Voice Engine Optimization

Why Voice Engine Optimization Matters And How You Can Make The Most Of It

The way people search for information online is changing. We’re always looking for the simplest, most convenient way of doing things. And this is changing the way people do their searches. With the introduction of voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Google Assistant, people have begun to “speak” to their devices.

Before this, the only way was to type. This means unlocking your smartphone, opening your search engine app and typing out your search query. Now, you just say, ‘Hey Siri’, and ask your question. And Siri reads you the answer. See the difference? Handsfree! Voice assistants make browsing the web much more convenient. By 2020, an estimated 50% of all web searches will be done via voice.

What does this mean for SEO? The game has changed, and you need to adapt your strategy. This is where VEO (Voice Engine Optimization) comes in. Consider this: we type differently and speak differently. When we type, the search looks like this: digital marketing agencies near me. When we speak, the search looks like this: Show me a list of digital marketing agencies near me. VEO bridges this gap.

Here are a few tips for you to adapt your SEO strategy to accommodate voice searches:

Work on your ‘Google My Business Listings’
Voice searches are largely location-based. “What’s the nearest coffee shop that’s open now?” Searchers are looking for specific information, so make it easily available to them. Fill out your address, email and phone, website URL, working days and timings.

Be fast and mobile-friendly
Two things searchers hate: waiting and bad experiences. In other words, if your website is slow to load, or if it isn’t mobile user-friendly, you’ve lost. So make sure the respective web page loads in under three seconds.

How you write your website content matters
As we mentioned above, a major benefit of voice assistants is you can go hands free and have the information read back to you. For voice searches, Google gives preference to content sections that are most appropriate for text-to-speech playback. Shift from a formal content tone to a slightly more informal, conversational tone. In other words, write how you speak.

This Applies to Keywords too
For the same reason as above, we recommend using sentence-like long-tail keywords that are similar to the way people speak. Think “Indian restaurant near me” vs “Show me Indian restaurants near me that are open now?” Be conversational.

The bottom line is, for your VEO strategy to work, you have to anticipate your customers’ needs. What exact information are they looking for, how will they ask it, and what is the most ideal way of providing that information.

in-house-team-outsourcing-digital-marketing-Hockystick

In-House Team or Outsourcing? What Is Best for Your Digital Marketing Strategy?

With the digital explosive growth in recent times, the traditional approach of marketing would not suffice for a worldwide reach. Even though traditional marketing was at the forefront earlier, the rising digital transformation demands a distinctive approach.

As the success of a business is inevitably intertwined with the marketing strategy, taking a right step is vital.  New developments in technology demand new tools to handle digital markets.

Often businesses see themselves in a state of confusion when it comes to choosing between an In-house team and outsourcing which involves a digital marketing services company. Making this decision involves considering various aspects since each of them come with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Let us look at how In-house Digital teams are different from Outsourcing and possible highlights and drawbacks each of them come up with.

In-house digital teams

Highlights

The major advantage of having your own In-house digital teams is a strong and dedicated team that understands the objectives and goals of your business. Knowing the nitty-gritty of the business, they are always ready to take challenges and work flexibly.

You can find the right talent that suits your business needs. While forming an In-house digital team, you can filter and select skillful personnel that has the potential to fulfill your business needs.

You will always have a documented Strategy that is used for your digital marketing. Statistics show that 66 percent of effective marketers have documented content strategy.

Drawbacks

Though having your own digital marketing team is a good idea, unlike outsourcing to a digital marketing company, is a time-consuming process.

Another major drawback of the In-house digital team strategy is its additional investment and expenses. So it will be an extra burden for any business to train and maintain additional staff.  

Building a team with members with no real-time exposure to the present market and its challenges is not so easy and requires special training. So new personnel may not be ready to handle issues that they are not aware of earlier. In these cases, a social media agency with experienced professionals needed to be involved.

Additionally, Digital marketing involves monotonous tasks like maintaining your social media presence. These tasks, when outsourced to a digital marketing company, can save you time and valuable resources.

Now let us see whether outsourcing your digital marketing strategy works for you?

Highlights

This is completely cost effective. You can almost save half of what you’d spend on hiring personnel for your own digital team if you work with a digital marketing company.

This is a less expensive and effective way to get experienced and senior-level marketing executives. Also, there is no extra burden of training a team before getting the work done and you can get them started instantly.

You will only work with skilled professionals. Statistics show that only 48 percent of digital marketers claimed to be proficient in digital marketing and   ⅓ of marketers claimed that their organizations are competent in digital marketing. (According to a study done by Adobe.)

Drawbacks

A critical drawback of outsourcing is that you are not alone. This means you are not the only client for which the third party works. Since external teams work for various clients at once, there will be no consistent outcomes for all the clients.

Best social media agency can only provide expert services in terms of Social media Marketing, SEO, Content Marketing, PPC management services and other tools and channels. They do not know every detail of your business.

On-site presence of the third party companies cannot be full time and whatever discussions or transactions should happen only during the scheduled time frames. Also, they operate on the usual 8 to 5-time frame and mostly only during weekdays.

Not to be forgotten, your interactions with your target audience are not direct when the work is outsourced to a digital marketing company. It is the third party that represents you and you may not be able to engage with your audience beyond the traditional time frame.

Is Email Marketing Disappearing?

Per this October report by Mailchimp (email marketing platform), the open rate of promotional emails in the e-commerce sector is only about 16%. Worse, clicks on them is even more dismal – just 2.4%.

Does this mean that e-mail marketing is on the brink of disappearing from digital marketing? After all, most of the users cannot complain against the emails as spam. In all probability, they have subscribed or opted in to get them.

In fact, there are strong laws against spamming. The FTC or Federal Trade Commission – the federal agency to protect consumers’ rights in the US, clearly states: each email in violation of the law of ‘Compliance Guide for Business’ is subject to “penalties of up to $16,000.”

Is Email Marketing Disappearing Then?

According to Email Marketing Industry Census 2016 brought out by Adestra, email marketing tops for ROI (ahead of SEO) with 73% of companies agreeing that email offers ‘excellent’ to ‘good’ ROI.  The survey involved more than 1,500 respondents from across the globe, mainly in-house marketers, and was carried out in February and March 2016.

So the answer to the question is an emphatic ‘No’. In spite of stiff competition from other modes of marketing tactics and channels, email marketing still provides for highest level of ROI for companies.

It makes perfect business sense to know more about it. So read on.

Basics: What are the Different Types of Marketing Emails?

Welcome Emails: A welcoming email is the first mail sent to the reader once he signs your mailing list. This creates credibility and trust, enhances your brand and of course, helps you to upsell your product.

Dedicated or Direct Emails: These mails are usually sent by most businesses, focusing on product launches, events, news, sales or special offers.

Newsletters Emails: These are regular emails sent to subscribers who have opted to receive updates from a company.

Lead Nurturing Emails: Sent to subscribers who we want to turn into customers.

Transactional Emails: To initiate a transaction from a prospective customer, transactional mails are sent. For example, if a customer abandons a cart on your site, you can send a transactional email reminder to checkout.

Occasion Special Emails: To create personal rapport with the customers, these mails are useful.

Thank you Mail: Last but not the least, a thank-you mail is a must after each transaction or action.

Interesting: Whose Email Campaign is Doing Better – Donald Trump’s or Hillary Clinton’s?

Mailjet (email service provider) analysed emails sent by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s campaign teams over the course of the last two months, including communications around the first and second debates, and scored the emails according to a range of metrics including design best practices, personalisation, subject line, cross-channel marketing and the creativity of the content.

With a possible 27 points up for grabs, Donald Trump’s email marketing campaign is outperforming Hillary Clinton’s by 12.9 points to 11.0 across six separate marketing parameters. As a consequent follow-on, Donald Trump is doing better – there is a bigger surge in small-dollar donations to the Republican candidate.

However, both campaigns show huge missed opportunity for both nominees.The main drawbacks are poor personalisation, poor design and cross device compatibility.

Attributes of a Successful Email Marketing Campaign

As exemplified above, an email campaign needs to implement certain guidelines to be successful and survive in the cut-throat competition of other marketing methods. In a nutshell, it has to offer consumers with relevant and immaculately presented content. Keep in mind the following points.

Audience Segmentation:  To get the best response from an email campaign, make sure to segment your audience based on different characteristics like gender, location, age, interests, customer’s job titles or company size, transactional data such as past purchases or particular plan, or behavioral data such as customer vs prospect.

Responsive Design: It’s critical that you create emails that look just as good when opened on a mobile device as on a web browser. Responsive designs provide a better experience for each device on which the campaign is viewed.

Automation: With respect to email marketing, there are various CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and automation tools like Silverpop, MailChimp and Streak that help in seamless automation, greater and efficient lead and customer tracking, and expansion of retention rates.

Content Guidelines:

Customised content & Personalization: E-mail marketing needs to display the right content to the right user. The first basic rule – you have to be on a first-name basis with your recipient. Begin a message with “Dear John” instead of “Dear Customer”. Customize your email based on his location and time. If you have data on his past purchases and purchasing behavior, then compose your mail accordingly. All this is possible through proper integration between real-time audience data, data management platforms and ad exchanges. Check different CRM and automation tools available for the purpose.

Clear and concise: When sending out emails to current and potential customers, make sure the content is clear and concise. The offer should be prominent and easy to understand.

Call to action: The emails need to have a call to action that is clear and obvious. Create a sense of urgency. An “offer end date” can help drive immediate action.

Strong subject lines: The subject line should entice the recipient to open the email and learn more, as well as promote a sense of urgency.

Short subject lines: Limit subject lines to fewer than 50 characters. Longer subject lines can get cut off in the recipient’s inbox.

Landing pages: Before you send out the emails, evaluate the campaign’s landing page for effectiveness. The landing page should mimic the offer highlighted in the email and have the same look and feel.

Multiple call-to-action mechanisms: In addition to a landing page, provide a phone number as an alternative way for customers to respond.

Look and feel: The designs should be attractive, creative, simple and show all content without scrolling.

Analytics: To get the most out of the campaign, it is important to track it on multiple levels. Have mechanisms in place to track both sales and conversions generated from the campaign.

Conclusion

According to a report by Radicati, in 2015, the number of emails sent and received per day total over 205 billion. This figure is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 3% over the next four years, reaching over 246 billion by the end of 2019.

Corresponding to such encouraging data, there is no sign of email marketing fading away. It has been around for more than 20 years and is still one of the most powerful tools of a marketer. However, the key is whether you are doing it correctly.

 

 

Some Black Hat Techniques (for SEO) Needn’t Be So ‘Black’!

In July this year, Gary Illyes, Webmaster Analyst at Google dropped a bomb on the SEO world. He said: “We’re going to go back to the kind of ranking algorithm we had ten or so years ago. This is probably going to shock a lot of people because it’s inclusive of what we’ve called Black Hat tactics”.

Well, we have to read between the lines. You are still advised to use White Hat SEO. However, some tactics that were considered as vintage ‘Black Hat’ techniques before are not penalised by Google algorithm now. What are they – we will discuss later.

What is Black Hat SEO?

According to Wordstream, “Black hat SEO refers to a set of practices that are used to increase a site’s or page’s rank in search engines through means that violate the search engines’ terms of service”. So essentially, Black Hat techniques are unethical ways of optimising websites and mainly used by computer hackers, virus creators and those who carry out illegal actions on the computer.

Through Black Hat SEO,  you may see an increase in site traffic initially. But in due course, your site may be badly affected and you see a rapid drop in site’s ranking and traffic. There is even the fear of your site being banned or completely de-indexed from Google and other search engines; and you have to start all over again from scratch.

So in general, Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines have denounced Black Hat tactics and strategies. 

What techniques come under Black Hat SEO?

In late March 2016, the researchers at the Imperva Defense Center investigated a sophisticated SEO campaign  that was successful in upping the rankings of certain websites consistently. The finding was interesting – among other techniques, they used extensive Black Hat techniques like SQL injection, comment spam and exploitation of thousands of third-party applications and websites.

Google and other search engines constantly update their algorithms so that such websites are penalised. Below we have listed some key Black Hat techniques that should be avoided:

  • Content Automation
  • Doorway Pages
  • Hidden Links
  • Negative SEO
  • Keywords Stuffing
  • Sneaky Redirects
  • Cloaking
  • Paid Links
  • Blog Spamming
  • Comments Spamming
  • Guest Posting
  • Duplicate Content
  • Link Manipulation
  • Auto Generated Queries to Google
  • Duplicate Domains and Sub-Domains
  • Web Pages with malicious content.

The Big Question:  Can You Ethically Use Black Hat Techniques for SEO?

We can, however, work around some of the Black Hat techniques mentioned above to make them ethical. Let’s see how that can be done.

IP delivery: You can create specific localised content to offer to a country specific IP address.

Redirect 301: All out-dated content can have a 301 redirect to a new webpage or your homepage.

Micro sites: Use popular short-term keywords to create micro sites. These sites can be abandoned later on.

Cloaking: Heavy flash animations can be hidden from Google and you can simple display the text-only version for easy accessibility and search-ability.

Keyword stuffing: In SEO, keyword stuffing is unethical but you can do this ethically. The process is known as folksonomy, wherein your user does the tagging. It also includes social classification and social indexing where more meta data is created with more and more keywords acceptable to search engines.

Hidden text or CSS pagination: Another ethical way to use Black Hat SEO is to create CSS-based websites with JQuery effects, such as CSS pagination – which help to display few content portions and hide a large text portion in layers.

Scraping: You can create similar or mirror websites of your website.

Page jacking: Though duplicate content is a strict “NO” in SEO, a popular Black Hat technique in an ethical way is to offer your website content under a creative Commons License with attribution.

False headlines: If newspapers can do it, why not Black Hat SEO? You can use deceptive headlines in your website content to grab attention and increase traffic. But do not overdo it.

Blog links and Blog spam: Create a network of legitimate blogs with backlinks to your site. These should be quality blogs. For blog spamming, install a WordPress blog without Akismet spam protection and add few posts to it. Now when spamming of comments start, parse the comments and publish only those which have keywords related to your site. Rest, you delete it.

Brand jacking: Positive reviews work but do you know even bad reviews or false reviews work fine for your website’s performance? Create a page for bad reviews of particular products or services and let consumers voice their concerns.

Automation of Tweets:  Twitter automation is not wrong but should not be done in excess. You can automate repeating and rescheduling of tweets and RSS feeds for your website and blog.

Doorway Pages: It is wrong to create a page with lots of keywords so as to make visitors enter the page and then automatically redirect them to a separate page. Rather, create a page with relevant and rich content. The doorway pages can be interesting pages that redirect to the main landing pages.

Paid links: It is unethical to pay to get links published in articles, blogs or advertisements that rank high on search engines. But when you buy links or sell paid links, the ethical practice is to include “nofollow” on the links. The links then appear just like proper ads to users and search engines.

Conclusion

Black Hat techniques are like the Sirens in Greek mythology – deadly attractive. They give your site immediate gains for some time but soon, Google and other search engines penalise your site and push it down the rankings to obscurity.

So the safest bet is to have patience and work on the SEO of your website gradually through White Hat techniques. You may also use tweaked Black Hat techniques as mentioned above. 

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3 Digital Marketing Trends You Need to Invest In Before It Is Too Late

According to the research firm eMarketer, the digital marketing industry in the world is about $187 billion now.

Well, this is a rough estimate. To be honest, if someone were to ask you how big is the digital marketing industry in the US, any other country or in the world, you probably would be lost for words. This industry is rather complex and is rapidly changing with innovations in technology.

However, we can study the data of some market metrics and come to some analysis points, like that done by eMarketer above.

For example, Alphabet (the parent company for Google) officially announced its Q2 2016 earnings at 21.5 billion – a 25% increase in constant currency revenues year over year! And in this, Google revenue from ads is worth $19.14 billion.

Another report by Nielsen says that in 2015, on an average, Facebook app and Youtube has 126 million and over 97 million unique users per month respectively. This shows the increasing popularity of social media platforms which brands can use for promoting their products and services.

In such a competitive digital marketing industry, it is important to ride the trends and succeed in your marketing efforts.

Mobile is the Way

Worldwide, the number of smartphones are forecast to cross the 2 billion mark, according to a Statista report. Look at the graphic representation below.

source: Statista

source: Statista

In terms of smartphone penetration, US leads the world with 83%, followed by UK and Germany. Check the chart below:

source: BI Intelligence

source: BI Intelligence

However, in terms of absolute numbers of smartphones used, China is way ahead by virtue of its huge population. The forecast is that by 2018, half of the Chinese population will use a smartphone, and by 2019 that number will rise to 690 million.

source: eMarketer

source: eMarketer

 

Now, according to Google’s Internal Data (based on 10 countries including the US and Japan, 2015) – 39% search on a smartphone only, 32% search on a computer only, and 28% search on more than one type of device.

This same information was espoused by Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai at his conference call with investors after the Q2 2016 earnings announcement of his parent company, Alphabet. He also hinted at the future that Google is working towards. “While today, mobile is the engine that drives us, the company is looking to machine learning for future growth. Through investment in AI, we are investing in our future.”

So from the perspective of consumers, one trend is obvious – the rapid growth of mobile internet and corresponding mobile marketing.

Skyrocketing Popularity of Messaging Apps

Today, messaging apps are usurping email and texts as the preferred mode of communication. The reason is that they combine the key USPs of both the platforms: searchability feature of emails and the quick, conversational style of texts.

According to a news report published in Nasdaq, 66% of consumers prefer to reach brands or be reached by them through messaging apps. Of course, what apps they prefer vary based on their locations.

Are you serious about Messaging App as a marketing channel?

Are you serious about Messaging Apps as a marketing channel?

 

Brands can use Conversational Marketing or Conversational Commerce – a term coined earlier this year, to interact with customers in a conversational manner. For example, instead of simply displaying ads, a clothing brand can interact with its customers with personalised messages like “What is your size?”, “Which color of shoes are you looking for?” or “When would you like to come over and pick your items up?” through Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp.

Recently, Google too entered the app market with the launch of Allo. The app integrates information like restaurant recommendations with features like Google Calendar and predicts your responses. This is the next level of AI and looks promising to businesses.

Is Customer Service Going the Artificial Intelligence Way?

The consumer today is complex. Her buying decision journeys through different platforms and channels as she consumes different formats of content. The real challenge is to capture her attention at the right time or at the correct points in the sales funnel. On putting this context according to business parlance, it reiterates that customer service and engagement is more important now for successful business.

Human customer service may soon be replaced by Artificial Intelligence

Human customer service may soon be replaced by Artificial Intelligence

 

Companies spend millions of dollars to improve their customer service through training their employees and setting up customer care centres. However, the trend today is to go for AI or Artificial Intelligence.

Theoretically, AI can deliver on the promise of efficient and quick customer service and engagement with minimal errors. AI is based on the ability to interact intelligently with the user. And in order to do that, we should have a robust system that understands what an input means. Like the travel portal Expedia wondered in one of their blogs: “If someone says in casual conversation, “I want to go to Paris,” we make an assumption that they mean Paris, France instead of Paris, Illinois. Similarly, “Show me a flight on Friday” likely means for the next Friday on the calendar instead of one random Friday next month…these options are nearly endless.”

We are in a stage where many companies have developed bots for the purpose of customer service – though, we dare say, they are not cent percent faultless. For example – Siri from Apple, Cortana from Microsoft, Watson from IBM, Facebook’s Bot Engine for Messenger, and Google Assistant. However, what we have achieved so far is the harbinger of the future that customer service will be across verticals and geographies.

For small businesses, it may not be possible to have their entire customer service go the artificial intelligence way, as of now. But the owners of such businesses can definitely use AI-based apps to streamline their work activities and get competitive advantage. Examples – Amy by x.ai, Quill by Narrative Science, DataRPM, Textio and SalesforceIQ.

Conclusion

Today, we have many technologies to help us plan our marketing strategy across a customer’s lifecycle – be they the search marketing insights tools, marketing automation tools, web personalization tools, programmatic tools, or cloud services. The challenge lies in our expertise to know what to use and how to do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have You Tried Google’s New Ad Innovations?

At the recent DEMEXCO (Digital Marketing Exposition and Conference) in Cologne, Google’s SVP of Ads & Commerce – Sridhar Ramaswamy made two major product announcements.

Universal App Campaigns

You can now just create a single Universal App campaign for your Android and iOS app. And Google will optimize and show it across all Google properties including Search, Play, YouTube, and the Google Display Network.

All you need to do is provide the text, starting bid and budget, and the preferred location and languages. Google will customize the formats of the ads based on the network, automate targeting and bidding, and test out different combinations to find out the optimal ads.

Watch this video:

Learn more at https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/6247380

YouTube TrueView to Action Ads

You can now put a call-to-action display banner at the base of the video during and at the end of the video, as shown below:

ad-2

According to Sridhar, “This is especially advantageous for brands that offer products or services with high consideration, like financial services, automotive, or travel. TrueView for action can help you move your customers along the path to purchase by encouraging actions like scheduling an appointment or requesting more information.”

The feature is not available for all countries now. Google will start testing this new format with advertisers throughout the rest of this year in selected countries.

Facebook Rises Against ‘Ethnic Affinity’ Discrimination

Facebook advertisers for housing, credit and employment can no longer use the ‘ethnic affinity’ feature to target or exclude audience.

The announcement comes a week after a group of Facebook users filed a lawsuit against the site, arguing that the targeted ad practice violated the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, is seeking class action status. The complaint pointed out that there was no option for advertisers to exclude “White or Caucasian Americans from the target audience.”

Ethnic Affinity feature on Facebook targeting

Ethnic Affinity feature on Facebook targeting

The suit is a follow-up of ProPublica’s disclosure last month that advertisers are using the option to discriminate and explicitly exclude African Americans, Asian Americans, and Hispanics. As an example, they showed a housing ad that was running on Facebook.

“We take these issues seriously,” Facebook said in a statement Friday. “Discriminatory advertising has no place on Facebook.”

This is what the Chief Privacy Officer of Facebook, Erin Egan has to say: There are many non-discriminatory uses of our ethnic affinity solution in these areas, but we have decided that we can best guard against discrimination by suspending these types of ads. We will continue to explore ways that our ethnic affinity solution can be used to promote inclusion of underrepresented communities, and we will continue to work with stakeholders toward that goal.

In the meanwhile, Facebook is developing tools to find and automatically disable ethnic affinity marketing for the covered categories.

Also, the company has vowed to offer more clarification and education regarding its advertising policies. It also plans to talk with policymakers and civil rights leaders to find “additional ways to combat discrimination, while increasing opportunity”.

You may read the official Facebook announcement regarding the issue.

Tried Google Data Studio to Represent Your Analytics Data?

If you are an agency managing multiple clients for Google AdWords and other channels, then Google Analytics is an important source for your data insights and analysis. And if you are using the paid version of Google Analytics or Google Analytics 360 Suite, then you have definitely used the Google Data Studio.

Thankfully, Google has also introduced this wonderful tool to the free Analytics users. Of course, right now, it is available only in the US, but very soon Google is planning to roll it it to other countries as well.

The tool helps you to convert the data of your clients into visual representations. The reports are easy to read, easy to share and are customizable per your needs. You can choose how you want to represent the data – in terms of bar diagrams, pie charts, line graphs or maps. Further, you can add your logo to the reports.

Another important feature is that the reports are dynamic – meaning, the representations will change as the data changes. And you can also import data from outside channels and ask the tool to make beautiful representations. Example, Facebook data. You just need to import the data into Google Sheets and the tool will make the visual reports for you. Also, you can share them.

Wonderful, isn’t it? So if you are in US, then try this https://www.google.com/analytics/data-studio

Reap the Benefits of Google Maps Before Others Crowd It

Analysts at Morgan Stanley feels that Google Maps will easily generate 1.5 billion dollar revenue by 2017. But how? Read on.

First, an interesting piece of statistics – according to Facebook Business, less than 10% customers in the US buy retail products from e-commerce sites. The rest 90% actually do it in brick-and-mortar shops after researching their wishlist products and services on their mobile phones. So if you have businesses like retail, grocery, telecommunications, restaurants or auto dealerships, location-based advertising is a must.

In other words, Google Maps will earn more and more revenue through ads placed on it. “In our view, Maps remains one of Google’s most under-monetized assets,” Morgan Stanley wrote in the note to investors.

How Google Maps Help You?

Tech Target defines Google Maps as a “Web-based service that provides detailed information about geographical regions and sites around the world. In addition to conventional road maps, Google Maps offers aerial and satellite views of many places. In some cities, Google Maps offers street views comprising photographs taken from vehicles.”

Indeed, from a web-based mapping service developed and launched by Google in 2005, Google Maps has come a long way. It has revolutionised the world of digital maps and now it has more than one billion users.

Let’s check some of its key uses:

  • It is a route planner for drivers, bikers, walkers, and passengers of public transportation who want to travel from one specific location to another.
  • The API or Application Program Interface of Google Maps helps web site administrators install Google Maps into a proprietary site like a community service page, real-estate guide or location specific page.
  • Google Maps on Mobile helps drivers and motorists find locations through Global Positioning System (GPS).
  • Google Street View helps users to view and navigate panoramic street view – both horizontal and vertical images of different cities around the world.
  • For astronomers, Google Maps provides images of the moon, Mars, sky and other heavenly bodies.

Why is Advertising on Google Maps Important for Your Business?

In a recent Google Performance Summit, Google revealed some interesting statistics that businesses should take notice of.

  • Around 90% of all global sales will happen in stores and not online.
  • Nearly a third of mobile searches are associated with location.
  • Location-related searches have been growing 50% faster than mobile searches overall in the past year.
  • Over a billion people now use Maps.
  • Consumers search 1.5 billion destinations every year on Google Maps.
  • Almost 84% of consumers opt for local searches.
  • Three out of every four people who search for something nearby end up visiting a store within 24 hours and 28% of those searches lead in a purchase.

What do all these data mean? If your business has a physical location and you want to grow, then it is necessary that you are visible on Google Maps. When people on the go browse for your products or services on their smartphones, they should find you. 

Promoted Pins

Google Maps will soon launch Promoted Pins — purple pins on map search results — that will pop up information on products or services if a user decides to tap them. It’s expected to be a major force in local SEO. For advertisers, this means driving more footfalls to physical stores, and for users, more options when they search for directions.

Promoted PIns on Google Maps

Promoted Pins on Google Maps

When someone types a destination into Google Maps, they’ll see the standard red pins that connect one location to another, complete with directions. Then, they’ll also see nearby local businesses highlighted in purple – with the company logos. The user then has the option to tap a purple pin to see more information on the business and products it sells.

Some Other Exciting Features to Look Out For in Google Maps

New local search ads: Advertisers can now use location extensions on their local search ads in AdWords on Google Maps for both desktop and mobile devices. These local ads include “Call” and “Directions” buttons and this way a vast number of potential consumers can be reached.

In-store promotions: There is another friendly in-store promotion feature – just below the logo on the map itself that will appear to the user as he is driving and navigation in and around the location. For instance, if you are near a Starbucks’ store, then you may see the Starbucks’ logo with the in-store promotion happening at that moment at that location – say, a $1-discount offer. When you tap on the logo, you will get to the business page at the bottom of your screen, displaying the at-the-moment offer. This feature has tremendous possibility to bring in more new customers.

Customizable business pages with Promoted Pins: If you use Promoted Pins (as mentioned above), then you can have customizable local business pages with all the basic information like address, phone number, operating hours and offers.

But What Ads Google Maps Will Show Users?

All the above features are great from advertisers’ point of view. However, there could be hundreds of stores near your location but only a few precious ad spots. How does Google know which listing is the most relevant to the searcher? Google says it is using a “variety” of signals, including:

  • Query context
  • Location
  • Search/browsing history
  • Interests
  • Behaviors
  • Time of day
  • Demographics

So essentially, what Google Maps is doing is similar to the ad serving used on the Google Display Network. These search business ads appear on both the desktop and mobile versions of Google Maps. On mobile devices, there is the added advantage of features like as Call or Directions which make it more convenient for customers to reach you.

In this context it is to be noted that just recently, Google has introduced a new update to Google Maps in its new version 4.24 on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch where users are provided with new useful features, including the ability to order food from your favourite restaurants. This is not available for all locations at present but if your location is supported, when you look for a food joint or take-away within the app, you will now view a new “Place an Order” option in the details of the location. Clicking on the button will lead you to the website of the food delivery service provider.

How Do You Then Ensure Your Ads on Google Maps?

Location Extensions in AdWords: If you run AdWords campaigns, enable location extensions. They will allow you to enter business hours, Google reviews, and phone numbers to your listings. These will be critical when an ad is displayed in Google Maps. You’ll need to enable location extensions at the account level and also set locational bids.

‘Google My Business’: Enter your business in ‘Google My Business’. Doing this establishes your business’ formal existence and public identity with Google. Even if you’re a “virtual business” with no physical address, you should establish a presence here; if you do have a physical location, or multiple physical locations, Google provides a “dashboard” that makes editing and adding content very easy.

Add content to your business listing: If you don’t, Maps users searching for your business will see a “default” image – usually sourced from Google Street View – that doesn’t always paint a flattering picture. Seize the opportunity to provide images that drive people to your enterprise – not away from it.

Conclusion

Remember, Google searches guide consumers to 1.5 billion destinations every year. So the bottomline question: if you have a location-based business, is it “on Google Maps?” Make sure it is, because maps-oriented user interfaces are becoming as important as the traditional hierarchical list-oriented interfaces (such as SERPs) we’ve grown used to in the past 20 years.

Google Has Started Advanced Verification Process For Plumbers and Locksmiths

Google wants to secure your life as an end user. You must be using Google to search for anything, even a local locksmith or, plumber. Post identification of a few fraudulent service providers, Google has initiated the ‘advanced verification’ process to minimise falsification of identities.

The process has been launched in San Diego initially. As per Google’s help document:

  • Intention is to provide its users with a functional list of service providers.
  • To reduce fraudulent activities and improve overall customer experience.
  • Service providers need to answer a few questions.
  • Apply to a third party for verification.
  • Pinkerton, a corporate risk management service provider has been engaged by Google for verification.
  • Verification is expected to be completed within two weeks.
  • Information provided to Pinkerton would remain confidential and only be used for verification purpose.
  • There would be no impact of this process on the web ranking of the service provider.
  • Failure to pass the verification would disable appearance on Google Maps and Knowledge Panel.