Graeme Benge

How To Make The Most Of The New Google Maps

26th Sep 2013 SEO Blog, Local Search 3 minutes to read

bigstock-Old-Map-And-Compass-Concepts-6133078Another month goes by with yet another change in Google-world, this time Google Maps has got the treatment.

In this post I take a look at the overhaul. There is a lot to take advantage of and the upgrade is yet another push from Google to get businesses to create Google+ Local pages.

So first up, the layout. If you head over here you’ll see Maps has gone widescreen, cinematic if you will, with the left hand white vertical “details” column now gone.

New Google Maps

This initially made me think the screen would look cluttered as layers of data got added through each search refinement, especially as that column did work well to extract and display the non-map based data before.

Your search box now sits in the upper left part of the maps screen and this is where the extra data layers build from.

New Search Box

Right off the bat there are short cuts for restaurants, cafes, bars and the all-important directions. This is good because I don’t want to have to ask for directions to find the directions….

Search results appear on the map and initially drive the user into the map, whereas before there was a choice to do that or look at the list of results in the left hand column.

At this stage the search box starts to give you hints as to what upgrades Maps has been given from the fairy Google-mother.

I think the search box does a good job of conveying the key aspects likely to be sought by a user, those being: full address, website link, telephone number and opening hours.

Pizza Near Southampton

However there is also a pesky advert appearing under the search box, underlining the caveat to Google’s pursuit of the best possible results – you’ll get the best results we can find and that advertisers will pay for…

The below image shows that you can see options to view the results in the form of a list and here’s where that takes you:

Top Results Link

Essentially this is an almost standard looking local SERP page. Despite being a click to another tab, this isn’t to be overlooked as it reinforces the need to get those Google+ Local Pages set up and those reviews accumulating.

If you look closely at the search box, you’ll notice two other means of breaking down your search results. Firstly Top reviewers; whereby you get quick links to all the reviews as well as immediately seeing the review by the “top reviewer” which simply appears to be the reviewer who gave the highest star rating. Thanks for that Tom.

Pizza Reviews

Secondly, Maps also gives you a quick link to places marked by people from within your Google+ Circles. To me this is a potential fail as query relevance gets sacrificed for social integration as the image below shows:

Hilton Hotel Southampton

Now I’m reasonably familiar with Pizza and the also the various Southampton pizza dealers, but the Hilton has not cropped up. I guess it’s a case of the semantic scope of the query coupled with the desire to integrate Google+ everywhere.

At this stage it should be pretty clear Google are ramming home the need to get your business into the Google ecosystem. Google Maps has 5 ways to find information:

  • Search query
  • Google+ Local listings
  • Top Reviewers links
  • Your Circles link
  • Sponsored ads

Three out of the five ways require a user to sign in to Google in order to get the benefit further pushing people and businesses into the Google-topia.

It’ll be interesting to see if there will be an accompanying mobile upgrade for Maps that integrates these features.

The key things business need to do are:

  • Create a Google+ Local page
  • Fill in as much information as you can to ensure you appear for more generic searches (e.g. pizza southampton)
  • Check any existing details are correct
  • Ethically encourage people to leave reviews
  • Be active on Google+ to be added to more circles
  • Experiment with PPC through this channel to see how it compares to your other PPC offerings

What Do You Think – Evolution Or Revolution?

Has Google pulled off a revolutionary overhaul or is this just minor cosmetic surgery? To what extent should businesses get excited about this upgrade? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading.

Image Credit

Old Map And Compass Concepts via Big Stock

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