Few years ago we published an article about how to add a hotel to Google Maps and it is still popular and gets hit in the search results by many people. But things have changed a lot, or more precisely, Google has changed things dramatically. Therefore, we are publishing more recent and actual information about the matter.
Google Maps - is it still there?
Yes, it is. Google Maps is an application that lets people display a map of any part of the world and find a place on, see what is nearby, mark their own location and so on. Whether your hotel will appear on the map or not depends on your accurate listing and business verification. One good thing about connecting your hotel to Google Maps is that the application is optimised for any device and your guests will be able to immediately browse your location or get direction to your property right from the confirmation letter you send them via Clock PMS, using their mobile phones.
To get your hotel on Google Maps, you have to create a Google account, claim your business and complete the verification process. Previously this was done in the platform called Google Places for Business. After the verification, businesses appeared on the map with their address, working hours and even user ratings.
Where did Google Places go?
Last year, Google decided to merge the two platforms - Google Places and Google+ Business in a common one - Google My Business. The new option lets businesses manage their appearance on Google Maps from the same place they manage their social presence in terms of followers, shared photos, videos and much more. In other words, using Google My Business and creating a page in Google+ Local now results in a profile that is the single place to update your address, working hours, to encourage your customers to rate your business, making this ratings visible on Google Maps alongside with your other data, to enable them to find driving direction to your exact location. In the same place you share your updates and any local information you want to make available to your followers and interact with them. So, Google Places is now integrated with Google My Business under the name Google+ Local.
OK now, what exactly is Google+ Local and how to get my hotel on it?
Google+ Local is a free platform provided by Google that helps local businesses increase their online visibility. It can be described as a business directory and a social platform in one. Local business listings are displayed when someone uses Google to search for something and the search has local intent, e.g. "hotels in London". The Google+ Local pages appear on the result page; usually there are 7 of them, that normally show up above the organic results. Here is how the result page for search "hotels in London" looks like:
As you see, the page displays a lot of information about the hotel: address, contact data, ratings, links to the website and Google+ page. On holding the mouse over one of the results, its' details expand even more in the right part of the screen, also offering driving direction to the property. So, to cut the long story short, every hotel should consider creating their Google+ Local page to be competitive online.
How to get listed on Google+ Local and see my hotel appear on Maps and in local searches?
Case 1: You do not have neither a Google + Business Page, nor a previous Google Places page.
- Go to https://www.google.com/local/add . You will have to login with a current Google account (e.g., Gmail, Analytics) or create a new one. Once signed in, you will see a screen where Google invites you to create your Google My Business Page. Click on "Get your page" and pick Shop Front from the three options.
- Type in your address, company name or phone to find your business. It still could be that Google has created a page for your hotel based on information shared about you by third party websites. If so, pick your business from the list and claim it. If not, or if you are not happy with what you see, click on the last option that allows you to fill in your details.
- In the new window fill in your data. Make sure it is absolutely accurate and that you have chosen the right category before you submit. You won't be able to change this information before you have finalised the verification process or you will have to start the procedure from the beginning.
- Submit your data. The page will prompt you to confirm that you are authorised to manage this business and informs you that a Google+ page will be created for it. After your confirmation you will see a preview of the postcard that will deliver the verification code for your hotel's new Google+ Local Page.
- When you receive the postcard, you will have to follow the enclosed instructions to finalise the process. Generally, there is a PIN code that you have to return to Google. When finished, a check sign will appear next to the name of your business in your Business page. That's it - your hotel is now on Google My Business where all your stuff is gathered in one place - location, reviews, circles, followers, reviews and more. Your data will appear in Google Maps, in Search and Google Plus.
- You also have your Google+ Business page and though part of it won't be visible until you verify your business, you can already start filling in the data - add photos, videos, virtual tour, working hours, attractive description. You can also start posting your engaging updates and build your audience.
Case 2: You already have a Google+ Business page but it has never been connected to Google Maps. If this is your case, then you will have to do the following:
- Create a new, separate page for your hotel, following the above guidelines. You must be logged in with the same Google account that is assigned as owner of the existing page.
- When you have your new local page verified, sign in to Google+, select Pages from the menu and choose to manage the new local page. From the Dashboard choose "Settings" and scroll down to the profile section. Click on "Connect a different page". Pick the page you want to connect to Google Maps in the dialog, click Next and see the changes that will be made to the new page and to the old local page.
After the merge, the new page of your hotel will keep its data, followers and posts, but won't show the owner's replies to reviews. You might also lose existing AdWords campaigns associated with the old page. The local page you created for the merge will continue to exist under the name "Backup of……", will be still visible on Google but won't appear on Google Maps neither display reviews. It will only keep its followers if any, managers and posts. You can also delete this page. Google say they "may continue to show information about that business on Google, including marking the business as closed, moved, or open, depending on the information we have about the business."
Important! When you connect a business page to Google Maps, in fact, a new page is created. If your old business page has had a custom URL, it can NOT be transferred to the new page.
A few more aspects of your Google My Business presence
One of the interesting facts about Google is that it starts to personalise the search results based on the person's Google+ connections. This means that if someone has your hotel in their circles and initiates a search with local intent and related to your business, you are more likely to appear higher in their results than in the results of someone who is not connected to you in Google+. And to get more followers, you can connect your new Google+ Business page to the self service portal in Clock PMS.
Positive reviews on your Google + business page may appear to be as important as your TripAdvisor rankings in near future. Remember, for better or worse, Google is dictating the Internet space and Google Plus is where they have set to be home for businesses. Now when your Google+ ratings will be more visible in the search result, your reputation on Google+ may be the unexpected booster of your sales and conversions.
Consider your Google+ Business page as the landing page for many travellers who will see you in Local search. Use the full capabilities of this platform by adding photos, videos, reviews, interesting posts and keyword-rich description and content. This will strongly improve your visibility and acceptance. Recently, Google plus introduced also polls, (while Facebook suspended the service) - you can use them to engage your followers in real conversation and show them their opinion matters to you.
Google Pigeon and your local rankings
If you are responsible for the SEO of a hotel, you sure are familiar with Google Pigeon - the algorithm update that changed the game for so many local businesses. It has had some crazy effects on the local search results and the rankings are still fluctuating, keeping hotel SEO specialists on alert. First, major directories with ranking signals much stronger than the ones of a hotel website could be, benefited strongly from the new update. Therefore, you could revise your listings in local directories as well and update them if necessary. Make a search for hotels in your area to see which directories rank high and make sure your business is listed there. Further, provide local content on your website and Google+ page to give the search engine more reasons to bring your business higher in SERP.
In conclusion, connecting your hotel to Google Maps now means you have to become the owner of a Google+ Business page. And keeping this page empty is not a good idea. On the other hand, not being connected to Google Maps becomes probably even worse. While your job as hotelier is already complex, managing several social accounts adds pressure to you and your staff but it also improves your visibility online. And in the era of Internet, you should not miss this opportunities to get more direct business and take over more bookings from OTAs. We, at Clock Software do our best to provide you with tools to accomplish these tasks. Hopefully, this article will also be of help.