Google has been busy changing a lot of the user interfaces for its local search services. Between the new Google Maps, the Google Local Carousel and the new Reviews Pop-Ups, they have certainly thrown the local search world into a tizzy.
I have been playing around with the new Google Maps, and I thought I’d share some random observations about how to work inside the Matrix:
1. Want Traffic From Google Maps? Buy An Ad
Below is a set of map results for “pizza” in Pleasanton, CA. As you can see, the purple & white ads stand out.
In the queries I have tried, there are rarely more than two of these ads, and most searches yield none. Taking control of this inventory could give your business an advantage in the near term.
2. Want Traffic From Your Google Maps Ad? Use The Sexy Keyword First
The white space in the ad units only displays the first 10-13 or so characters. That means starting your ad copy with words that don’t compel action (like “An East Bay…” above) is probably a waste.
Domino’s Pizza has the right idea by starting out with an offer like “50% Off Any…” which will probably get my “I’ll eat anything that’s cheap” attention. “Free” is another good word to start with.
3. Put Your Name in ALL CAPS
Check out Extreme Pizza up there strutting its bad self.
Warning: This is a violation of Google Places guidelines, which states: “You may capitalize the first letter of each word or include up to a four-letter acronym. However, entire words should not be capitalized.” Proceed with caution.
4. Beat MapOverlap Syndrome™ (“MapLap”©) With Domain Authority
If two nearby locations appear in the same search, one of the locations may overpower the other with what I am calling MapLap (T-shirts coming soon). For example, a search for “coffee shops” in Pleasanton yields the following:
If you zoom in one click, though, you get:
And if you zoom in another click, you get:
Until the user zooms in, both Stacey’s and Cafe Main are hidden. I have examined a number of instances where this occurs — and thus far in all cases, the business that appears on top of the MapLap (while supplies last) pile is the one that appears to have the strongest domain authority (aka links, citations, etc.).
That said, this display is also highly dependent on the location of the searcher; so, it’s not clear that we all will get the same ordered pile.
5. Study Related Map Searches For Your Category
Mining related search data is nothing new. What is new is how nicely Google Maps displays the related search queries as part of the search box.
In the above example, if you click on “espresso,” you will see that very few businesses in the area appear for that term. This would be a hint to add the word “espresso” to your Google+ Local business description, your website and to relevant citations for your business.
6. Influence What People Say About Your Business
Businesses that get a decent amount of reviews on non-Google sites appear to display additional keywords below the business name on the map — like Bob’s, which appears to be known for their shakes and their lettuce:
This is a subset of the keywords that show up in the “At a glance” section of the Google+ Local page. As best I can tell, these words appear because they occur often in online discussions people have about these businesses on sites like Yelp, UrbanSpoon, etc.
I have had success influencing these keywords on occasion, but if you want to affect what shows up there, promote it. For example, if Bob wanted to get rid of “lettuce” perhaps he should run a “Curly Fries” promotion to get people talking about his awesome curly fries all over the Web.
7. Get To Know The Top Reviewers In Your Area
You can filter map queries by “top reviewers” in the search box:
Explore the Google+ Local pages of the businesses that appear in these results and you’ll find people who tend to write a lot of reviews. Circle them, friend them, offer them some curly fries with lettuce. Get them talking about you and you might find yourself with more lettuce to play around with.
I’ll keep digging and let you know what other goodies I find. If you figure anything else out, let me know…and the curly fries are on me.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.