As the go-to navigation tool, Google Maps helps travelers get around a new destination by providing the fastest and easiest routes. But it also acts as a trip planner because they can quickly check out places to stay, see, and eat, as well as things to do. Most of the time, Google Maps is on the traveler’s path to purchase.
In other words, showing up in Google Maps could lead to more reservations. No matter how a traveler prefers to book — online, in-person, or over the phone — discovering your tour and activity business on Google Maps means they have options available as the next step. Because from there, they can visit your website, call, message, or get directions to your ticket office.
So if you don’t have a Google Maps marketing strategy yet, now is the time to start one.
Why Google Maps marketing matters today
Along with boosting your brand visibility, Google Maps marketing has other benefits. Now that Google has entered the tours and activities space, operators can start accepting bookings and payments through Reserve with Google. More specifically, Google Search, Google Maps, and Google Voice Search.
Considering Reserve with Google is currently commission-free, Google Maps shows massive potential as a new sales channel. Travelers using the web mapping service can make a booking without navigating elsewhere. Fewer steps in the booking journey — from research to purchase — ensures a higher conversion rate, and better guest experience, at no extra cost on your side.
But there’s more. Recently, Google announced a revamp of Google Trips — Google.com/travel — which is a landing page for planning and organizing itineraries that’ll replace the Google Trips app. At this time, it’s where travelers can find travel information, edit flight and hotel reservations, and see they’re related searches and saved places.
What does this have to do with Google Maps marketing, and why does it matter to tour and activity operators? Because Google will be adding viewed and saved things to do, and rolling out Trip features to Google Maps. Eventually, Google Trips, Google Search, and Google Maps will seamlessly work together to simplify travel planning from start to finish.
Plus, if travelers can manage flight and hotel reservations on Google Trips, therein lies the possibility that one day, they’ll be able to do the same for tour and activity bookings. That said, it’s going to be interesting to see whether or not, and how Reserve with Google will tie into this new service.
Regardless, Google Maps plays a prominent role in both Google Trips and Reserve with Google. By understanding Google Maps functionality and how travelers use the platform, you can work towards a higher ranking, and successfully position yourself for future opportunities within Google — whatever that may be.
How travelers use Google Maps as a trip planner
There are plenty of ways travelers use Google Maps other than downloading as an offline reference for navigating while in-destination. Thanks to the search box, travelers get local search results by entering what they want to do. Since many travelers wait to book experiences until arrival, this allows them to check what’s nearby in Google Maps first.
And usually, the booking order goes flights, accommodation, and then tours and activities. So when it’s time to complete an itinerary, travelers see which operators are easy to get to from where they’re staying. At the same time, to avoid backtracking from one place to the next, they plan their day-to-day activities according to specific areas.
For example, one day, they might do everything downtown, and the next, whatever is close to the beach. Luckily with Google Maps, it’s easy to plot this out. All they have to do is add stops between the start and end point. So if you’re in a convenient location, you might just make it on their route.
Travelers also use Google Maps to create a bucket list. Anything they discover while searching, they save as a Favourite, Want to go, or Starred place. If traveling with a group, they add options to a shortlist for members to vote on. And finally, they even follow a business for regular updates about promotions and more.
What’s most interesting; however, is that Google Maps remembers and stores every route. So at the end of the trip, if travelers want to look back at their adventures, they can go to their timeline for the map breakdown — including stops, photos, and distance traveled. This feature is especially useful for giving recommendations to others planning to visit.
Since they can do all of the above on any device, there are many micro-moments where travelers might discover your products, and make a booking. Just so long as your local listing is easy to find and compelling — that’s where Google Maps marketing comes into play.
How to rank higher on Google Maps
Google Maps marketing is all about local SEO (search engine optimization) — which is similar to general SEO, except that rankings are more location based. Put another way; because search queries have local intent, the list of results include what’s specifically in the area.
So, travelers often pair local keywords — like Near Me or the location itself — with what they want to do. Some examples include kayaking tours near me, best axe throwing Boston, or San Diego surf rental. And if they’re already in-destination, they only have to enter the activity because Google Maps will automatically populate results based on where they are.
As you can see, proximity is one of the ranking factors in Google Maps. But it’s not the only one. Google Maps also considers relevance, matches the search term, and prominence, the popularity of the business. Of course, that doesn’t even matter unless you have a Google My Business listing first.
What’s a Google My Business listing? It’s an online profile that gives viewers a preview of your tour and activity business on Google Search and Google Maps. All in one place, they can see photos, contact information, reviews, and your offerings. As I mentioned, Reserve with Google now lets them make a booking, too.
Altogether, with a verified one, you can make it easy for travelers to find you on Google Maps, learn about your business, and become a guest. So here’s how to optimize your Google My Business listing for a higher ranking to ensure that happens frequently:
Steps to optimize your Google My Business listing
- Claim a Google My Business listing: It’s free, and simple to do.
- Give your NAP (name, address, and phone number): For a higher ranking, this information must be consistent with what’s on your website, and other local listing sites.
- Verify your business listing: Most of the time, you have to submit a code you receive in the mail. But if you’re eligible, you can also verify by phone or email.
- Enter the rest of your business information: This includes your website URL and a description with local and target keywords. Just remember, Google penalizes keyword stuffing. So work them in naturally.
- Choose a category: You want to be as specific as possible. For reference, check out this list of GMB categories, and pick the most suitable one. Canoe & Kayak rental service and tour operator are a couple of examples.
- Add interesting attributes: Think of your frequently asked questions (FAQ) — like if you offer a free shuttle service, or whether you hire predominantly local guides. Put down anything that travelers want to know, and makes your business stand out. Some attributes can even become badges on mobile.
- Upload a profile photo, cover photo, and video: Local listings with photos perform much better than those without ones. Take this opportunity to showcase your experiences by using high-quality images, and even encouraging your guests to upload a few of their own.
- Ask your guests for Google Reviews: Positive Google ratings and reviews lead to more bookings, but they also help with the prominence ranking factor. The more reviews, the better. You can ask for reviews in-person, or in an automated thank-you email. For the latter, just find your business in Google Maps, click on the menu, then Share or embed map, copy the link and paste in the email template.
- Activate the message feature: Some travelers prefer to send a message over a phone call. Make it easy for them to do so. Similar to responding to reviews, back and forth messages helps improve customer interaction.
- Share posts on your listing: You can create a post on Google for tour promotions or discounts, blog articles, or special events. Keep in mind that posts expire within seven days, so you’ve got to be timely with them.
- Make your products bookable: You just need Reserve with Google and an online booking system.