What is Google Maps?What is Google Maps and why is it so important to your local business? You see Google maps everywhere. When you go to your Yelp page, there’s a graphic showing your business location on a Google map. You might even have a Google map on your web page. It’s free, and easy to install, so lots of websites have taken advantage of this convenient and interactive mapping program to help customers locate their business.

Available on desktops and mobile devices, Google Maps combines street maps, satellite imagery, and street view perspectives, allowing Google to offer a variety of functions including a route planner for traveling via car, bicycle, foot, or public transportation. Other features include local search through the Explore tool, as well as customer reviews and ratings. Although maps and satellite images are not updated in real time, Google’s primary database receives updates on a regular basis, and few of the satellite images are more than 3 years old.

Get Directions from Google

By selecting “Get Directions,” a user can access Google’s route planner to get directions to a particular destination, either by specific address or type of business, i.e. “nearest laundromat.” By telling Google whether you want to travel by car, bicycle, foot, or public transit, you can view issues such as parking, one-way streets, turn lanes, and even terrain ahead of time.

Go Exploring with Google

Whether you’re planning a trip or unfamiliar with your local area, Google’s Explore tool allows you to search for interesting sites in the vicinity of a chosen destination. Users can define “nearby” in the context of a five-minute walk or a 20-minute drive. The tool even takes into consideration weather and time of day when offering suggestions. For best results, turn on the Location History and Location Reporting settings to enable Google to access your device’s recent location information.

By tapping the “My Location” button or a blue dot on the map on a mobile device, a user can access transit schedules and restaurant reviews, and even save places. As the user confirms places they visit, the app will continue to update and improve its database.

Read and Post Local Reviews

Although Google Maps has partnered with Yelp to provide maps for Yelp’s business pages, Google Maps is now also competing with Yelp in a big way for customer reviews. Like Yelp, customers can upload write-ups about their experiences, and give the business a rating from one to five stars. Through Google My Business, local business owners can claim – or enter – their site, providing contact information, a business description, their website URL, business hours, and even photos.

The increasing popularity of Google Maps on mobile devices makes it extremely important for a local business to claim their Google Maps listings and update their information if they want to be found in local searches. Google Maps makes it easy for a business to achieve a prominent place in search results even if their website has a low ranking on the Google search engine.