Every leisure enterprise or tourism organization should put itself in the driver’s seat to help steer (bad pun intended) visitors their way. Simply stated: put yourself on the map. Take the wheel to make sure your business or agency is listed, listed properly and a map marker plotted in the correct location on all the major online maps.
The most-utilized map service providers are:
- Apple Maps (defaults on iPhones)
- Google Maps (also a default on Android phones)
- Bing Maps (Microsoft)
- HERE Maps (Yahoo and Uber)
- OpenStreetMap (DuckDuckGo.com search engine and others)
- MapBox (used by Lonely Planet, National Geographic, Snapchat, United Airlines, The Weather Channel)
- MapQuest (owned by Verizon Media)
- WAZE (a social media traffic sharing app)
- Not as popular but a brand name mapmaker none-the-less … Rand McNally
One of the best ways to prioritize which map to tackle first is to consider major online travel planning and review sites:
- Yelp uses Google Maps
- TripAdvisor uses OpenStreetMap
- Google My Business uses Google maps
There are numerous offline travel map apps that can be downloaded and used without the benefit of Wi-Fi access. Perhaps those are best left to be added to the to-do list for a summer intern.
How to Fix a Map Error
So how do you fix a map issue? Within every U.S. county, typically the planning department is responsible for GPS (global positioning system) mapping.
One of our downtown destination clients maintains a list of attractions, restaurants, bar and lounges, and shops on its website. We noticed that individual business addresses that were recently added featured street names with NW or SW. Previously, the streets were listed as North, South, East or West as this area of the city is on an east-west grid pattern. We reached out to the local planning department and shared this oddity and within a short period of time the street directional names reverted back. However, planning departments don’t control all the elements that display on a map.
Here is a helpful link that will give you immediate access to the most-popular map providers so you can quickly request an update:
Take Control of Your Destination’s Visibility
For DMOs, we would encourage you take the lead in auditing Yelp, TripAdvisor and Google My Business at a macro level. How many out-of-business restaurants are still appearing in, for instance, Yelp’s listings? Report them as closed. Hey, why not ask that the information be permanently removed? Less data should surely display more quickly, right? You’ll want to pay attention to the ones at the very end of the list. Those are most likely to no longer be in existence or correct. Are all the hotels on TripAdvisor displaying the current names?
Check to see if a business is maximizing their listing with photos and other key information. Perhaps it’s time to hold a “how to” session to explain to your local hospitality industry how to update online listings. If you hold your event where Wi-Fi is ready available and can handle a number of people at one time using the service, then you might be able to get everyone’s listing updated during this session or during a series of sessions. Tell industry members in advance what they should bring such as a laptop and a quality digital (horizontal) photo at 300 dpi. Perhaps you have software that would allow you to help resize the image before uploading.
Ask each person to create or maintain an excel file with all the website listings they’ve updated (web address), email address tied to the account, passwords, date of the updates and then to share this excel file with one other person in their office. As we say, “Just in case someone gets hit by a bus … ”
I hear this often, “I reached out to Yelp or TripAdvisor’s customer service and no one got back with me.” Here’s a trick. Call or use the phone number or contact us form tied to advertising. Someone in advertising will always respond and then can get you into their system to make a correction. Personally, I’m still waiting for a callback from a TripAdvisor inquiry from years ago.
Smaller businesses are less likely to even know they can claim their listing and may not attend a “how to” session. A DMO could assume the role of listing claimant. The end goal is to greatly improve the accuracy of the map content for your destination. Quite often if the business has claimed it, they’ve lost their login information years ago. Reach out to them; they may be quite happy for you to bring their listing up-to-date. Having an email trail with his or her approval to take over the listing will come in handy later. It is possible to claim a business listing that is already claimed.
I also find it’s best to create an email address for these types of projects that is not tied to a specific name but rather to an office function, such as PR_MapFixes@visitDMO.com. It will outlast many changes in personnel.
Timing is everything. I’ve been amazed by a top-rated tourist (state) DMO that sends its annual reminder to update industry listings during the height of season when no one has any spare time. Schedule these types of reminders during the slow season when your industry is better able to respond. This shouldn’t be a one and done email either. Send out one or two follow-ups to help give everyone the opportunity to succeed.
If you are a leisure activity, make time now to add a tickler to your own calendar. Review your listings at minimum annually before your busy season to make sure they are accurate and with fresh photos and copy.
If you want to drive more visitors, make sure your online planning tools are accurate.