Originally published in MDS’ Fall 2013 newsletter
In 2005, at the onset of Google Maps, most of the world was mysteriously missing from the product launch. Fast forward to today, and Google is touting their product as the premier mapping provider for over 200 countries, and really, who can rival them? They’ve spent the last eight years on data accuracy and harnessing crowd-sourced information from you and local businesses themselves.
Google Maps, G+ page
Google has data accuracy that no other provider can claim, and they’ve set out to redefine modern mapping again. The same way personalization was such a priority for them in search, they asked themselves why every person across the globe looks at the same map. What if each map could adapt to you, be built for you?
As you search the map, star places you like and leave reviews, the map starts to adapt and can suggest things like restaurants you might enjoy or the quickest way home. In other words, the more you use the new Google Maps, the more helpful it becomes.
In the new Google Maps, which was announced last summer, you influence the local results through your search history and social data. As the map learns about you, it can suggest the fastest way home or to work, start to understand what types of local businesses you frequent, and highlight new places to try based on your tastes. This new emphasis on discovery is much more social in nature, with reviews from friends based on your social network. Gone is the old user interface, with the traditional “7-pack”, and in comes an experience where the map itself is the user interface. Drag your mouse around the map, zoom into specific locations, search – all features and functionalities are integrated into an overlay on the map. Showing related search data is not a new feature for Google, yet showing related searches neatly below your original search box is powerful.
Select an individual result, and the data from your Google+ Local listing appears in the top right. The majority of your information is pulled in from your Google+ Local listing, with the exception of reviews and the five-star rating scale (pulled from Zagat and Google user reviews). If your property has a decent number of reviews on other review sites, including Yelp, be sure to view the terms popping up under your star rating to see what notable phrases or terms people are writing about your property. If it’s not favorable, it may be time for new content generation to get people talking about a new renovation or promotion. Check out the bolded results Google displays when your property is selected as the red balloon. Those could be properties users are clicking after yours, or ones Google’s algorithm has decided could similarly satisfy a user’s search query.
Find out who the top reviewers are in your market by clicking Places from Top reviewers. Have a Facebook page? Friend them. Utilize your PR team to build direct relationships and offer something of value.
Be sure to watch http://www.google.com/maps/about/explore/#content. What have your experiences been with the new map? Do you see Google’s geographic data becoming an invaluable asset in augmented reality (say, Google glasses?)