October 5, 2016: As we noted a few weeks back, Google’s Maps product is quietly becoming a killer marketing platform.
Last week, Google announced that entries from Google Calendar would soon be used to inform Maps. This development has real potential for businesses of every size and stripe, but especially for local businesses not already providing data feeds to Google about realtime events.
It also highlights the growing importance of accurate and complete data feeds — furnished through Google My Business, Adwords, or other Google property.
Best Deals Near Me?
The Google’s Maps query “Near Me”provides a powerful local filter. Using it tells Google that you’re limiting your consideration set to those within your personal geo-zone. Right now, searching for “coffee near me” yields meaningful results, but searches for more perishable things (“sales near me”) don’t.
But soon, you’ll be able to search for “music near me,” “sales near me,” or “best mobile phone prices near me” and see actual, meaningful results.
Making more data available through Maps’ “Near Me” function will be a popular feature for users, a lucrative revenue stream for Google, and — for those who get their first — a new way to acquire customers and business.
This is all in the future. Google hasn’t referenced any commercial motivation behind its integration of Calendar and Maps – like most Google innovations, it’s positioned as something designed to make the life of its users easier, and it will.
But it also has great commercial potential that marketers should prepare for.
What marketers must do
Marketers will want to pay attention to the quality of the feeds they supply to Google. How are these feeds being supplied now? How are they kept up to date? What editorial process is in use to ensure that revisions are correct? Is the data complete? Are all the relevant data attributes filled in? Big marketers doing PPC have teams to address these issues; small marketers will now need to face them.
“Creative” (especially high-quality still images) matters as well — perhaps more than ever. Consumer decisions at the hyper-local level may be determined not just by the relevance of the marketer’s listing, but on the quality of the assets presented, especially images. Remember, when Google doesn’t see images associated with your brand, it will default to Street View. This can present a less than flattering picture of one’s brand. With every mobile phone including a high-quality still camera, there is no excuse for not putting one’s best images forward through Google My Business.
Maps: what’s next?
Google Maps will continue to evolve as a marketplace matching locally-minded consumers and local merchants who can serve them. It’s intuitive, intimately personalizable, inherently graphical, and well-suited to any VR and AR applications that come down the pike. Consequently, it’s a great place for Google to integrate diverse sources of information from its other properties. And as mobile access continues to grow — and users spend more time in navigational interfaces — the marketing opportunities will grow.
It’s impossible for an outsider to predict where Alphabet will take Google Maps next. But one can easily imagine more exotic data flowing into Maps, perhaps from YouTube (much of this video is geo-coded when its uploaded). Facebook currently uses a maps-like interface as the home screen for its Live Video product because it’s logical and natural to view video streams this way. Wherever Google Maps goes next, expect users — and marketers — to enjoy ever more interesting ways of meeting up.
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