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Updated ‘Directions’ Heatmap in Google Insights Brings New Local SEO Opportunities

Updated ‘Directions’ Heatmap in Google Insights Brings New Local SEO Opportunities
Key Takeaways

Google My Business has recently made some significant updates to the way its directions heatmap works—and to what insights it provides about where searchers are requesting directions to your business from.

The directions heatmap first appeared in the Insights section of Google My Business in 2014, but the latest changes promise to offer even more information about your business’ footprint and a better understanding of your customer base, which could all greatly help you target your local SEO and your local marketing activity.

Commenting on the changes in SEO Roundtable, Barry Schwartz observed that:

“This information should help businesses get a better handle on the geographies from which they are attracting customers, allowing them to tailor their operations or marketing outreach accordingly.”

We’ll tease out exactly how you can use the new directions heatmap to give your local marketing and SEO the edge over other local businesses, but first let’s outline exactly what the changes are.

What has changed with the directions heatmap?

Google My Business community manager Allyson Wright announced on March 14th that Google has “made some changes to your directions heatmap”.

The changes allow businesses to see exactly which areas customers are requesting directions from. These are shown on a heatmap that can be viewed at different zoom levels to reveal granular detail about the number of searches from each area.

Commenting on the detail of the data available, Allyson said, “this update will better allow you to track which areas customers request directions from, at various zoom levels (post code, city, country).”

But she added that, “direction requests from some post codes may appear as blank due to user privacy consideration but are included at the city level.”

What this means, according to Google’s updated help center article, is that it’s now possible to see the total number of requests for directions to your business broken down by city or neighborhood—a very useful insight indeed.

What do these changes mean for your business?

Here’s how the new heatmap looks:

Google Insights Directions Heatmap


To zoom in and out you simply need to click on the + and – buttons in the bottom left hand corner.

There are a number of ways you can use this information to fine-tune your local marketing and advertising. Let’s kick off with just five, but feel free to add any ideas you have in the comments below.

How to Use the New Google My Business ‘Directions’ Heatmap for Local SEO

Local ad targeting and placement

Not only could you now adjust your PPC targeting based on a better understanding of where direction requests are made, but this could also impact on your choices of outdoor billboard siting, newspaper advertising and inserts, mail drops, and choice of local radio stations.

In fact, understanding the distance your customers are prepared to drive to your store offers invaluable insight for all aspects of your advertising.

Hyperlocal social media activity

Whether you use highly targeted private social networks like Townsquared and NextDoor, or rely on Facebook’s Graph Search and local awareness ads, driving directions will help you better understand the specific neighborhoods you should be targeting and creating content for.

Specifically, the heatmap will allow you to see if an outlying area is potentially providing more customers than a nearby area—as well as revealing exactly how many requests are coming from each.

Many businesses may find that they have a wider reach than they expected, leading to better optimization for overlooked areas.

Understanding your customer base

Related to the last point is the insight that can be gained into how far customers are prepared to travel to the store—and whether any service-level improvements could be made to address this.

These may include offering telephone ordering and delivery or a chat service online to help customers currently making a long drive.

Keyword targeting for location pages

Gaining a clearer picture of where customers are when they search for directions could help inform the keyword targeting of location pages.

This could include adding new pages for areas not covered or providing more granular pages for locations that are raising the temperature of the heatmap.

Local link-building and awareness raising

With a better understanding of the geographic reach of your customers you can review the community groups, charities and organizations that you are targeting for links and PR activity.

You could, for example, alter which area’s charities you choose to support or sponsor.

Other insights from Google My Business

It’s worthwhile reviewing the other insights contained within Google My Business when you visit to check out your heatmap.

These can all be found in the Insights section, and available data includes:

  • How customers find your listing. Do customers use a direct search for your business or a discovery search for a category, product or service?
  • Where customers find you on Google Do they find you via Google Search or Google Maps?
  • What actions customers take. After finding your Google My Business listing do people visit your website, request directions, call you, or view photos?

A step towards a refined hyperlocal approach

Understanding exactly where your customers are is critical to all local businesses. The new direction heatmaps offer a way to gain a much better understanding of the neighborhoods that businesses serve and their overall reach.

This data is a goldmine for gaining insight for both local SEO and all forms of local marketing, so it’s time to start digging!

Jamie Pitman
About the author
Jamie heads up BrightLocal's content team, ensuring we produce insightful articles, research and resources that enable businesses and SEOs to get even better results in local search.

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