Google Maps has been overhauled (16 July 2013) in a way that focuses more intuitively on discovering categories of what you want to do - offering a richer and more engaging experience than ever before.
Version 2.0 could prove to be real competition for Yelp and other sites like it due to its built-in discovery and review features, particularly as it saves users the need to switch between apps. It now includes simple 5-star ratings and expert Zagat content.
'Explore' is a new way to browse and discover popular local places to eat, drink, shop, play and sleep. This feature incorporates any places users have ever starred or reviewed on Google into the information displayed in Explore when you start searching a map. In addition, any users on Google+ will see a category called "From your circles" which will allow them to narrow down search results on a map to show places your friends have visited or reviewed.
So how do you ensure that your business makes the most of the new Google Maps as part of your web marketing plans?
Google Places already offers a range of free features that enable your business to:
Be found on Google Search, Maps, Google+, and mobile devices
Give prospective customers the right information about your business
Understand customer feedback and respond to reviews
All of these seemlessly plug in to Google Maps and, once you have a Places for Business listing, you can simply advertise your products or services using AdWords Express and Google Offers.
Google Offers is a way for local businesses and brand-name stores to offer discounts on the products and services their customers want. Users can save an offer to their account to redeem later or use it right away.
With 1m+ businesses & brand pages and 500m users already Google+, Google's own competitor to Facebook, is gaining serious traction and these updates to Google Maps will no doubt increase uptake. By plugging your business into Google+, not only will you be able to take advantage of its Google Maps integration, but also share content and even host a Hangout On Air, allowing you to live-stream and record your video call so the whole world can watch!