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Google aligns Maps updates with new social, mobile marketing opportunities

Google has updated its Google Maps mobile application to not only add more navigational tools and features, but also better position the service for marketers to bolster their location-based marketing efforts.

The updates are rolling out across the Google Maps Android app with the iPhone and iPad versions to follow soon, per Google. The app now allows users to explore new places with new search and navigation features.

?The newly revised Google Maps will be another push, a fairly large push, for brands to focus on their mobile strategies ensuring that when their brand is reviewed by a consumer and searched via Google there is a solid mobile solution in place to drive traffic,? said Marci Troutman, CEO of SiteMinis, Atlanta.

?This will allow consumers to get more of what they need from Google without needing to enhance their searches with other options,? she said. ?Given the global impact that Google has on consumers to choose a brand based on search, these new advances only solidify the Google strategy to ensure that companies are utilizing the Google suite of products to gain ?eyeballs on their brand.'"

Ms. Troutman is not affiliated with Google. She commented based on her expertise on the subject.

Google did not meet press deadline.

Enhanced Navigation
One new feature lets users discover new places by tapping on the search box. Without typing anything, cards will pop up that show nearby restaurants, bars and more.

The app also shows traffic updates and reports any problems during a user?s travel route. While on the road, Google Maps will alert users if there are better paths to take.

Google also added a rating system that lets users rate places such as restaurants and cafes out of five stars. The Zagat badge of excellence and curated lists have also been integrated into the system, so users can view an expert?s opinion as well.

Google wants a bigger piece of the mobile recommendation pie, and the Zagat integration is a key step in how the company plans to make a name for itself in the local space.

Additionally, instead of the offline maps feature that the Android previously had, users can now enter ?OK Maps? into the search box when viewing the area that they want to save for later.

Google will also remove Latitude and check-ins from the app on Aug. 9. Sharing and check-in capabilities will be available on Google+ instead, pointing to the need from Google to build up its social media platform.

Focusing on Google+ for check-ins and sharing might also be effective for marketers looking to marry their social media and mobile efforts together. It could give brands an additional incentive to have a Google+ presence.

Mobile offers
Additionally, Google Maps has been updated to include offers that consumers can save and redeem when they visit a store.

When users search for a restaurant or store, they will see a blue tag icon near the business name or next to its pin on the map if there is an offer available.

Users can swipe the place info sheet up for more information. If they tap on the offer, they can use it immediately or save it to their Google account for later.

Google currently provides offers to places such as Macy?s, Michaels and Toys ?R? Us.

Google began providing offers via mobile earlier this year to break through the local deals space (see story).

Even though Google claims to already have the most widely used mapping tools in mobile, it is constantly improving its service.

In June, the company bought the social mapping service Waze in a $1.03 billion deal (see story).

Since Google has such a large user base, it benefits marketers to jump in with Google Offers to tap into the company?s audience.

?Google is positioned to be a leader in location-based marketing,? Ms. Troutman said.

?The consumers are ready to engage as long as it isn?t too invasive,? she said. ?The next step is to get the brands on board with a solid mobile strategy to allow the engagement through Google to be the best in class.?

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York