By Alexander Soule
Enter the phrase “Stamford, CT” in Google, and the search engine serves up a bird’s-eye-view map identifying little more than downtown, Shippan and the names or route numbers of major roadways. Drill down a few levels, and a handful of businesses start popping onto the map: Fairway Market in the South End, the Stamford Marriott Hotel & Spa downtown, Bull’s Head Diner.
If Stamford business owners see the light like Jackie Lightfield, before long Google Maps will be positively flooded with local companies, with map users able to click on a location to get basic information including the address, website, phone number, hours of operation and reviews generated on the Google+ social networking site.
The city of Stamford, the Stamford Partnership and other local business groups are hosting a pair of “Let’s put Stamford on the map” workshops on Wednesday, Oct. 28, at the Ferguson Library in Stamford. The goal: populate Google Maps with the addresses and profiles of small businesses in Stamford to make it easier for customers to find them.
The city cited Google statistics that say consumers are 38 percent more likely to visit a small business that’s listed online, with 29 percent of people surveyed saying they are more likely to consider buying something from those businesses listed online.
“It’s very impactful,” said Lightfield, executive director of the Stamford Partnership. “This is not about desktop search — it’s mostly about how do you populate those GPS listings. If you are not listed, you are not going to be in that (map).”
On Oct. 6, Google (NYSE: GOOG) marked the 10-year anniversary of the full launch of Google Maps as part of its Google Local service, which has not escaped controversy over the years. In 2007, Google revealed its Street View component that provides panoramic photos of locations punched into Google Maps, with some terming it an invasion of privacy. And this past July, Google rolled out a “Your Timeline” feature, in which Google users can view a map of the places they have traveled. Techie websites were promptly flooded with instructions on how to disable the Google’s ability to track the locations of mobile phones that fed data to Google Your Timeline.
If sparking the occasional controversy, Google has been working diligently to put its people in front of local business communities, sponsoring events at the Stamford Innovation Center, Startup Grind Greenwich and other venues that offer programming on digital-based businesses.
Lightfield began discussing a campaign to add more Stamford businesses to Google Maps with Thomas Madden, Stamford’s director of economic development. The list of supporting organizations have since grown to include the Business Council of Fairfield County, Ferguson Library, the Stamford Downtown Special Services District and the Stamford Chamber of Commerce. The two-hour sessions are scheduled for 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
The Stamford effort comes a year after Norwalk held similar workshops after it was was named a Google eCity Award winner for the number of Google searches and Google AdWords by businesses within its borders — a significant chunk of that traffic driven by Priceline Group (NYSE: PCLN).
Connecticut has a similar initiative with Google online, with partners including the Stamford-based Women’s Business Development Council. To date, Google says more than 63,000 Connecticut businesses are in Google Maps. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) allows businesses to delete their information from Google Maps.