Part of Congruent Digital’s proposal process for new clients is to perform a SERP analysis meant to provide examples of new opportunities we could pursue for additional organic visibility. Recently, while performing this analysis, a Google result not in the Snack Pack kept surfacing on the first page for multiple search queries with local intent. Upon further inspection, I realized the result was a public Google My Map created by another user. I had to know more!
What is Google My Maps?
For those not familiar Google My Maps is a product that allows users to create, style, share and publish maps online. Here’s a short video that provides a nice high level overview:
Way back in 2007 (ancient history for digital marketing), Google launched a service called My Maps that allowed users to create and share custom maps. In Dec. 2014, Google released a new version of Google My Maps as a way for users to create and personalize maps directly from Google Drive.
The service has been around for a while and gone through an upgrade or two, but it wasn’t until recently that I spotted one in a SERP triggered by a query with local intent.
Back to the SERPs
The incognito result that caught my eye surfaced for the query “Breweries in San Diego” and was titled “The Best San Diego Brewery Map.” Using “The Best” in the title for a Google result seemed a little strange, so I decided to dig deeper.
Disclaimer: I’m the first to admit, that what’s new to me, is old news to others. 🙂
When clicking-through, I was presented with a map created by the owner, who in this case is The Brew Project, a local restaurant and bar that serves a variety of local beer from independent San Diego breweries. It makes sense they’d create a map that features the breweries that provide the beer they serve. The Share option allows visitors to embed the map which is shown below:
Here’s what a visitor would see when clicking-through on the My Maps result:
We can see that The Brew Project has provided a description of the map and a legend that helps viewers understand how the map is organized via the color of place pins. In the top left, we see the owner of the map prominently displayed with a title, description and a link. Google My Maps does allow for clickable, followed links in the description for both the owner and other entities listed in the map (pulls in data from Google Maps).
It’s also important to note (as shown above) that creators do have control of the title and meta description. Here’s the expanded result for a local brewery listed in the map:
Because this My Maps result ranked higher than other results, and links are still a notable part of Google’s ranking algorithm, I enabled the MozBar to see if the map had acquired any inbound links:
For good measure, I also ran the URL through Majestic SEO which also showed the map hadn’t earned any links. While this is only one result, as an SEO, I can speculate that the authority of the domain, relevance from the title tag, page quality, and Schema.org markup may all be infuencing factors.
How to Create a Google My Map
To create your own Google My Map, type https://www.google.com/mymaps/ into your browser and select “Create a new map.”
Next, add in your title, meta description, links(s), custom legend, or whatever else is relevant and would provide value to your map viewers.
Now it’s time to add layers which can be imported via CSV, XLSX, KML or GPX file
Google My Map Customization
In digging deeper and actually creating my own map, I came to find that there’s a healthy amount of customization options which include:
- Change the Google base map – choose from 9 different styles
- Share options – you can make the map public, or only share with a select few.
- Draw lines, shapes, or placemarks on the map.
- Import geographically-specific data including addresses, place names, or latitude and longitude coordinates.
- Organize your map with layers to hide or show different kinds of content.
- Style your content with different colors, placemark icons, and line widths.
Why Create a Google My Map for Your Local Client?
While I still need to evaluate the performance of the map I created for a local client and continue exploring other My Maps, reasons to create your own that lists local competitors, your service areas, etc. includes:
- You have control of the title, description, color and shape of icons
- Creating a helpful resource that serves your client’s local community
- Creates another opportunity for local search visibility
- Enhance your client’s listing with additional images, a robust description, and videos
- You get a followed link with a very high Domain Authority
My Maps on Mobile
Desktop users certainly aren’t the only ones having all the fun. Google My Map results also display on mobile. Here’s a screenshot from my Galaxy S5 for the query “San Diego Breweries:”
There’s also a Google My Maps App for Android devices that allows users to create and edit maps on the move.
I’d love your feedback on if you’ve seen My Maps surface for queries with local intent, created your own map, ideas for maps, or anything else you’d like to contribute to the conversation. As mentioned previously, I’ve recently created a few maps for local client’ that each serve a slightly different purpose and will be monitoring the overall visibility of the map in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.