Well, as a small business owner, you care. Or you should, at least.
iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch), make up nearly 66% of the mobile device market. That means that two thirds of all mobile devices out there run Apple’s mobile operating system. Eventually, the vast majority of these will be upgraded to iOS 6. 15% of them were upgraded in the first 24 hours after its release. It’s a big deal.
You see, in this latest version of the iPhone software, Apple abandoned Google maps as its mapping service. In the past, people would open their map application and search Google Maps for local businesses. Apple has now decided to create their own map service, and stop relying on Google for their data. You may have seen some damning reviews of this new service, but I’m not here to write about the quality of the app. The main thing that you need to know is that it’s pulling its local business information from Yelp- not Google Places.
In the past, when looking for something local on your iPhone, you could open your Google Maps app and search for something just as you would Google something on a computer. The app would then show you the locations around you matching what you searched for, based on that location’s Google Places info. You would get basic information like the business name, address, phone number and website. The new system supplies the same information, plus reviews, using Yelp’s database. It’s a subtle change, but a very important one.
If you spend a little time looking at reviews of the new Apple Maps, you’ll come across several accounts of business owners saying their business no longer shows up when searching in the maps app on an iPhone. “I spent all this time optimizing for Google Places and now I don’t show up at all!” they all sob. Tragic? Yes. Easily avoidable? Absolutely.
When you spend all your time and effort optimizing your presence in only one channel, the moment that channel goes out of fashion, changes its business model, is acquired, or experiences any other major change, your business is left holding the bag. Your only source of customers is gone in a flash, business comes to a standstill and you’re dead in the water.
This situation points out something that we’ve all been guilty of at some time or another: putting all our eggs in one basket. Google Places was, and still is, an incredibly powerful resource for small business owners, but they’re not the only game in town. Sites like Yelp, Facebook, Citysearch, Foursquare and others provide similar services and you need to be present on all of them. For the most part, you can list your business on these sites quickly, and then check on your listing periodically to make sure you’re staying on top of any reviews you’re receiving.
Remember, you want to be found wherever people are looking for your business- not just where you want to be found. Your potential customers are using any number of online resources for finding and consuming content, as well as finding and connecting with the business they patron. It’s important to cast a wide net to ensure that you’re reaching the most people possible, otherwise you’ll be in big trouble when they eventually release the iPhone 6.