Google Maps has some incredibly handy uses, most notably the directions facility. How on Earth did people ever find their way before? What? You mean people actually used to stop and ask other human beings for directions?
But mobiles are increasingly used by your potential customers to find the products and services they want when they're on the move.
I recently attended a Google event in Manchester, where a lot of the focus was on mobile and local. Some of the key facts to come out of that included:
- 1 in 3 mobile searches have a local element to them
- 45% of consumers use a mobile while shopping, yet just 17% of UK businesses (not sure how this stacks up internationally?) have a mobile optimized website ( see also: do you need a mobile site)
- By 2022, mobile commerce will be worth 19 billion annually around the world.
Searching On The Go
Up to 1 in 5 of your website visitors could be mobile and this is growing incredibly quickly. And Google's statistic that a third of mobile searches have a local element to them confirms that users are using their mobiles to find what they want on the go.
Let's have a look at a couple of examples.
If I search on my mobile 'Hotels Manchester', then I see a couple of PPC ads, an organic listing and then maps. And more to the point, the Google Maps listings are all accompanied by click to call numbers. I don't even have to visit a website to convert to a call and potential reservation for one of these hotels.
Even if I take off the local element and search 'Italian Restaurants', I am again greeted by Maps. Google has permission to use my location and so can return results based on where I am to point me to my nearest Italian restaurants.
What Does It Mean For Local Businesses?
We know that a number of mobile searchers are likely to be looking for something around them. We also know that there's a good chance that Google will, for a local search, return Maps with click to call buttons. So what that means is that the approach to marketing local businesses to mobile searchers has to look beyond just the website. That, of course, doesn't mean to say you can overlook your own website.
Here's what I consider to be the bare minimum must haves for local businesses:
A claimed and verified, content rich Google Places listing with a telephone number! Get your happy customers to leave reviews too, because those stars in the SERPs could be the difference between someone clicking to call your number or your competitors number.
A mobile optimised website. Google doesn't always show Maps. We know that sometimes the search giant is guilty of showing Maps where they don't seem relevant and of failing to where they do. So you should have a website optimised for mobile and ensure your visibility through SEO for relevant search terms. If you present a website that cannot easily be viewed on a mobile device to your mobile users, there's a good chance they'll bounce right back off again. Don't just consider the design here, but consider too the type of content mobile users might want to see and how this could differ from your desktop users.
PPC ads, where appropriate. You can show up higher than the maps and the organic listings by getting into the coveted top 2 PPC spots. As mobile users are far less likely to scroll down there's an opportunity to be had here (particularly if you have a special offer on or an event to which you definitely want to drum up business) to pull in footfall from those searching for your products and services from right within your direct vicinity.
A comprehensive local SEO campaign based on enhancing both organic and Maps visibility.
It's Only Getting Bigger
Mobile is going nowhere. And Google knows it. Mobile users are also desktop users and vice versa. It isn't a completely different set of people searching from mobiles and these users have one habit that doesn't die when they turn their desktops off: They search in Google.
Google is catering well to mobile users and I feel there's a real opportunity for local businesses to reach an audience close to them in a way they have never previously been able to do.
- See also: Optimizing Your Google Places