As I mentioned in my Search Engine Land column this week, Google just released an update to its popular Google Maps app that adds several new features and presents a significantly enhanced user experience. The updated app also lends greater visibility for local businesses – putting nearby products and services at the forefront.
With this update, Google is changing the app’s search function from being purely an informational tool to a broader discovery tool. In addition to being able to search by specific address or business, users can now also select the “Explore” feature, which allows them to browse local businesses by categories including “Eat,” “Drink,” “Play,” “Shop” and “Sleep.” From there, Google breaks user selections down to even more specific categories. For example, the “Drink” section features nearby top-rated cafes, coffee, bars and pubs.
Users can tap on a business to pull up listing cards that show key information like phone numbers, operating hours, and travel time from their current location. They can also view business photos and read and write reviews, all without leaving the app.
In addition to local business listings, Google has also included a list of popular local services like grocery stores, pharmacies, ATMs, gas stations, and copy shops.
Although much of the information in Maps isn’t new, the update allows for a more streamlined and centralized user experience. The consolidation of Google’s local services into Maps uniquely positions the app as a one-stop tool that allows users to find and compare local favorites, navigate to their destination, and rate their experiences. In its new form, Google Maps affirms its position as leader in maps and location services by ensuring that users don’t have to leave the platform to find driving directions or public transit routes to their destination of choice.
As Google Maps continues to evolve, it becomes increasingly critical for local businesses to manage their presence on the platform. Local businesses can promote themselves and maximize exposure on Maps by verifying that all their information is up-to-date, that their Google+ Local profile (which provides much of the information and photos shown in Google Maps) is complete and by working to ensure online reviews left on their listing are generally positive.