The new Google Maps layout is coming. Technically it’s still in beta and only available by invitation but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be concerned about the effect it will have on your business.
Take a look at what happens today when you do a search on Google Maps. The first thing you probably see is the listing of the top few results in the left hand column – complete with their name, address, and their review rating on Google. Then you notice the map with the inverted tear-drop pin points marking different business locations.
This is where the big change will happen, and this is where you need to look at your current strategy. With the new layout, the left column will not automatically appear. Instead you will see a map of several locations (which are now marked by red circles rather than the tear-drop shape we see today) that fit your search term. In the upper right hand corner you will have a few more filtering options before you get the more traditional listing of businesses. There are two options here that we should focus on – Top Reviewers and Your Circles.
The Top Reviewers will make your online reputation, specifically your reputation on Google, even more important. If you only have a handful of reviews and they are not stellar, you’re going to be pushed down in the results. The key here is focusing on building your base of reviews. Implementing a good reputation management strategy will be pivotal going forward. And it won’t be enough to set up a work station in your lobby and entice people to leave a quick review before they leave. After all, if your reviews just get filtered out, what good are they?
The Top Reviewers filter makes sense; Google wants to promote quality businesses who are active on their site. The more intriguing filter is Your Circles.
For the past few years, most of us were working with Google Plus as more of an after-thought. With their new filtering options, Google Plus will become even more important in the near future. No longer will it be enough to have a presence on the site and post occasionally, now you will have to be active. You will need to work to build a following, add people to your circles, and build up a loyal base of customers on the site.
Yes, the new layout is still being tested, but it’s available to some people today, which means it’s coming rather quickly. I highly recommend focusing on these two areas especially for local businesses.