Google's new "Explore" feature for Maps directs consumers to local businesses, but it could require more SEO work for brands.

You first need people to discover your business online before you can qualify them as leads. Selling out of brick-and-mortar locations requires a local SEO strategy. An entirely different ballgame than general SEO, local campaigns have to put brands on Maps and in local carousels in addition to competing for geo-specific search terms.

However, if Google’s new “Explore” feature for Maps takes off with consumers, a local SEO strategy might also entail:

  • Grooming your Google+ profile
  • Inviting customer reviews
  • Updating sites with product and service information
  • Making sure the in-store experience aligns with expectations set online

Here’s how it works: Explore users will get information about the businesses around them (if they’re searching for companies in the area) or listings for a city or neighborhood they want to scope out. Based on the distance parameters, time of day and weather, the program guides them toward local businesses they may want to patronize. Google’s announcement adds that users will get more detailed information if they’re logged in, and can continually refine the results they receive by “confirming” arrival at suggested destinations.

Will explore act as a digital breadcrumb trail, leading buyers to your business?

Around 35 percent of people who look at local business reviews online will buy within a day, if not within a matter of hours

There are a couple of important takeaways for marketers who need to get connect the dots between web leads and sales.

One is that this could help new patrons discover businesses in the first place by adding another variable to local SEO results – it could put companies in front of people who are ready to buy. (Yelp’s data suggests that around 35 percent of people who look at local business reviews online will buy within a day, if not within a matter of hours.)

… Or force companies to beef up their web marketing

Google Maps Explore picsAnother outcome is that customers looking for local businesses online might be directed toward companies that provide Google with a full snapshot of their operations through Google+ profiles (and possibly their website content).

Explore may only be able to determine if a business is within a consumers’ vicinity and open at a given time if that company has listed its location and hours of operation online. Plus, customers are probably more likely to visit a business that posts a lot of pictures of products and has positive reviews, so they know what to expect beforehand.

Basically, a world where people discover local businesses through programs like Explore would force marketers to leave no digital stone unturned with their data and reputation, but that’s what content creation is all about in the first place. Considering innovations like Google Glass, this future may not be that far off.

What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.