You’re flying to a new city for an engagement party and forgot to grab a gift before you left. While you’re in the airport waiting to board your flight, you tap the Google Maps app on your phone, find your hotel, and type “gift shop” in the search bar.
A map opens up instantly, filled with icons pinpointing shops, followed by a list of names, photos, customer ratings, and distance from your hotel. Perfect—you know just where you’ll stop by after you land.
What you’ve just seen is how Google Maps functions as both a mapping service and a directory, making it a valuable marketing tool that can help build business visibility and trust. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
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What is Google Maps marketing?
Google Maps marketing is the strategic use of Google Maps to promote your business and drive more traffic to your location. It involves refining your Google Maps listing or purchasing Google Maps Ads.
While Google Maps initially gained popularity as a faster, more reliable alternative to Mapquest, it’s since evolved into a comprehensive platform with a wide range of features including real-time traffic updates, satellite imagery, street views, reviews, and ratings, making it helpful not just for navigation but for helping users to explore and discover local businesses.
Google Maps marketing can also include purchasing Google Maps Ads, sometimes called local search ads. By purchasing an ad, which fluctuates in cost but can range between $2 and $6 per user click, you can ensure your business profile appears among the first Google Maps search results. This is an effective way to draw more visitors to your business, and the conversion rate of local searches is as high as 80%, according to Google. (Conversion rate means the visitor takes some action, such as making a purchase or a reservation.)
On the map, businesses with Google Maps Ads are displayed with a square icon (instead of the standard droplet-shaped icon) and can choose to send searchers straight to their website or link to directions to their business location.
Organic approach vs. paid approach
The decision to pursue an organic approach (refining your Google Maps listing) or a paid approach (purchasing Google Maps Ads) depends on your goals, budget, and timeline. Here are the benefits and tradeoffs:
- Organic approach. Refining your Google Maps listing offers long-term visibility, is cost-effective, and can help garner customer trust. The organic approach works if you’re willing to put in place a long-term strategy, have a limited budget, and want to focus on building a solid online presence over time.
- Paid approach. Purchasing Google Maps Ads can offer immediate visibility, targeted reach, and enhanced features. It’s beneficial if you’re looking for quick results or when a marketing campaign requires a boost. For instance, you might purchase ads if you’re starting to get a noticeable amount of business from Google Maps and want it to grow.
Combining both approaches can yield the best results and make the most of the advantages of each strategy.
Benefits of Google Maps marketing
People often have a specific goal when they use Google Maps, such as finding a local business, planning their next stop for food, or researching a location they’ve heard of. This presents a valuable opportunity for marketers and business owners because users are already further down the sales funnel (i.e., closer to making a purchase). Optimizing your Google Maps listing or investing in Google Map Ads can increase your visibility and attract more traffic from would-be buyers.
If you run a local delivery ecommerce company, for instance, Google Maps marketing can be a powerful, core part of your marketing strategy; if your business serves a national or international market, it can still help with demonstrating legitimacy and building target audience trust.
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Building a Google Business Profile
To start marketing on Google Maps, you first need to create a Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business). This listing, separate from your website, contains critical information about your business, such as your business address, phone number, business hours, website, photos, and reviews. It’s a free tool for managing and optimizing your presence on Google Maps.
Here are two main benefits of creating a Google Business Profile:
- Visibility in localized searches. When someone searches Google or Google Maps with a localized modifier such as a street or city name (e.g., “juice delivery ottawa”), Google shows business profiles and a list of relevant websites. You can only appear in these results if you created a Google Business profile.
- Directory listing for trust. Even if you do business nationally or internationally, a Google Maps business listing can help build trust by providing verified information, showcasing positive reviews and ratings, and giving potential customers a better understanding of your business. (Google’s Search Quality Raters verify company addresses as part of their “trustworthiness” evaluation of search results.)
Optimizing your profile means ensuring that it’s complete, accurate, and consistent with other addresses online (such as on your website’s contact page). It also helps to add photos and videos and to earn reviews over time. Optimization makes your listing more enticing to searchers and can help boost your business’s local SEO, making it more likely to rank highly in localized searches.
How to optimize your Google Business Profile for Google Maps marketing
Adding accurate and comprehensive information to your Google Business Profile instills confidence in the searcher. Google makes this clear in its local ranking optimization guide, which explains that local search rankings are based primarily on a combination of these three factors:
Business Profiles include several fields to help you indicate to searchers what you do. These include Products/Services, Description, and Category fields. Filling out these details accurately, completely, and with relevant keywords can help your profile appear in related searches.
Google Maps considers your business’s distance from the searcher based on the search terms entered, their smartphone’s location, or the scale of the map on their screen. You can optimize for distance with an up-to-date name, address, and phone number (sometimes referred to as NAP). Adding a service area and additional locations can also help if these details are relevant to your business.
Prominence is how Google Maps decides which results appear first. This includes harder-to-control elements such as media mentions, branded searches, and profile reviews. Amassing positive reviews is a great way to build prominence. Negative reviews aren’t inherently bad—they can build trust by showing your business isn’t deleting bad reviews—as long as the majority are positive. Regularly responding to reviews (thanking reviewers for positive feedback and addressing negative reviews) also helps build trust.
How to track and analyze your Google Maps marketing efforts
Your Google Business profile provides a wealth of information about your performance within Google Maps. When you sign in, you’re given data on profile impressions, profile clicks, clicks to call, and clicks on your website link. If you’ve set up other functionality, such as direct messaging or instant booking, Google tracks this too. These numbers comprise your total customer interactions—a key metric for Google Maps marketing success.
Google Business also provides automated recommendations for improving your profile through its Profile Strength score. The guidance (generated by Google algorithms) focuses on improving relevance or prominence.
However, Google Business cannot tell you what visitors do on your website (i.e., once they’ve left your Google Business Profile). For this, you need Google Analytics. A properly configured Google Analytics account lets you see detailed information from Google Maps about your visitors’ activity on your website, such as what pages they visit, whether they make a purchase, and how long they stay on your site.
If you are marketing through Google Maps Ads campaigns, you can find your advertising data, such as impressions, click-through rates, and conversions, within the Google Ads interface. This is separate from Google Business and Google Analytics (although you can integrate the three tools to share data).
Google Maps marketing FAQ
How much does it cost to advertise on Google Maps?
Google Maps Ads charges when a searcher clicks on your ad. The cost per click can vary by location or industry, depending on the number of others advertising for the same keyword (i.e., the more advertisers using the same keyword, the higher the cost). More advertisers in your area or industry mean more expensive clicks. Generally, Google Maps Ads cost $2 to $6 per click.
How can I improve my local SEO for Google Maps marketing?
Your Google Business Profile, listed on Google Maps, is critical to your local SEO strategy. You can improve your local SEO by highlighting your profile’s relevance (keywords), distance (geographic area served), and prominence (reviews and traffic).
Is Google Maps marketing suitable for all types of businesses?
Yes, though some businesses benefit from Google Maps marketing more than others. You need a complete Google Business Profile to improve trust with visitors and search engines. If you serve a specific local area, you can take your Google Maps marketing further with additional profile features (such as Product/Service categories) and Google Maps Ads.