Where would we be without Google’s omnipresent GPS data to guide us? Google Maps has quickly become an indispensable part of our lives. We use it to find a dry cleaner near the office and even to check what time the local grocery store will close. And while on holiday, Google Maps is where one goes to for the most reliable shopping and dining suggestions. If you are always on Google Maps, then so are your clients.
As of September 2020, Google dominated all search engines in Kenya with 97.7 per cent of all searches. Simply put, almost all your clients are already on Google. As such, Google Maps marketing is indispensable, more so, for smaller businesses.
First, set up your business profile
Before we dive into the tips, it’s important to know that your business will not appear on Google Maps unless you establish a Google My Business (GMB) profile for each location. Google the phrase “Google My Business” to find a direct link to set up your GMB profile. It is connected to your Google account and is absolutely free.
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Include and optimise photos in your GMB listing
You have to upload relevant photos. If you own a restaurant, people will eat with their eyes before they do with their mouths. You don’t need to invest heavily in professional photography, your smartphone will suffice
Take photos of everything from the product, customers, front entrance and even the surroundings. After that, make sure you rename the file. The name assigned usually looks like “1065498img.jpg.” Rename the file, for instance, “Hustle-Restaurant-Front-Of-Office-Kenyatta-Street.jpg.” By doing this, you are helping Google easily understand what the photo is about thereby making it easier for the algorithm to deliver more accurate results.
Embed your Google Maps profile
Google will always reward you for using their tools. You want to send signals to Google that your Google My Business profile is getting traffic and the easiest way is by taking advantage of your website’s existing traffic. Embed the small Google map on your site.
When customers visit your site they are inadvertently viewing the embedded Google property. Google picks up on this even if they don’t click on the map.
How to do this: First search for your business on Google Maps. When you find it, click on the “share” option and select “embed map.” Copy that code and place it on your site in the same manner you would embed a YouTube video.
Solicit customer reviews
Are you familiar with the term social proof? It is a social phenomenon where people copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behaviour in a given situation. That is why reviews are great for your business.
The more clicks your profile gets, the higher and more often Google delivers it as a search engine result on Google Maps. The more reviews you have, the more likely people will click on your profile.
Asking for said reviews is an art. You cannot pressure, annoy or beg your clients. You have to take advantage of the ‘high’ they get from your product or service to request for a review. Note that reviews will not be displayed alongside your Google Maps listing until you have accrued at least five, so take reviewing seriously. On the downside, you risk negative reviews which you should respond to according to Google’s guidelines.
Use accurate information
Nothing is as frustrating as following directions on Google Maps only to hit a dead end. Or calling the listed phone number and finding it is out of service. Your business phone number, website and hours of operation should be up-to-date. Test out the links to the phone and website using a guest account and ensure the phone rings and the website links to your homepage. The bottom line is the longer you keep the customer on your Google My Business profile, the more valuable you are in the eyes of Google.
Google wants to deliver the best and most relevant search results to the consumer. They have a universe of tools and online signals that help them determine which search engine results to provide. The more competitive your business space is, the more complete and professional your Google My Business profile has to be. If your business profile isn’t complete, has inaccurate information and doesn’t have any photos of your business or photos of you at work, you probably won’t show up.
Why your business can’t be found on Google Maps
You may have followed all that we have talked about, but still your business remains invisible on the maps. Why?
1. Your Google My Business listing is not verified
Go to Google and search your business name and city e.g. “Hustle Ltd/ Nairobi”. Check on your right. Now look directly to the right of the “Suggest an edit” link, and if you don’t see a second link called “Own this business?”, then your Google My Business listing is verified.
If you see that second link “Own this business?”, then your Google My Business listing / business IS NOT verified in Google Maps.
2. Your GMB listing is suspended
Common reasons for suspension is you updated your business information on your Google My Business listing and Google is just waiting to verify the information. Also Google’s system could be questioning the validity of your office location and wants a picture of your front office.
It could be a couple of other reasons too.
*You included a forwarding URL as the URL reference in your Google My Business.
*You ‘keyword stuffed’ your Google My Business title.
* You don’t have a physical business location but you forgot to hide your street address from maps.
When suspended, call Google adwords and when prompted, select the Google My Business option and follow their instructions.
3. Relocated business
Once you relocate to a new location, you should immediately update your Google My Business listing to reflect the new street address. Just keep in mind that when you update your street address, it is possible that Google will request you to reverify your new address
What the business owners say
Mathew Gathua, owner of Valentines Cake House
He has 969 customer reviews from all 20-odd branches across the country. Even the negative reviews, he says, have been helpful as a great way to get customer feedback.
“Having your business on Google Maps is like having a word in the dictionary. If the word is not listed, we assume it doesn’t exist,” he adds.
Moses Kiiru, founder of Moh Wingz restaurant
Moses is a level four local guide, which means Google deems him a highly trusted reviewer. Level four guides enhance the online local experience for other searchers by writing reviews, sharing images, answering questions etc. Therefore, he can also “add a place” on Google.
“It has really pushed my business. I get clients from my area and some say they got my number from Google Maps. Others simply used Google Maps as GPS to locate my place,” he says.
Brad Osumo, owner of The Bigfish restaurant
“My first picture on my profile is what popularised my business. And that first picture now has more than 4, 000 likes on Twitter.”
It was just a clear photo of the fish he sells and can still be found on Google Maps. You can never have too many photos as long as they are relevant to your business.