customer, how likely are you to choose a 5-star company whose reviews were vague? I doubt very much, if at all.
2. Leverage GMB Social Posts
Don’t sleep on this feature. The ability to make social media-style posts straight to a Google Maps listing isn’t so obvious at first… and once you look at your top competitors, you’ll realize it’s a major component of Google’s engagement-boosting strategy for local listings.
Just to give an example of how untapped GMB social posts are in local SEO… one auto dealership in our locality uses them faithfully, while another fails to use them at all.
You can attract prospective buyers by using social posts to:
- announce a promotion you’re running (you can even insert the coupon code, the link to claim the offer and set a start & end date!)
- announce an upcoming local event you’re hosting or attending
- post useful information about your products & services, or
- post what’s new with your business
…the possibilities are practically endless.
Always be sure to insert a call to action on your GMB posts. It’s much harder to sell your customers with engaging content if you leave them at a dead-end, so make it easier for them to take action on what you’re offering or announcing!
What’s ESPECIALLY important about the call-to-action is you must always always be sure to place a button on your GMB post with a link back to your website, which is what allows your visitors to even follow through with what you’re saying. It will pass along some extra link juice.
When you have a good variety of GMB social posts, it especially comes in handy when you dominate the Google Knowledge Graph, where the posts are displayed right in the view of your searchers. This can be an even bigger advantage when you’re at a point where people know and trust you so well that they’re searching for your brand name.
3. Put Up a Google My Business Website (a.k.a. Business.Site)
This is where the really meaty off-page local SEO starts to kick in. Google My Business allows you to create a business landing page on the domain https://business.site. This is primarily intended for business owners who don’t have a website yet. However, Business.Site landing pages should not be ignored by those that do have a site.
When you create a Business like Helloportable.com. Site with Google My Business, it will be auto-populated with a call to action, a grid of your latest Google Maps social posts, and a gallery of your GMB images. This stacks additional SEO link juice on top of what you already get with your GMB posts.
Once you’ve done it, just be sure to point the website link on your GMB listing to your main website, since you still want to give visitors a way to directly go to your website.
4. Enable Google My Business Messaging
Call-to-action buttons on Google Maps search have evolved beyond just calling the business and visiting the website. They now allow smartphone users to directly send you SMS text messages in one tap, within Google Maps, without having to hold down any phone numbers or add one to their contacts. Especially for service providers, this is a great tool that enables more visitors to come to you passively and show their interest, increasing your leads, clickthroughs & eventually customers… giving more of a traffic push that could influence your rankings!
Just be sure to abide by Google’s rules: don’t request sensitive information when chatting with customers.
5. Upload Videos Straight to Google Maps
This is yet another feature that’s taken for granted, since YouTube is the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Google and video.
The fact is, you can now upload videos up to 100 megabytes (as of September 2018) straight to your Google Maps listing, independent of your YouTube channel. This can give you more qualified leads, since videos really pop out, and those visitors that take their time to watch videos are more likely to become your buyer, since they’re deeper in the buyer psychology stage.
I have a self-demonstrating example of this on my own GMB page – a “1-Minute Tips” video where I summarize the importance of Google Maps SEO for local business owners.
6. Upload 360-Degree Interior and Exterior Photos on Google Street View
360° photos on Google Maps Street View have extended beyond cars with cameras capturing the streets. You can now upload 360° photos of:
- a closer navigable view of the facade of your business, and
- the interior of your physical office or storefront.
If your business is the kind where visitors physically walk into your office or storefront, this feature gives them an idea of what the atmosphere is like before they choose to go to you, so they get to know beforehand the amount of luxury, comfort and hospitality they’ll experience.
Local SEO and Google Maps Summarized
By now, your head is spinning so fast that you’re thinking to yourself: “Wow, how did I not know this stuff before?” These are but a few of the simple-yet-neglected, actionable strategies that make a local SEO campaign truly tick, and they’re what the “gurus” don’t want to tell you. Take fast action on at least one or two of them today, and see the difference.
Of course, what you’ve just learned about only scratches the surface, since I’m unable to give away all of my digital marketing secrets, or else I’d be inviting others to totally breach this exclusivity!
Enjoy this post? Be sure to share it on social media. Have any questions about local SEO? Please give us your thoughts in the comments below.
Alexander Velitchko is a co-founder and co-owner of Triple Agent Digital Media, Inc., a Toronto-area inbound marketing and SEO company incorporated nationwide, which specializes in local and national digital marketing. Alexander’s lifelong computer & Internet experience gave him a tremendous head start in the world of internet marketing, with his earliest “SEO” effort being a successful YouTube channel which he launched when he was only 11 years old.
Alexander is a co-author of the #1 Amazon bestseller 50 Easy Business Hacks to Increase Your Sales Today. He is also an award-winning public speaker, who made his acclaimed debut at Harvard Club of Boston’s Expert Story Summit at the age of 19, speaking out on his business and why he does what he does. Alexander also has speaking engagements at Coca-Cola, Mercedes-Benz USA, and many more to come!