4 Google Maps Updates Local Businesses Need to Know

Meet the New Google Maps

A week ago, Google announced it is making the desktop version of Google Maps widely available. Many of the updates featured in the new Google Maps are designed for the casual user, and include functions such as plane and train routes, directions for multiple locations, and event listings for major venues. But, there are a few key updates that local business owners need to be aware of so they can make sure their Google+ Local listings are claimed and updated with information leveraged by these new changes.

1. Info Cards

One of the most relevant additions to Google Maps for small businesses are info cards, which show consumers detailed information about the businesses they are viewing on the map. For instance, if someone searches for and clicks on a restaurant, Google Maps will populate an info card featuring the business’ address, hours, reviews, Zagat ratings, and a link to a menu. Different businesses may have slightly different information on their info cards, based on the business category and information available to Google.  Info cards also provide users with a “Look Inside” button, which includes a 360-degree view of the interior of the business, with photos taken by Google trusted photographers. Additionally, photos featured on your Google+Local page are featured on Google in your Google Maps info cards.

What this means for businesses: For businesses where quick access to additional information can sway a potential customer, it’s extremely important to take advantage of the new info cards. Make sure your Google+Local listing is up to date with correct information like address, telephone number, and hours, and make sure to include captivating photos to bring your business to life. Reviews and ratings are also front-and-center on the Maps interface in this update, so it’s critical that you continue to ask happy customers to leave you positive reviews there.

2. Hotel and Restaurant Reservations

Another new feature impacting local business is the ability to book and see hotel and restaurant reservations directly from Google Maps. For instance, if a user clicks on a specific hotel on the map, a booking box will drop down, and they can start a reservation directly from the hotel’s info card. Google can show availability and prices from the hotel’s website and from booking sites like Hotels.com, Priceline, Travelocity, and more. For restaurants, users can currently create reservations using Opentable. In addition, when someone searches for a hotel or restaurant they are already booked for, and they are logged into their Google account, Google Maps will display a card below the search bar displaying the reservation information pulled from confirmations sent to your Gmail account.

What this means for businesses: If you run a hotel or restaurant and don’t already allow online reservations, consider adding this ability to land even more bookings now that Google Maps allows users to start a reservation directly from the search results. In addition, sending email confirmations for reservations will also benefit users who frequently book with hotels and restaurants, since the reservation information can populate in Google Maps.

3. Personalized Results from Google+

As users search the map, add places to their “favorites”, and leave reviews, Google Maps will start to suggest similar or complimentary local businesses they might enjoy. In addition, the updated Google Maps is furthering integration with Google+ by allowing users to filter searches by top reviewers or by those in their Google+ circles.

What this means for businesses: This feature only strengthens the integration between Google Maps and the Google+ platform. So, the more active you are on Google+ as a business, the more opportunities you have to influence search results by boosting positive fan engagement. You can also help your search results by encouraging your best fans to add you to their Google+ circles, leave you positive reviews, and favorite your business. This also increases your connections and activity as a business, helping it become more visible in the local search results. Plus, the more active your customers are, the more they can help others discover your business when they search in Maps.

4. Responsive Design

The new Google Maps update made significant changes for Google Maps users on multiple devices, including smartphones and tablets. For users who are logged into their Google accounts on both their desktop and mobile device, Google Maps can load previous searches. For instance, if you are logged in to Google and look up a dentist’s address and phone number on Google Maps via your desktop, and then get in your car, you can pull up the exact same search on the Google Maps app on your smartphone. As long as you’re logged in with the same account there, you’ll get directions or phone number for the dentist’s office. Users can also add specific locations to their “favorites” to make them available on all their devices.

What this means for businesses: Mobile devices are only going to become more and more prevalent when it comes to looking for local business information. If your business’ Google+ Local listing is not claimed and updated, you’ll not only lose out on business from desktop searches, but from mobile, too. Plus, it’s critical to make sure your website is mobile-friendly so that searchers who click from the search results to visit your site have a streamlined experience.

The new Google Maps has a lot to offer for businesses, and it’s important to take advantage of as many of these new features as possible to get the most out of this key destination for local searchers. By improving your Google+ Local listings with positive customer reviews, engaging images, booking functionality, and more, you can not only get discovered when people search on Google, but your listing will provide the information your target audience is looking for.

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Tamara Weintraub

Tamara is a content marketing manager at ReachLocal with over 7 years experience in B2B marketing and has a nerd-level affinity for software and technology. She specializes in helping local businesses succeed online, writing and learning about Google, search advertising, SEO, and social media marketing. When she's not writing about online marketing, you can find her watching cult TV and hanging out with her Doberman.

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