Since Apple released the latest iPhone operating system, iOS 6, last week, I have received a lot of email from frantic agents who can’t find their agency in the new maps and need my help.
I figured the agents who reached out to me represented a much larger population of agents with the same concern so I decided to write an article about how to ensure your agency is found on Apple maps.
While I’m at it, I’ll also explain how to optimize your agency to be one of the most prominent agencies in Apple maps.
First of all, What happened?
When Apple released the latest version of their operating system, they replaced the map feature that was previously run by Google Maps with their own system that uses different data about roads, directions, and of course local businesses.
Apple says they did this to improve user experience or something like that, but trust me – it’s always about money. If they can control how people find local businesses like your agency, they can make a lot of money.
How does Apple get business data for their maps?
Imagine that you’re in Apple’s shoes. Think about how many millions of businesses exist worldwide and how often they change locations, phone numbers, names, service offerings and go out of business! Just keeping track of all this changing information is nearly impossible, but at the same time you need to create an automated system to offer business suggestions to iPhone users anywhere on earth based on their physical location and the unlimited variety of search terms they may use.
So how can Apple even come close? It’s too much information to compile themselves – they’re a tech company. And they can’t buy a list of businesses from one source because that wouldn’t be the most effective way to keep their information fresh and accurate in an ecosystem that constantly changes.
Apple purchases business information from a wide variety of companies that sell business information and they give prevalence in their maps to agencies whose information is consistent across all these lists.
Think about it, if they see your agency’s name, address, and phone number on every business list they purchase then they’ll feel more confident about the accuracy of this information. If they can’t find you, or you’re only included in one of the many lists they purchase then your profile will resemble a company that’s out of business and they won’t show you to their users.
Apple would rather send their users 5 miles out of the way to an agency they know exists than 300 yards down the road to something that might be an abandoned warehouse.
Where Apple gets their map data
This kind of information is usually pretty secret, but fortunately Apple has published an acknowledgement page that shows exactly who they use for their data. Click here to visit this page or if you have iOS 6 installed, you can use the image to the right to find it on your iPhone.
This is pretty cool for marketers like me, but it can be a bit intimidating because this list contains 33 sources of information. Because I’m a thorough guy, here’s the full list (as of today’s date) along with my notes about what each company does:
http://www.and.com/ - Driving Directions
http://www.flickr.com - Photo Sharing
http://www.usgs.gov - US government website
http://www.mapdataservices.com/ - Australian Map Company
http://www.census.gov - US Government Demographics
http://www.geogratis.gc.ca/geogratis/en/index.html - Canadian Government Website
http://www.tomtom.com/ - Directions and Business Information ***IMPORTANT***
http://www.getchee.com/- China, India, and Southeast Asia data company
http://www.esa.int/esaEO/index.html - Satellite Pictures
http://www.mdafederal.com/home - Satellite Pictures
http://www.localeze.com/ - Business Data Provider Company ***IMPORTANT***
http://www.goleaddog.com/ - Streets and Mapping Data company
http://www.statcan.gc.ca - Canadian government website
http://www.digitalglobe.com/ - Satellite pictures
http://www.dmtispatial.com/ - Canadian Demographics Company
http://www.geonames.org - Geography information provider
http://srtm.csi.cgiar.org - Satellite Pictures
http://www1.nga.mil - Satellite Pictures
http://www.nasa.gov - Take a guess
http://goleaddog.com/ - Streets and Mapping
http://www.intermap.com/ - 3D Images
http://www.yelp.com/ - Local Business Review Website ***IMPORTANT***
http://www.waze.com/ - Community based traffic/route website
http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/ - UK map company
http://www.acxiom.com/ - Business Information Data Provider ***IMPORTANT***
http://www.incrementp.co.jp/gc01info/e/legal01.html - Japanese map company
http://www.urbanmapping.com/ - US demographics/geography company
http://www.incrementp.co.jp/english/ - Japanese map company
http://www.corelogic.com/ - Demographics company
http://www.openstreetmap.org - Mapping organization
http://spatial.gov.au - Australian government
Wow. That was a long list… fortunately for us, most of these companies are related to satellite pictures, street maps, and demographic information that doesn’t apply to our needs. I highlighted the 4 that insurance agencies need to focus on to optimize your agency on Apple Maps.
So what’s the Apple Maps Optimization Gameplan?
The more consistent your agency information is across these 4 important sources, the more confident Apple will be in the validity of your information and the more likely they will show your agency when someone uses their iPhone or iPad to find insurance.
You’re not going to show up when someone searches for insurance in NYC if your agency is in Philadelphia, but the better optimized your agency is the further away people can be to still find your agency when they use Apple maps to find an insurance agent.
You need to get consistent business listings with the 4 major players here: TomTom, Localeze, Yelp, and Axciom.
I’m going to give you instructions for how to do this for each of these four companies and then I’ll tell you about a service that makes it easier.
Before we get into how to add your agency to these data companies, here are three tips I highly recommend you follow:
- Determine the official post office address for your agency here: https://www.usps.com/zip4/
- Use the official USPS address for these listings and everywhere else online. Why? Because some websites will correct your address to this version and others won’t so if you do it yourself you’ll obviate inconsistencies.
- Use the same business name and local phone number everywhere too.
These guys get most of their information from a data provider that is not on Apple’s list above. How do I know? Because of this article. They’re called InfoGroup and although they’re not directly submitting information to Apple, they do populate TomTom so they may as well be.
For those in the US, the only way into TomTom is through InfoGroup but European agents can submit their agency directly to TomTom on TomTom’s website. (Special thanks to Aaron at this insurance agency in Bloomington, MN for pointing this out)
This company is a data aggregator like InfoGroup mentioned above. They specialize in collecting and verifying business information to sell to companies who provide local business information (like Apple in this case). You can go right to their site and enter your agency’s information.
They have a free business listing option and a paid version. I honestly cannot tell you whether or not it’s worthwhile to purchase the paid version. I don’t think it’s a scam, so if the $300/year cost doesn’t scare the heck out of you it might be worth doing.
You’ve probably heard of Yelp. They’re the most popular local business review website/smartphone app right now. If you want tips on how to get more positive reviews on Yelp read this article and sometime in the future I’ll write another article about how to optimize your Yelp listing. But for now all you get is this link to add your business information:
Axciom is another business data aggregation company like InfoGroup and Localeze above. For a while, these guys wouldn’t let you just add your own business but they recently created that option so lucky you!
Want an Easier Solution?
I have worked with a company that has direct connections with companies listed above. They’re called Universal Business Listings and their service works like this: you enter your agency information one time and they distribute it to data aggregators mentioned above and also to many more places online.
Some benefits to this strategy are:
- Consistency – UBL’s automated system makes it far less likely that your information will be inconsistent across the online landscape. This added consistency should improve your search and maps rankings.
- Speed – Obviously you only type your information one time so you won’t have to spend hours typing in the same information.
- More Trusted – Because UBL is a paid service that verifies information before distribution, data companies consider it more accurate than info coming from online forms open to anyone. This should help your search and map rankings.
If you’re going to use UBL please read this: I have an affiliate connection with them which means I earn a commission if you use the link above to visit the site and make a purchase. I only affiliate with companies when I believe they provide value to my audience and you do not need to use this link to find their website. Using this link does not change the cost to you.
Pretty long post here, but I thought it was timely and would be very helpful. Fortunately all the recommendations within this article will have many other benefits, including improving your search engine rankings and being able to be found in more locations online.