Any brick and mortar business that markets a significant portion of its goods or services locally will almost certainly be interested in ensuring that potential customers can readily find the location of said business online. Put simply, you want consumers to find your business.
To that end, applications like Google Maps and Apple Maps can be invaluable tools for local businesses. They’ve almost entirely replaced word-of-mouth directions and archaic paper maps as the principal means by which consumers find their destinations.
And that’s a good thing for your business.
The increasing prevalence of tablets and smartphones makes it easier than ever for consumers to discover, research and locate the establishment of their choice. Directions to that establishment don’t hurt, either. Though the wide world of local search engine optimization (SEO) and other online marketing strategies can be fairly complicated, ensuring an accurate presence on Google Maps and Apple Maps is actually pretty straightforward.
For those businesses looking to either establish or review such a presence, we’ve put together a quick guide to get you started.
Yes, Google seems to have become just about as omnipresent as a massive corporation could possibly be. The good news is that the frequency with which an average consumer relies on all things Google makes it easier for other businesses to increase their visibility. With so many turning to Google for basic information, reviews and—of course—directions, just about any business has a strong incentive to make sure it’s listed with Google My Business.
“For any local business, the biggest challenge is getting found,” notes Omnicore’s Salman Aslam. “Word of mouth may drive business, but it’s being found in local search that really makes a big difference. The best way to do just that is to get listed on Google Maps aka Google My Business, which is Google’s own dashboard for managing a local business’s information on Google properties, such as maps and Google+.”
Creating or claiming such a listing isn’t terribly difficult. Nor is making sure that your information is complete and accurate. Better yet, the service is free.
The first step is determining whether your business has already been listed, and there are three ways to do so. You can perform a basic Google search for your business’s name and address. You can search for it via Google My Business itself. Or you can check out Google’s GYBO (Get Your Business Online) service—a tool that’s also pretty useful for marketing and optimizing your local search presence.
Once you’ve determined whether you’re listed, it’s time to either provide or update your information. You’ll want to either sign up for a Google account or log into an existing one, and then access Google My Business itself.
Once prompted, you’ll categorize your operation as either a storefront or service area business. The former refers to a traditional brick and mortar company that does business with customers at a physical location, and the latter implies a more mobile operation that might deliver or meet customers at their homes.
After your categorization has been established, simply perform a search for your listing by entering your business name and address, at which point you may see it as a drop-down option. If you don’t see it, select either “No, these are not my businesses” or “I’ve correctly entered the business,” and then submit some additional information about your business.
Finally, it’ll be time to make sure everything checks out by selecting the “Verify Now” option, which in turn allows you to either verify your information by postcard or by phone. Some businesses may also be able to choose instant verification (if they’re attached to an already-verified website), and other businesses may be eligible for bulk verification (if they have at least 10 locations). From here, Google’s instructions are pretty explicit and user-friendly.
Though being found via Google Maps is an important start, there’s plenty more you can—and should—do in order to optimize your listing and improve its visibility among local searches.
There’s no question that Apple’s Maps app has had something of a checkered history, but it remains one of the primary means by which consumers locate their preferred destinations. In a world where most businesses can’t live by Google alone, a listing with Apple Maps is all but essential. And Apple made it even easier to maintain such a listing in 2014 with the debut of Maps Connect.
“It’s win-win: Apple sharpens a notoriously dull navigation tool and, in a few keystrokes (including your Apple ID and password), you get to add, edit and basically control your company’s information within it,” Entrepreneur’s Kim Lachance Shandrow wrote in 2014. “The biggest benefit for business owners, in theory at least: More local customers delivered directly to your doorstep, er, if Apple Maps can actually get them there.”
Here’s how it works.
First, you’ll need to create an Apple ID and password if you don’t have one already. Upon doing so, log in at https://mapsconnect.apple.com/.
Once on the “Add a New Business Page,” you’ll be prompted to identify yourself as either the business owner or someone who’s been authorized on behalf of the business owner. Then you can input your business’s name, phone number and address.
Apple will ask to call your supplied phone number in order to issue you a PIN code for verification. You can either opt to take the call or “Verify Later.”
The rest of the process is fairly self-explanatory. Confirm your business’s category, location, hours of operation and paste URLs for your company website and social media accounts into the section labeled “Add More Details.”
Make sure that everything looks right, click “OK,” and you should be good to go. Remember, this is another free service, so it’s probably worth taking the time to update, maintain or flesh out your listing.
The Yext Generation
Remember MapQuest? If you needed an online map or directions before Google colonized the Internet, chances are you used MapQuest. Not long ago, the service stopped managing its local business listings and teamed with Yext to handle the job.
A 2015 email to its business clients explained that, “With a Yext Premium PowerListings account, you will be able to manage and edit your own business listing, monitor customer reviews, add enhanced content to your listing such as menus, product and service lists, calendars, promotions, hours of operation, staff bios, photos, and more, and also sync your Yext content to your business’ Facebook page. Package options vary. Upgrade to a premium package and make sure that your potential customers can continue to find you on the web.”
MapQuest isn’t the only site outsourcing its listing management to Yext. Yahoo followed suit last year.
“In order to seamlessly complete the transition of your Local Basic Listing, once your dashboard is ready, you will need to verify your business information and create a new account and password with Yext,” Yahoo explained in an email to its business users. “If you do not set up your new Yext account within 30 days of notification from Yext, your listing may be changed to an unclaimed status. You can always return at a later date to claim your listing again.”
Just as MapQuest was once the go-to destination for all your online directional need, Yahoo ruled the search world once upon a time—and the maps that come with it. Trends have changed, but the once-dominant search engine hasn’t disappeared entirely thanks in part to its still-diverse range of services including everything from email to news.
Businesses can either manage their Yahoo listings for free with Yext or purchase a PowerListings account for a fairly reasonable fee (with packages currently ranging from $199 to $999 per year). The latter option enables users to manage their listings across a wide spectrum of platforms that include Yelp, Facebook, Foursquare and Citysearch—depending upon which package you select.
Meanwhile, Bing has emerged as Microsoft’s answer to Google, and Yext can put you on those maps, too. Bing trails Google fairly significantly in terms of its share of search traffic, but it’s still a formidable engine in absolute terms.
You can also claim or create a listing with Bing Places for Business by visiting www.bingplaces.com. Simply click the “Get Started” button, search for an existing listing and—if there’s nothing there—click on the “add new business” option.
You’ll then need to log in with a Microsoft account and add various business information: basic and additional details, links to a company website and social media accounts, images and contact information. Finally, you can verify the listing by mail, phone or email.
One Last Thing
Ensuring that you’re listed in these kind of directories is only the first step. It’s imperative that you provide as much information as possible and that you keep that information up-to-date in the wake of any changes (e.g. new hours of operation).
For many small businesses, this is the kind of thing that’s easily overlooked on account of limited time or resources. Unfortunately, allowing the accuracy, consistency or thoroughness of your listings to slip will almost certainly cost you business.
The modern consumer often relies on these listings in addition to or entirely in place of your company website. A polished and professional website simply isn’t enough to remain sufficiently competitive in the context of local search. And while you certainly want to be found via online maps, you should also supply current and potential customers with the kind of information they need when making decisions about where to shop, eat or use a service.
Remember, if someone cares about your business enough to find its location, there’s a good chance that person also has some additional questions about who you are and what you do. The more difficult it is to readily find answers, the more likely it is potential clients take their business elsewhere.
On the other hand, a little effort and oversight can go a long way.