New Google Maps hits the streets: Businesses urged to update their profiles

Encouraging customers to leave reviews online should now be routine practice in every business, according to one leading expert, following the release of the latest version of Google Maps.


The updated, full-screen version of the popular Maps product – available today – allows users to browse through various cities around the world with faster speed and more accuracy. For small businesses, there is also something bigger at stake in the new product.


The updated Google Maps is tightly integrated with Google Places, which hosts contact information for businesses everywhere. Most of these listings are taken from local directories.


The new version of Google Maps places much higher prominence on this information, including photos, videos, contact information and reviews. This information is now displayed more clearly on the top left-hand side of the screen – where most users will look first.


Jim Stewart, chief executive of StewArt Media, told SmartCompany this morning businesses need to start encouraging users to leave reviews.


“I’ve seen some businesses be quite active in this, a lot of businesses are good about promoting themselves on Facebook,” he says.


“But for mobile as well, for local retail outlets and whatever Google considers to be a ‘local’ business, those companies really need to start encouraging users to leave as many reviews as they can.”


The more good reviews a business has, the more eye-catching their display on Google Maps will be. This is particularly important given the number of consumers who are influenced by reviews – with influential chefs and restaurant owners having a hard time dealing with bad ones.


For now, though, Stewart says reviews are a priority, along with dealing with negative reviews. You should also make sure their contact information is correct, and upload as many relevant pictures and videos as possible.


The point is to make your Google Places listing as active with as good quality content as possible. Then, you’ll be able to attract new users – although Stewart says plenty of businesses still don’t have the basics available, including phone numbers or locations.


This story first appeared on SmartCompany.


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