At last week’s Google I/O developer conference, Google presented a recently redesigned Google maps. Still in Beta, the new version is available by invitation only to a select few. Since the new design is still in such early stages there a bound to be some changes before the revamp is finalized.
The map will now be full screen with a small search window in the upper left corner. In their new streamlined interface, Google has removed the column that previously ran down the left-hand side of the screen, which contained local business listings. Colors are a little different, streets will be white instead of yellow, and location icons will be red dots or numbered squares, instead of the familiar teardrop shape. The teardrop is not gone for good. When your mouse rolls over a business location, and information card appears with basic details about that company. Street view stills of local businesses and points of interest show up on the bottom of the screen.
Google Maps has changed more than just its looks. Clicking on a location in Google Maps will display reviews, similar locations nearby, and in some instances interior maps or photographs of the business. Since Google cannot officially take pictures at all locations, they rely on user-produced content, and photos supplied by the business itself. (For more information on Google Business Photos click here)
With the new Google Maps, users have the option to filter search results by Google+ recommendations or review-based rankings. Google has also increased the importance of Google+ by personalizing all maps. When a user searches for, say, restaurants, Google Maps will show places that are similar to the user’s past searches and eateries recommended and by reviewed Google+ acquaintances.
Many of these changes will prove troublesome for small businesses without a strong online presence. If they only have a handful of reviews or if they have no Google+ account, they will not rank well (or at all), in Google Maps searches.
Since the crux of location-based services is location, those businesses with a service area rather than a storefront may struggle with the new Google Maps. Small business can counteract these changes by bolstering their social media presence and investing in reputation management services.