A lot of local buyers have become quite savvy about searching for local companies, and they’ll go straight to maps.google.com to find nearby vendors, bypassing google.com and saving a step.
Do you want to advertise the physical location of your business for free and get a little extra Google exposure? Thanks to Google Maps this is possible and not many people (read ‘your competition’) seem to know about it.What should appear is a map of my home city, Austin, Texas along with a marker identifying my business location and a comment balloon providing address and detailed information. This information was placed on Google with my input, entirely free of charge. All that Google needed to do was confirm my physical location by sending a letter in the mail with a code that would allow me go online and verify my physical address. That is it, as simple as pie!
Why Should You Bother With Google Maps?
If simply getting more exposure on an emerging Google tool isn’t enough here are the frills that Google provides freely with this map listing:
- Google allows you to offer coupons to visitors of your map listing. These coupons are touted as a way to “reward loyal customers and attract new ones”. At the moment, coupons are only available to businesses located in the US.
- Once your address is fully verified you have full control over your listing. You can add or delete non-address information at will.
- You can add all of your business locations from a single account.
- Finally my personal favorite; all that your client or prospective client has to do to find your office is click on a link on your website and voila, they are taken to an accurate road map with directions. They can even click a button and see the satellite view of your location; very slick indeed!
Creating and Editing a Map
- Go to http://maps.google.com
- Click My Maps, then under the video, click Get Started
- Title your map- make this obvious, so if you have to stop and return to your work, you will know exactly where to go. You can also add a description here.
- Make your map Public, so that it will appear on your site. This will also allow your maps to be listed in the search results. Click Save.
- Now, add in your inn as the starting point on the map. To do this, go to the search bar above the map and type in your inn name and location, ex: Country Inn and Cottages, Fredricksburg, TX
- Find your local listing on the left hand side of the screen
- Next to your listing, You will see a pale blue drop down arrow. Click this, and choose Save to…, then click the new map in the drop down box that is generated, then save.
- Above the Map, you will see a yellow line with text that tells you your location was saved to your map.
- Now, click My Maps in the upper left corner. Click on your map. You may be shocked to see that your map and marker don’t appear. Don’t worry about this. Simply sign out of Google and sign back in. Choose my maps, and then choose your map- you should now see your map with your marker on it.
- Now we will add in other locations. You can make a map of restaurants, area attractions, hiking trails, day trips- anything you choose.
- In the search box, type a new category, such as “Fredricksburg, TX Restaurants” – choose a place you’d like to add to your map, and follow the same instructions from when you added in your inn.
- Now, in the yellow line above the map, click View Map.
- You may have to Zoom in or out to see all of your markers. To do this, sue the zoom tool on the left-hand side of the screen, or simply use the scroll bar on your mouse to zoom in and out.
- Now, click Edit in the left hand corner to the left of the map.
- Choose one of your markers. The balloon will now be editable. You can change the map icon by clicking on the bubble and choosing a new icon. If you click Rich Text in the editor, a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor becomes available to you. With this tool, you can add links (the little chain link), and photos from the web. After you have made your changes, click Save.
- Look underneath the map information on the left side of the screen. You will see click-able fields for the searches you have done, with small colored balls circles next to them, which are also visible on your map. You can unclick any of the searches you don’t want visible on your map.
- Say you want to add a point on our map but Google has no record when you search. Simply go the upper- left corner of the map, click on the blue balloon icon, and place the icon wherever you want the marker to be. You can name the location, add links and photos, and change the icon to match the location.
- To add a photo, click the little picture icon in the editor. This will open a pop-up in which you may paste a URL. The photo must be stored online. If you have a Google Picasa photo album, you can use that, as it will provide a URL for you. (More info on Picasa: http://picasa.google.com/support/bin/topic.py?hl=en&topic=8989). You can also use a photo from another web site (just make sure you have permission to use it). To find the photo’s URL, right click on the photo and choose “properties”, then under “image properties”. highlight the Location Link, copy and paste it into the pop-up.
- When you are done adding to the new listing, click OK.Now, you can add a line. In the corner of the map next to the bubble icon, you will see a box with a line and a drop down arrow. Click the drop-down arrow and choose from:
Draw a line
Draw a line along roads
Draw a shape
- Draw a line allows you to draw a point-to-point line. Draw a line along roads will follow the roads. Draw a shape will draw a shape and color it in as on the Maryland Map (http://www.marylandbb.com/locate-by-region.php)
- Choose the type of line you like, then click to add the first point, and double click when you are finished with your route. An editor bubble will pop-up, and you can label the line as you wish. You will see the route listed among the map points to the left of the map.
- When you have finished your map, make sure to click Done.
When you are finished, you can embed your map on your site (usually requires a webmaster, unless you know how to code) , or in your blog. You can also make up maps to associate your inn with maps.
To add a map into a blog, go to the upper-right corner of the map and click Link. Copy the code in the Paste HTML to embed in website (I like to paste it into a notepad), then in your blog editor, click the HTML tab and add in the code for the map. The best way to get used to maps is to get into that Google account and play around, making up different maps. If you make a map you don’t like, you can always delete it and start over. Google maps are a great way to add interest in information to your website or blog, or to show your guests great information about your area.
Google Maps: Add Your Business
Here is the process for you to get your site added to Google Maps.
Step 1: Add Your Business
Visit Google Local’s “Add/Edit Your Business” page. There you will be asked to enter your Google account login and password (or you can quickly create one) before entering the submission area. Once in, you need to provide standard business address and contact information, a 200-character description of your business, the forms of payment you accept from consumers and your operating hours.
Step 2: Choose a Category
Next you will be asked to provide a category that best describes your business. You can enter a phrase here and Google will try to find a related category to make this process simpler for you. You have the option to appear in up to 5 separate categories.
Step 3: Preview and Select Verification Method
Your business listing along with a proof of your business’s mapped location is shown for your approval. Here you can make any necessary final tweaks to your listing. After that, you have to choose which
verification method that Google will use to confirm your address; do you want Google to call you or receive a postcard to confirm your address? I chose the postcard because frankly, I love the idea of getting personal mail from Google and it seems like a far more effective way to confirm an address. In addition, when I received StepForth’s confirmation letter it came along with a $35 AdWords coupon (for businesses new to AdWords): click the picture on the right for a sample.
Step 4: Verify
Follow the instructions provided to you by either the postcard or the phone and your listing will be active within 6 weeks.
Adding Your Google Maps Listing
Here are a couple of ways to add your new Google listing to your website.
- The second, much simpler option is to link directly to your listing from your website. Start by visiting http://maps.google.com and type in your business name into the search window. If your listing is active, it should come up within the results. Click on this listing and you will see your location appear on the map along with your company’s information balloon. Click the title within the balloon and your detailed Google Maps page will appear. Now you can simply copy the URL in your browser and paste that into your website so that your users can find your location. The other option is to take this process a step further and click on the “View Larger Map” link, at which point a far more detailed map will appear and you can copy this URL for use within your site.Whatever you do just remember that all you need to do is find the page layout that you want your customers to see and then copy the URL so that you can link to this listing within your website.
What the Future May Hold for Google Maps
Having a listing on Google Maps does not currently have any noticeable impact on organic Google Rankings but I can see how it might in the future. For example, it would be very much like Google to add an icon next to each ranking that has a correlating Google Maps profile. After all, when creating a map profile Google does note that they may add advertising to Google Maps API in the future. Even if Google Maps is not added to organic listings in any way, you can bet that there will be more focused push to compete against giants like MapBlast and MapQuest in the future; these are very lucrative markets that Google cannot ignore.
So get your company on Google Maps, it is free after all. Moreover, remember that Google’s history states that anything they add advertising to will ultimately get more exposure.