UPDATE (March 31, 2015): Apple Maps Connect has been expanded to now include Canada, France, and Germany. The service also has new language options, French and German, to correspond with the regional expansion.
Apple is after a big piece of the mobile maps pie. The tech giant is a key player in the software world, but is infamous for the bugs that surfaced in 2012’s release of Apple Maps. Now, Apple is ringing in the new year with a sleek new Maps interface which allows businesses to take self-serve listing control – but are there still glitches present in the interface? Can Apple recover its mapping reputation and be taken seriously in light of the highly-regarded Google Maps? Here, we’ll take a look at what Apple Maps Connect means for the mobile world and businesses in 2015.
What can Apple Maps Connect do for businesses?
Businesses, particularly small businesses, can take control over their listing in mobile maps applications. Apple Maps Connect is intended for smaller entrepreneurs (agencies aren’t permitted to submit on behalf of their clients), with a self-serve model for proprietors to enter their own information. Search Engine Land has a comprehensive how-to for adding content directly into Apple Maps. Once entered, this information is verified by Apple via telephone.
Apple Maps Connect allows businesses to capitalize on search traffic via local map searches — even if your business doesn’t currently utilize a mobile website, a claimed listing in map applications can capture users searching local areas on their smartphones. In Apple Maps Connect, it’s possible to add links to your website, social media handles, and Yelp reviews in your map listing.
Currently, it’s free to list your business. However, it’s important to note that Apple Maps Connect has not rolled out worldwide; the software is exclusive to the US for now.
Are additional programs/software associated?
Any user using a smartphone with Apple Maps running will be able to see the listing. Additionally, Apple asks businesses using Apple Maps Connect to sign up for iBeacon installations, although it’s unknown if everyone is accepted into the program due to “overwhelming response” in applicants. When running, the app will alert users via smartphone about their proximity to iBeacon locations (an example given by Apple is locating proximity to a display or checkout counter in a retail store). iBeacon can also push special offer alerts to smartphones when passing the store.
As long as there are no software glitches, it seems that Apple Maps and iBeacon will work well in tandem with one another: helping users find not only store location, hours, reviews, etc. but notifications for deals and directions which can improve user experience.
Do iOS issues still persist with Apple Maps?
Preceding the release of iOS 8, Apple’s announcements suggested fixes for issues and improved data — however, not all of these updates were rolled out. Public transit directions are still lacking full integration with the Apple Maps interface, as are more indoor mapping features.
Although Apple Maps now contains a “report a problem” option with a follow-up email, insiders like TechCrunch are speculating that improved Map functionalities are on hold until the next major iOs update, possibly due to personnel issues within the Maps department at Apple.
Could Apple Maps Connect be a serious contender against Google Maps?
While Apple vies for its place in the mapping world, Google Maps continues to improve its iOS offering. Google already provides streamlined transit directions and re-routing for optimal quickness. They also offer the option for businesses to claim their Google Business Listing. Similarly, links to reviews and websites are integrated for each listing, although links to social profiles are not currently permitted.
This listing is tied to the business’s Google+ page, which functions both as a social media outlet and can help increase search engine ranking with personalization. While Apple Maps Connect integrates with iBeacon, iBeacon benefits real-world user experience more than it does online results. However, this is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. Each associated functionality has its own benefits.
Google differs in that address verification is not performed in real-time – unless you’ve verified your business with Webmaster Tools, you must wait for a postcard to be delivered to your address. This could be seen as a time hindrance to some.
Our recommendation: It is important to claim your business listing in Yelp as Apple uses this as a signal to pull in information about your business. By having complete information on Yelp, it is assumed that your business will rank better in Apple Maps Connect for non-branded searches related to your business.
Ultimately, though, the success of Apple Maps Connect for businesses is dependent on how many people will use the software regularly. Right now, promotion for Apple Maps Connect is quiet, with lack of public transit integration and a still-shaky reputation leading Google Maps to still hold reigns on the majority. However, after Apple rolls out more significant updates and can highlight some success stories from small businesses using Apple Maps Connect, perhaps more users will be enticed to make the switch. In addition sales of the iPhone 6 have been phenomenal and Apple has significant market share. Can you afford to bet against them?
Would you use or recommend Apple Maps Connect? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.