To map or not to map? Google Maps for marketing local businesses

   

These days there are so many opportunities in the Social Media sphere to promote your local business effectively, easily, and in very accessible and customised way, that many business owners might be asking themselves “Why Google Maps anyway?”

That is a good question and needs, a carefully considered answer.

What are the problems with Google? The first is this. Have a look at the figure which appears in the top left corner when you do any search – local, or otherwise. This is called the SERP – the number of other businesses competing for the first page, the top spot for your search term.

The second problem is this. Do you have a real chance of ever reaching the the top spot – even just the first page?

Let’s have a look at the four basic options:

1. Listing your business in a business directory

These sites like Yelp, Yellow Pages have such high search favour with Google, that they will almost always be on the first page, near the top for any local search term. The problem is that you need to be on the first page of any particular directory, even to be considered as a relevant business to be investigated by a serious searcher with not much time on their hands. This is not easy. In the most important directories, this often requires payment, with additional costs for a top of the page promoted listing. It can get quite expensive. Unless your business name begins with A, in certain cases you are likely to get lost in the subsequent pages of listings, which can amount to hundreds of businesses, depending on your niche and geographical area.

2. PPC

The second option is PPC. These adverts always appear at the top. However, there is often fierce competition, and you might, or might not, get a top page listing this way.  You need expert help. Experts of this kind command a lot of money; so not only is it costly to set up, but also economically draining to sustain over the long-term, since you have to pay for every click; whether just curious or a slip of a mouse. There is also the problem of ad blindness; most searchers are wise to the fact that these are paid ads, and so they don’t automatically click on this option since they realise that the position of this ad is money driven, and not necessarily a reflection of the quality of the service. In any case, you need a lot of capital to have any real success. Does this sound like you? Are you a big earner, and a big spender?

3. SEO

The third option is SEO. Those experts who know how to get your website on the first page, but also always want you to understand that they might not be able to do this, or sustain it. This is not because they are being tricky. SEO is simply that difficult to predict; though easier in some circumstance, depending on the competitiveness of the of the keyword and volume of the SERP. But the truth is: no promises. Never-the-less, to get the job done, just hoping for the best, is really expensive. How much exactly will this “promise” cost you. Here are some figures:

An SEO expert can cost, from $7.50 – $150 an hour, and a monthly retainer can cost from $1000 to $3000 a month. Are you ready to take the risk?

4. Google Maps

The fourth option is interesting, but let’s discuss this first.

Why is it that people still aspire to a top spot on Google, anyway. When there are so many other ways to make yourself comfortably visible. The short answer is this. It is not for everyone, but it might be for you.

Here are some stats about Google searches.

  • 77.98 % of all searchers use Google as their favourite search engine
  • 80% of these are for local products or services.
  • Dec 2016 – only 44% of local retailers had claimed their Google+ local listing

For more detail, have a look here: http://www.internetlivestats.com/google-search-statistics/

How would these stats be important to you, and in what way not?

Firstly, it is clear that this is the first prize for any local business; but not for any local business owner, only those with the ability to grow and maintain a healthy, high profile excellence in their business reputation. In a few words, first page on Google, specifically in the Maps listing, will mean a flood of traffic. If the search engine panorama remains consistent, it probably also means consistent growth for the long term.

How do the public view this? Well, ads they mistrust a bit. Heat maps show that visitors actually rarely click on ads and often only click on the top three listings. Business listings they trust a lot, if your website is on the first page. They’ll assume it was due to the merit of your business. If you have a position on Maps, especially the first place, they will also assume it was due to the merit of your business; that Google chose you because, somehow, you were the best. This, of course, is completely unjustified. Without going into much detail, Google chooses you for that position because whoever “did” your Google Maps listing for you is smart enough to know exactly how it should be done. Simple as that. But Google Maps has an advantage both over business directories and just a simple website position on the first page. The business directory layout, fairly clearly exposes that the first place is a matter of alphabetical order. Simply a website position doesn’t offer much immediate comparative value with other businesses in such a way that would immediately compel the searcher to choose you. Google Maps, though, in fact, offers both. When the searcher clicks on the first listing on Maps, he thinks he’s choosing a kind of contest winner, even though he might not be sure this is really the case. If this impression is supported by positive reviews, pictures, videos, and directions, in the end, it doesn’t matter much whether this is, in fact, the winner, or not.  It appears to be quite trustworthy, anyway. After all, you don’t have much time to waste looking around for other alternatives with such easy-to-access information.

This is exactly the power of Google Maps marketing.

The trust factor, accessibility of information critical to making an informed choice, and the popularity of Google, make Google Maps a choice for very, very high visibility, and results you could never have dreamed of before. This is the caveat. If you want to stay small, and make a lot of mistakes, don’t choose Google Maps. You will get a flood of enquiries, and people will leave honest reviews. However, there are ways of dealing effectively with, and limiting, this danger in an honest and reasonable way; because, really, who is perfect, anyway. Most people understand this too, and would choose the least nasty option to voice their grievances, given the option.

If this is the Rolls Royce, it must be very expensive. In fact, it usually is. Most marketers realise the value of Google Maps Marketing. They understand that they are selling a real estate calculator costing a thousand dollars to a willing buyer, because it will make him a million. Google Maps marketing is an investment, not a cost. The last time I heard, lawyers in high-income areas were paying $ 6000 a month, and not feeling it either. This was about 5 years ago, so the rate has probably gone up. It all has to do with the marketing model it falls into. Model A would be that a product has a particular fixed price for the consumer, because it is diffuse, and readily available. Model B would be that the item is rare, and sought-after. This makes it a luxury item, which a willing buyer is prepared to pay top dollar for. This is a service which fits into model B. It is a luxury marketing item. Space is limited. It’s highly in demand, and is therefore very expensive – all, of course, depending also on your niche and geographical zone.

Is it worth paying this kind of money? Without a doubt. Should you walk away at this point, and sigh – “so, guess this is not for me after all.” Not necessarily. You can find marketers who really know what they’re doing, and are offering a competitive service themselves. However, don’t forget this point. Never choose a marketer for Google Maps Marketing, who doesn’t really know what they are doing. You need to do it completely correctly, and you don’t get many chances to do so. If it is done correctly, you will be blown away by the results.

But please note, these are just facts and observations – not promises. Do your own homework and investigation, before taking a marketing leap of this nature.

About the Author:

19 years in Italy as a TEFL teacher and translator, during which time I taught myself IM. Recently moved all work online and collaborating through virtual platforms in anticipation of a move abroad to pursue a nomadic work style. Passion for research, creative content (especially original visuals) and learning new skills.

Get in touch with Luciano…

1 Comment

  • Anthony Tornambe

    Nice tips.

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