It's a bald-faced sales pitch, for sure. Here is this map publishing platform pitching the idea of the importance of bespoke maps on company websites.
Not just saying that good maps are important. They're saying that perhaps after SEO, responsive design and user experience and interface, mapping is the most critical aspect of a website. Ridiculous? Yet there's something behind the argument.
If your small retail operation with brick-and-mortar locations decides to plug into your website readily available search engine maps — like Google’s — it could be self-defeating.
Too Much Information
"Businesses that rely on readily available search engine maps are, in effect, funneling their customers outward into the larger marketplace, where online/embedded maps expose them to competitors, similar businesses and possibly less-than-positive consumer reviews," said Jack Gonzalez, CEO of the map publishing platform in question, MapJam.
Instead, he's calling for business owners and marketers to consider maps a valuable content piece, and like other pieces of content, he said, businesses should own their maps.
To illustrate the value, he recalls a client who owned a health club whose website maps received one-third of all visitor clicks. The gym owner tried the search engine maps himself, and he realized that those clicks were taking potential customers to negative comments about his gym, unbefitting the image he was hoping to convey.
"Owning the map is another way of making sure customers, clients and prospects receive information that’s been created and approved by the business," goes Gonzalez’s logic.
Customized maps, such as those created by Gonzalez's tool, allow marketers and web editors to not just direct customers to their physical locations (and not to competitors'); they serve as a branding canvas. Gonzalez recommends inserting images and videos into maps, promotions, logos and anything else to make that map yours.
Of course, for businesses looking to provide presence for their brick-and-mortar stores on their websites, other options are at their disposal.
Nitin Urdhwareshe, head of the user experience practice at software and technology firm Persistent Systems, suggests that businesses could feature a "drive now" link for mobile users, or search functionality based on the user's ZIP code or city location. Of course, another feature that Urdhwareshe recommends — a "store near you" link based on the user's location — would involve a nice map directing visitors to the nearest physical storefront.
Yet for these maps or any map used by Persistent's customers — current and past (hundreds of them Fortune 1000-sized organizations) — Urdhwareshe sees a common thread.
"They are all using Google Maps," he said.
We suppose they just haven't realized they need to "own" their maps. So, have you owned your maps yet?
Title image by Steve Richey