(This may seem a lame and OTT post, but y’know what? It’s my blog and I can write what I want and I don’t care la-la-la I’m not listening to you…)
Working in SEO and PPC, a lot of what I do revolves around Google. Be that as it may, I’m usually the first to have a moan about them, as anyone who’s ever spent five minutes reading my tweets can most likely attest to. Usually it’s because I just get annoyed that their Help sections aren’t helpful or their UX isn’t up to scratch, and business owners are the ones who end up suffering as a result.
But let’s face it. Where would we be without Google? How handy is Gmail? And when you’re figuring out where to go, how much do you rely on Google Maps?
Doing a lot of ‘Local SEO’ for clients, i.e. the process of optimising a Google My Business listing (formerly/also known as Google Places, Google+ Local and about 50 other things…), I recently had to sort out a fundamental issue with Google Maps causing one of my clients a bit of grief. Google were adamant that their address – let’s say “101 High Street” – was 100 yards down the road and on the other side of the road, so they thought that our map marker/pin location suggestion (the actual location) was inaccurate. The only way to fix it was to delve into Google Map Maker and make the change myself. Once it was done, they started to rank really well not long after.
I’d never really touched Map Maker before that, and to be honest, I didn’t realise that Google took user data into such strong consideration. I made a few Local SEO-related tweaks to help out a client, but nothing ‘proper’, if you get me.
…Until I noticed some woods near my house were missing a footpath…
The footpath headed north, south and east, but didn’t connect west. So I figured out how to ‘draw’ a path in Map Maker and connected the footpaths to the bottom of one of the nearby cul-de-sacs. A day or two later, I checked to see if my change had been approved, but it was still awaiting moderation. Then I completely forgot about it. Until…
A few weeks later, I was looking after my baby boy one Saturday and walked through the woods to a nearby coffee shop. From there I had to visit my mother-in-law’s house – a 20-minute walk away – and so I put the walking directions on my phone, just to double-check the route…
It was at that point that I realised: I was walking the route affected by my change! If I hadn’t have made the change, it would’ve suggested a longer route (like the suggested route at the bottom of the above screenshot, which is 5 minutes longer). You’ll notice the red oval in the above screenshot, highlighting my edit.
I know the area well anyway and already knew about the footpath (hence why I wanted to add it when I noticed it was missing), but it’s good to know that if someone wasn’t very familiar with the area, I might have helped them to find a shortcut through the woods to wherever they’d be heading.
It may not seem like that much of a big deal, but it left me with a warm, satisfying feeling, knowing that it’d make a bit of a difference – a slight amendment and improvement to Google Maps.
[Google Map pin badges image credit – bluman]