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Google maps inside shopping centres, using social media

Wednesday, 13 March 2013 | By Patrick Stafford

Google is rolling out a major update to Street View in Australia today, with the search giant now displaying photos inside shopping centres and other buildings, giving local businesses a chance to boost their rankings.


SEO experts say while the indoor maps don't actually provide any new benefit, SMEs need to make sure they're updating their associated accounts in Google Places as often as possible. Any person who searches for your business through the indoor maps will see all that detail, and be encouraged to stick around.


"If you get people to leave good reviews on Google+ or Google Places, that's another ranking signal," says StewArt Media chief executive Jim Stewart.


Although the indoor maps have been available in several other countries for quite a while, this is the first time they've arrived in Australia. Several Westfield, Stockland and Centro floors have been included, along with sports stadiums and even city landmarks, like Melbourne's Flinders Street Station.


A few IKEA stores have also been given the Google treatment.


The expansion to Google Maps – which is available on Android phones – allows you to figure out where you are in a particular location, and then helps you find your way.


"In some locations, you'll even be able to use the familiar 'blue dot' icon that indicates your approximate location – even when you're inside," a spokesperson for Google said in a blog post today.


"This means that when you move up or down a level in a building with multiple floors, the map will automatically update to display which floor you're on."


The indoor maps expansion is part of Google's effort to expand Street View technology to more locations. But Stewart says while the indoor expansion isn't so much a revolution of the maps system it does represent a good opportunity for retailers caught by the search giant's camera.


Shops in these centres need to start thinking about how they appear on Google Places, he says. With the indoor maps details available on Android devices, it would be more likely consumers would search for stores using a smartphone – and if businesses don't have data available, users won't have any motivation to check them out.


"The stores should make sure they've got a Google Places page set up, and they should encourage happy customers to leave a review," he says.


"You obviously don't want to break terms of service by offering some sort of financial reward for that, but a lot of businesses still don't have this Google Places stuff set up."


Stewart says the updates are crucial for all businesses, and not just those caught by the Street View camera. The more reviews left for a business on its Google+ or Google Places page, the better ranking it may receive.


"You should put up photographs, and if you've got videos, put them up as well. You can add posts on a regular basis, and make them seem nice. All of it combines to help you."


Google has had more of its share of trouble with Street View due to users' privacy concerns. The latest case has seen the search giant ordered to pay out $7 million for collecting personal data without authorisation.


This story first appeared on SmartCompany.