With the average small business spending $75,000 a year on digital marketing, that can be a serious chunk of your budget to gamble on questionable returns. If you don’t know much about SEO or digital advertising, you might suspect that the money you’re investing isn’t coming back to you. By taking advantage of Google Maps as a local SEO solution, you can make leaps in digital marketing at no cost.

One of the major advantages of promoting your business with SEO is that most solutions have no cost of entry. Search engines use a tool called a web crawler to index every site on the internet and to rank them for certain criteria. They rank sites based on how well each site meets their criteria and their user searches.

As companies hustle to meet Google’s search criteria to get ranked highly, many companies overlook the hidden power of Google Maps. Get ahead of the competition by following these 6 steps.

1. Fix Your Google My Business Listing

Your first step for getting listed on Google Maps is to make sure you have a strong business listing on Google. Google My Business is their proprietary directory for finding businesses online. Your listing will have basic information about your business including your address, number, and hours of operation.

Take the time to be precise when you pick out your category. Take some photos and upload them to your profile. Make sure you’re using them to highlight the chosen category because you might only get one chance to show off on a Google Maps search.

If you’ve said you’re an Italian restaurant, don’t show off a cheeseburger as your main photo. People will search for you based on their interest in an Italian restaurant. Photos engage your viewers so take time to look your best.

You can do all of this without calling in your website administrator.

2. Get Some Reviews

Once you’ve made your ideal listing, reach out to your favorite customers to let them know about your listing. You can ask them individually to review you. This will help to move you up the rankings in Google Map searches.

Depending on the platform you use, you might be able to embed a Google review plug-in to make giving reviews easier. If you use WordPress for hosting your site, you should have access to their free plug-ins to make adding Google reviewing simple. The better it’s integrated into your customers’ experiences, the easier it’ll be to gather reviews.

If people check out your site often to see what’s new, offer a coupon for people who leave a review.

Should you decide to reach out to customers individually, space out your campaigns and keep them small scale. A sudden jump in the number of reviews you get will look suspicious to Google. You could end up getting penalized in searches for a suspiciously spammy looking results.

3. Get On Top of Google Posts

Google Posts are a fairly new feature of Google’s business directory services. Through this service, you can create content that will show up in your customers’ local search results.

If you make engaging enough content with images and videos, you can drive more traffic over to your site. This feature gives you one more way to get clicks on your site.

Be careful of posting duplicate content between your Google Posts and your own site. If there’s one thing that will get you dinged for spam, it’s posting the same content multiple times.

4. Get On Other Directories

Unleashing the power of Google Maps isn’t all about how many different Google apps and sites you use. Google appreciates SEO strategies that rely on other reputable sites and directories.

Along with managing your Google My Business account, you should claim any potential listings on Yelp, Yahoo! Local, or anywhere else your customers may be. Ask your colleagues and nearby businesses what sites they list on to get a good idea of where you should be.

This is the one time you won’t be punished for listing duplicate information. You should make sure that all of your listings are consistent in spelling, open hours, and that all the images look similar. If people suspect for a second that the listing they’ve come across isn’t the business they’re looking for, your reputation will be damaged.

5. Optimize Your Site Speed

Believe it or not, part of the hidden power of your Google Maps listing is under the hood of your site.

If you’re not using a reputable company like WordPress for hosting, you could be suffering from a dip in search results. Your clients and customers require your site to be fast and to load quickly. You should be checking your site speed on a monthly basis.

Problems with code or the architecture of your site could result in problems with media loading or payment processing. If customers perceive even the slightest problem in your e-commerce plug-in or any payment method, they’ll go running for the hills. With all of the major ransomware attacks in the news, no one wants their data to up for grabs.

6. Embed Google Maps

If you embed Google Maps on your site, you’ll be able to get ahead of your competitors. Not only will Google know that you have a local presence they should be communicating in searches, but it will give your customers vital information. They might remember your intersection or your highway exit next time they’re driving by and drop in.

Make your customers’ lives easier and just show them where to find you and how to get directions.

The Power of Google Maps Is In Your Hands

Most of your marketing efforts will cost at least a few thousands of dollars to implement. Using Google Maps to promote your business costs nothing but a little time. You’ll get so many advantages that it’s a wonder you never thought of it earlier.

If you want to get started today, follow Google’s own tips on how to manage your business listing or contact us.

By Ben Mattice

Benjamin Mattice is a freelance writer/editor, horror and sci-fi writer, SEO and affiliate marketing newbie, dog wrestler, cat wrangler, capoeirista, and long distance runner. He lives in the Palouse with his wife, three dogs, two cats, and two rats. Yes, that would probably be considered a mini-zoo.