If you live in Kansas City, Bakersfield, Hackensack or a long list of other towns, you may have spotted an SUV driving around recently with “Apple Maps” on the door and tricked out like the camera vans that take the Street View images for Google Maps.
Company watchers speculate that Apple may have stepped up street photography because it plans to roll out a major challenge to Google Maps later this year with the launch of iOS 10, the next-gen version of the operating system for iPhone and iPad.
True rumors or false, Apple is pretty clearly stalking Google in local search—and you need to think about positioning your business for Apple Search.
Apple is already a major player in mobile, local search. Half the smart phones in use are Apple’s and 60% of those phone owners use Apple Maps, built in to the phones. The company claims that its maps get 3.5 times more searches than its un-named closest competitor, which would have to be Google.
Now Apple is pioneering a new model for local search, different from Google in some important ways. The last operating system update, iOS 9, introduced search not just across the web but also mobile apps (even if they aren’t installed on the phone). So, for instance, a friend could tweet you a link to a restaurant from Foursquare and you could view the restaurant listing in the Foursquare app on your phone and make a dinner reservation—before, the link could only take you to the web. For people who run their lives on their phones with apps, this is big.
iOS 9 also enables Apple phone users to retrieve Apple’s local search results from Safari (the company’s web browser), via Siri (the talking “personal assistant”) or Spotlight, the phone’s internal search engine. And the customized results pull from your apps, your social media accounts, the web, even your email, with some extra smartening applied from what Apple has learned about your interaction with the phone. Put another way, a user’s engagement with these various tools determines search results.
Contrast this to Google’s traditional model of ranking sites based on inbound links. Of course, the search giant is hardly standing still. Google Now, its challenge to Siri, also searches apps.
OK, enough Clash of the Titans stuff. What do you need to do to get found in Apple Search?
Here are some suggestions, with a hat tip to local search consultant and Apple authority Andrew Shotland from AppleMapsMarketing.com:
- Claim your business and check the profile information on Apple Maps Connect, the self-service portal for business listings.
- Apple scans for business information on authoritative listings sites on the Web (like Acxiom or Yelp) so you want to engage a reputation or listings management service that keeps those sites updated.
- Like Google, an Apple robot crawls your website so do a thorough job on standard search engine optimization (SEO). For instance, make address and contact information easy for the bot to find by using the Schema.org standards.
- Get “user generated content”—reviews or testimonials—on your site, as those seem to boost Apple search rankings, Shotland believes.
- And finally, since Apple looks for user engagement via smartphone apps, you should be active on email marketing, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media, and local-focus apps like Yelp. On your website, make sure the pages that get the most engagement are also the ones where you focus your high-value keywords—and, of course, make your website mobile friendly.