Meet Your New BFF: Google Maps

Why local businesses should jump on Google Maps' new feature, Explore

Written by Mira Shenker

Appearing as the top listing in Google’s organic search results will make one in three people click on your URL. That’s a powerful draw. What if, rather than just luring consumers to your website, you could lead them to your physical location at the very moment they are looking to buy what you sell?

Google’s redesigned Maps app—and, specifically, the new Explore feature—can help you do that. A mobile-device user has the option of clicking one of four icons—eat, drink, sleep and shop—that now appear on the map and seeing nearby establishments pop up. These selections are based on everything Google knows about that user, from the person’s search history to friends’ preferences to reviews by people in the user’s Google+ circle.

For retail and hospitality businesses, which face competition literally around every corner, showing up in Explore could be a huge boost. But how much your company benefits will depend greatly on how Google-friendly it is. Qasar Younic, a Google project manager, says the more data points the search engine can find on your business (such as hours of operation, location and product category), the more often you will show up in its results.

To fully exploit Explore, feed Google the data it needs by creating—and regularly updating—a Google+ Local (formerly Google Places for Business) profile and merging it with your Google+ page.

Watch this tutorial on how to merge your Google + Local page with your Google + profile

And solicit positive reviews. “Our goal is just to suggest the most relevant places [to the user],” says Younic, so establishments with the highest number of positive reviews from a user’s Google+ circle will perform best on Maps. You may not be able to con- trol users’ search history and preferences, but by helping Maps to find your business, you could literally pull in new customers off the street.

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