Google Maps Turns A Sweet 16 and Why It’s Important
A fun look back at the history of this groundbreaking service & how to utilize it in your marketing today.
When Google Maps first launched (Feb 8th, 2005), it’s unlikely we could have foreseen it becoming what it is today and such an integral part of our lives. As the product now turns a sweet 16 it’s time to take a look at how it’s changed with the times and why it’s important in the SEO landscape.
The Beginning of Google Maps
The beginning of Google Maps seemed like ages ago when the Internet was really starting to take off and many of us probably didn’t have smartphones–or even cellphones for that matter. These were the days when the product was primarily used for directions and navigating around town, often after being printed out (note the prominently displayed “Print” button on this Google Maps BETA screenshot). Industry leaders at the time were other direction services like MapQuest, which younger generations have probably never even heard mentioned before. Come to think of it, the fact that those services were so popular but unable to maintain their market share is crazy, given how large they were. All because they never adapted, or at least didn’t keep up with, the changing trends.
During this time it’s important to note how people searched. A lot of people searched for a specific address, and many listings didn’t have an actual business entity tied to an address at all. In some ways, the address itself was meaningless. Now, we search for a type of business or the name of a business without paying any attention to the actual address. This is possible because Google maps automatically calculates those values and does the heavy lifting so we can find what we’re looking for, without us realizing they’re doing it at all.
What Google Maps is Today
With the evolution and adoption of mobile devices, having access to Google Maps and the Internet now seems like a basic life necessity. We now have quick and easy access to directions for any place we may want to travel to in the palm of our hand–or at least those devices that still fit in our hand anyway. As opposed to printing directions out on paper we now have easy to follow navigation on a mobile device and incorporate live traffic updates making our life so much more convenient. We even know how crowded or busy a particular business is, and can access all sorts of information about a business without even clicking through to a website.
Let’s not forget how amazing it is to explore the world around us with photos of actual locations from businesses to almost any kind of relevant place in general. In many ways, these photos are the precursor to virtual reality by visualizing what it might be like to go to a specific place or revisit past experiences. In some locations Google even has a “live view” which has many uses, most of which we’ve only begun to explore.
As searchers, we can easily find the nearest store or nearest business offering any service. In other words, Google Maps is now more than just a ‘map and direction’ listing service, it’s actually a directory like those big Yellow Pages phone books that got dropped off at people’s doorstep. Gone are the days of trying to figure out how a business might be classified or how to find a specific type of business. Google can now determine what the searcher might be looking for without the searcher knowing exactly what to search for, or even how to search for it. It’s important to note these individual listings or results are now tied to a Google My Business listing.
Why is Google My Business Important?
Google My Business influences when, and how, you appear in search results. Just like in traditional organic search, there are multiple factors which go into a local search algorithm. Local search is just another fancy way of describing searches which have (or at least in Google’s eyes) some kind of local intent. This means local map results will show up in a search for a specific keyword and are often associated with “near me” or “geography” related terms. Sometimes your business will show up without much effort because of the ranking factors but there’s almost always room to optimize and either improve your appearances or protect it from competitors.
What can I do to improve my Google My Business Listing?
At DoctorLogic, we can optimize a lot of the fields around names, categories, services, hours of operation, etc. based on our expertise and research. Some of these fields are more important than others but Google does like to see a fully built out profile so a searcher can see all the relevant information.
There’s also things which need to be done by you, the doctor or practice. Some commonly overlooked items to include in your listing consist of your practice’s hours of operation, specialty, and exact address (including a suite number). Another way to improve your Google My Business listing is to generate, and respond to, a steady influx of reviews. Google loves to see the engagement and interaction that you are listening to feedback from your audience on a regular basis. Plus, we all know the piece-of-mind and reassurance prospective patients get from a healthy list of positive reviews.
Lastly, it’s been recently discovered that Google has been testing incorporating “Opening Dates” in Business Listings as well, so be sure to check if this field can be updated in your dashboard as well!
Google Maps has gone a long way over its last 16 years, and it continues to deliver exceptional value to its customers and businesses alike. If you haven’t already optimized your Google My Business listing, use this article as a reminder to do so. You might be surprised how many people are looking for a practice just like yours - so try to make it easier for them to find you.