One of the neat things about being a small business owner is how creative you can be in your marketing efforts. Earlier this week, local search expert Chris Silver Smith shared yet another long tail search opportunity for SMB owners using Google Custom Maps to try and attract new eyeballs. And it's actually kind of fun! A few years ago, Google introduced My Maps, which allowed users to create personalized maps with their own placemarks and area information. It was part of the UGC crazy and allowed people to make maps for virtually anything they found interesting. Once created, map owners could build them out and optimize them by adding descriptive text, photos and video and then share them with others on the Web. They're fun. But how can a small business owner taken advantage? According to Chris, these maps are more than just fun. They're a great long tail search tactic. Because of the nature by which most people search, if optimized correctly these custom Maps can receive a LOT of traffic. I moved to Troy, NY a year ago. And when I got here I would often search directly within Google Maps to find local establishments. Google Maps and Yelp was how I found coffee shops with wifi, a salon to get my hair cut, places to eat, etc. I'm not the only one taking advantage of Google's Search Nearby functionality. Lots of people do it. And if you can hit on something with a large search volume, Google will display your UGC map right along with the regular map results. Take a look at a search for Catalina Island, CA. Google is also showing UGC maps on the newly-launched Google Place Pages. And if you've filled out a Google Profile, you can drive traffic back to your main site by including a link in your profile. So how can SMB owners take advantage? Think of a value-add map that you could create to highlight local areas. Maybe you can create a map of the best date spots in your town, highlighting your restaurant. Or if you're an independent theater, how about the best places to see a movie? Or the best pumpkin picking spots in your areas? Or all the vendors in town you'd need to plan a wedding? Often being helpful and creating something that betters the community is an excellent way to brand yourself as an expert in a certain area and expose you to more customers. Because you get to completely fill out (and optimize) the content located within all the Google Maps info bubbles, you'll also benefit from having more content in Google. Use the keywords that people would be searching for in Google Maps in order to find you, but also think outside the box a bit. Once you have your idea, create your map following the super easy instructions below: Go to Google Maps Click My Maps Click Create new map. Add a title and description for your map. Decide whether the map should be public or unlisted. Public maps are automatically included in Google Maps search. Use the icons in the top left corner of the map. These include: Selection tool. Use this to drag the map and select placemarks, lines and shapes. Placemark tool. Use this to add placemarks. Line tool. Use this to draw lines. Shape tool. Use this to draw shapes. Being a small business owner gives you a license to be creative and creating custom Maps is super easy. Use it to your advantage!