According to the most recent numbers, about one billion people around the world have downloaded Google Maps and use it to reach 1.5 billion destinations each year.
That’s a lot of searches and web traffic. But of equal interest to Google and its customers is foot traffic. Shopping online is great, but forecasts indicate 90 percent of retail sales will happen in physical stores rather than online, and half of smartphone users who search for something locally will end up visiting a retail location within 24 hours.
The latest update to Google Maps is called promoted pins. Google hopes it will help bridge the gap between online traffic and foot traffic. It will give local businesses an opportunity to have their voices heard in a new way and take advantage of our glorious, mobile-first future.
So what are promoted pins and why should you care?
If you’re a Google Maps user, and you probably are, you’re likely already intimately familiar with the ordinary red “pins.” These indicate nearby landmarks, businesses or other places of interest.
Promoted pins will provide a handy contrast, as they now come in royal purple — allowing your business to very visibly stand out from the rest of the locations in your area.
But drawing the eye with fresh new colors is just the start of it.
When you perform a search for, say, children’s bicycles, you might see promoted pins from Toys ‘R Us or other local toy stores populating the top of your search results.
These will also be accompanied by promotions and coupons tailored precisely to your search history. Maybe it’ll be a $5 off coupon for that bike, or, in a different search, $1 off your Grande Mocha Whatever from Starbucks.
Sounds exciting, yes?
What do you need to get started?
Naturally, you’ll need to do a little bit of work before you can get your own promoted pins off the ground.
First and foremost, if you haven’t already, you’ll need to have your business officially verified by Google. This can take a week or two, and involves receiving a postcard at your physical location to verify the address you’ve provided actually exists, and matches up with existing USPS records.
But to enable promoted pins specifically, you’ll also need to meet Google’s advertiser eligibility requirements and enable “location extensions” in AdWords. This involves linking your Google My Business account to your Adwords account. You can do this by following these steps:
- Sign into your AdWords account and go to the “Ad Extensions” tab.
- Select the “View: Location Extensions” option from this dropdown menu:
- Click “+ Extension” and you’ll be asked to link your Google My Business account.
Want to learn about using landing pages for PPC?
Planning your promoted pins strategy
Local businesses will be charged per click for their participation in promoted pins. But just what constitutes a “click”? Here’s the rundown:
- “Click-to-call” actions on your smartphone
- “Get directions” interactions
- “Get location” clicks
Knowing this, how much of your PPC spend should be directed at promoted pins?
Like many other aspects of online marketing and digital advertising, some strategies are simply going to be more effective for certain industries than others. For example, I could see promoted pins working really well for drugstores, gas stations or restaurants – places that people tend to frequent often, even when traveling.
However, I don’t see promoted pins being overly beneficial for places like colleges or event venues. People do extensive research and planning when spending money with these organizations, and buying decisions are influenced by many, many other factors outside of location or even pricing.
To put it simply, there’s not going to be a magic percentage of PPC spend you can put towards promoted pins to get your ideal results.
You’ll need to play around with this new feature and gradually adjust how much money you want to allocate to it after a few months of testing. I will say that I don’t think a promoted pins budget should be a majority part of any organization’s PPC spend, but you can pick a starting budget based on your past successes with PPC and adjust said budget up or down as you start to see results.
In other words, budgeting for your local search campaign in Google Maps shouldn’t feel at all out of step with other forms of digital advertising that charge according to the traffic you generate.
Tracking your promoted pins campaign
All of this is pretty academic if you don’t have access to real-time data about your promoted pins, along with the traffic they’re generating and some key information about who’s interacting with them.
Here’s how to access the traffic data for your promoted pins campaign:
- Sign into your AdWords account and go to “Campaigns”:
- Click “Segment,” then “Click type”:
That should bring you to the all-important data about the types of traffic your promoted pins are bringing in. This traffic might show up in a breakdown similar to your normal “Local” PPC ad analytics, with data for click-to-call, driving directions and location detail actions taken:
What you find there will be the key to tailoring your hyperlocal marketing approach in the months and years ahead.
Sales funnelling from Google Maps
How can you turn your promoted pins into real sales? How do prospective customers become, you know, customers?
The key is hyperlocal marketing, which is marketing tailored to a very small geographic area, such as a single zip code, neighborhood or city.
People are already shopping locally. Your job is merely to make sure they visit your establishment and not somebody else’s. Promoted pins should make this easier than ever, by letting you cater directly to the people who are most likely to visit your business in the first place.
Promoted pins also encourage — even require — you to stay up-to-date with what people in your area are actually searching for.
You’ll be able to optimize your business’ page within Google Maps to reflect the language people are using to find you. Just like you would do keyword analysis and competitor research for your main website, you can take the information you learn about how people find you on Google Maps and apply it to your Google My Business page or promoted pins ads.
This whole process is like a snowball that just needs one gentle push to get started.
One national brand that figured this out early is PetSmart. It learned how to tie together data from its search ads with data from Google’s Store Visits. It found that between 10 and 18 percent of folks who clicked on its ads ended up inside a PetSmart store within a month. PetSmart used this information to make more informed budgeting decisions for their online marketing strategies moving forward, and was able to provide data driven proof of the value in search ads for their merchandising partners.
It’s this ability to truly understand the customer “journey” that really speaks to the usefulness of promoted pins.
Quick bonus tip: Be transparent about inventory
Here’s one more key action you’ll need to take, if you haven’t already: Become super transparent about the products you have in stock. One in four mobile users avoids visiting brick-and-mortar stores because they fret over the product, or products, they’re searching for not being in stock.
Fortunately, Google’s already developed a way for companies to do this: local product inventory feeds. This is a list of all the products you sell in each of your stores, and you can choose to update your full product inventory or only the products whose inventories have changed that day. Inventory feeds help consumers feel more confident that they can find what they’re looking for at your store, and that they won’t arrive to find said item out of stock.
When done in conjunction with promoted pins, inventory feeds assure potential customers that a product is actually in stock and that it can be found at a location in their immediate area.
How promoted pins can help you
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably one of two types of people:
- You’re excited to dig into the nitty gritty of a new type of ad platform, and you’re ready to see what kind of return on investment this can bring to your local business
- You’re fretting over yet another skill set you need to learn to keep your business viable in an increasingly digital-minded world.
Though, the perfectly sane businessperson probably falls somewhere in between.
It’s true. There are a couple little tricks you’ll have to pick up before you have your promoted pins strategy up and running and actually delivering real-world results.
But for the most part, we think you’ll find the process actually dovetails pretty nicely with what you’re already familiar with. AdWords is an established platform, and promoted pins is an offshoot of that. You were always going to have to become savvy with local marketing to survive and thrive. It was inevitable. And, thankfully, Google has made it pretty easy to get started.