Just a decade ago, online maps were primarily considered a tool for generating turn-by-turn directions that most consumers would print off and take with them to get to their destinations. Today, they’ve become a key component in the marketing stack for independent businesses and agencies looking to gain an edge in local search.
In this article — the third, in a four-part series focusing on local presence management, sponsored by Advice Local — we will take a close look at the role that maps and map listings, such as Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Bing Maps, are playing in the local search ecosystem. We will delve into how the data from those services is driving desktop, mobile, and voice search. And given consumers’ increasing appetite for voice driven platforms, including Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, we will discuss advanced ways for marketers to utilize these services for their own benefit.
The oversized role that maps are having is largely due to the importance that search engines place on map listings in search results. Google has continued to use Google Maps listings as a strong ranking factor in local search, with older listings with an established organic presence holding the most ranking power. Maps are one of a number of data sources that make up the local search ecosystem. (Other sources include review sites, social media platforms, directories, and data aggregators.)
It’s been years since Google released its Local Business Center and merged it with its Maps product, a change that was intended to condense relevant information for consumers, who could now find store locations, hours, and contact information in a single place. The move also had the effect of shaking up search engine optimization by making location information even more imperative for businesses. A steady stream of changes followed for Google, but with each step the map listings has played a larger role in determining localized search results.
The data from maps now drives local search results, not just on mobile, but on desktop and voice search, as well. Location-related searches are growing 50% faster than all mobile searches, according to data from Google.
Companies such as Advice Local submits local business information to data aggregators, and these aggregators—which include firms like Infogroup, Neustar Localeze, and Factual—distribute the data to directories and GPS mapping solutions. NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) consistency is incredibly important for businesses that hope to appear in these local searches and on maps.
Three of the biggest players in mapping solutions are Apple, Google, and Bing. Apple, in particular, is utilizing its mapping products as it pushes into augmented reality (AI) and autonomous systems. Earlier this year, the company announced a new set of tools for developers to create augmented reality apps, dubbed ARKit. Facebook, Google, and Microsoft have also launched augmented reality initiatives, leaving little doubt as to the importance that location and mapping data will have on the future of local marketing.
Global technology firms are delving deeper into location, as well, and they’re doubling down on mapping products to power those initiatives. Local presence management companies like Advice Local establish partnerships with these companies so they can ensure they can submit local business data to their existing solutions and to the future developed technologies.
So, what does this mean for marketers and agencies?
- As search engines drive more traffic through maps, businesses can expect to see more traffic on their Google My Business listings. Claiming these listings, and then keeping them updated with accurate business information, is a first step.
- Businesses, and the agencies that support them, should place more focus on NAP consistency. Inconsistencies should be identified and eliminated before the erroneous information propagates, as inaccurate information could cause listings to be rejected by mapping vendors.
- GPS coordinates should be included in business data whenever possible, as this information is relevant for the makers of GPS devices such as Garmin, TomTom, and Magellan.
- Businesses should collect more customer reviews. Businesses with recent reviews place higher in search results and their listings stand out more in map results.
Voice search has also taken on a more prominent role in the local search ecosystem, largely due to the increased demand for digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Now. More than 33 million voice-first devices are expected to be in circulation by the end of 2017. And according to comScore, 50% of search queries will be voice search by 2020.
KPCB reported in the 2017 Internet Trends Report that 20% of the current voice searches are conduced via mobile. Also reported was the fact that 70% of voice searches are made in a natural/conversational language.
Consumers are asking their digital assistants questions like they are buddies sitting in the room with them.
Every business wants to be recommended by Siri or Alexa when a consumer asks “Where’s the closest coffee shop” or asks for a bookstore that’s open right now. The key to achieving that top spot, and winning in the voice search rankings, is understanding how voice search is changing the nature of location search and how location data is used to generate relevant search results.
Three content optimization strategies to consider:
- Businesses should optimize their website content for long-tail search terms and natural/conversational language that include keywords and location whenever possible. It will be important to avoid keyword stuffing since that is not how someone would speak naturally.
- Build content strategies around the questions consumers are most likely to ask their digital assistants —for example, “Where is the best pizza parlor in Austin?”.
- Make sure the website is marked up with schema. This ensures that the content can be displayed by Google rich results, which are utilized by voice assistants when answering consumer queries.
Locally relevant paid search is changing the game for businesses too. KPCB reported that Google’s Geo-Targeted local ads have increased traffic to local businesses to over 5B cumulative store visits. This number is 5X what is was in 2005.
Ads are hitting the digital assistants too. Amazon’s Seth Dallaire, VP of global ad sales at Amazon Media Group shared in January how they worked with Campbell’s Soup to create a branded skill for the Amazon Echo. Shortly there after, Amazon did tighten up the advertising restrictions in skills. Google hasn’t openly offered paid media opportunities for ad placement through Google Home, however there has been an instance that was questionable and enraged some users.
For the time being, finding a balance between organic and paid listings is best capitalize to on the growth of maps and voice search.
If you would like to get your own behind-the-scenes tour of a local presence management solution, Advice Local’s team will guide you through the company’s comprehensive local presence management solution. Click here to request a demo.