Five Things You Should Know About…

…Google Places 

– Increase your ranking by claiming and optimizing your Google Places listing. Did you know you can (and should) use this free service to to control the content of your Google Places for business listing to create a free web presence or to enhance your existing presence and increase your search engine ranking. Once you’ve claimed your page and verified your business location only you will be able to edit details about your business.
 
Most people, particularly small business owners, are familiar with Google Maps. In 2009 Google relaunched it’s Business Centre as Google Places, offering local business owners an opportunity to create a business profile including all contact information, as well as pictures, videos, coupons or special offers, trading hours, reviews, etc. and also mark the business location on the Maps service.

Claiming your Place will help your business show up on the first page of Google search results for a local search (even if you don’t have a website). For brick-and-mortar companies, optimizing for local search is more important than ever for creating and reinforcing an online presence. Here are a five things you should know to help you get more from your listing:

Consistency

Make sure all business listings you create in other directories are up to date as Google also uses these to verify the information your post. It is important to allow them to link your business to a physical location on Google Maps.

Reviews

The more reviews the better – aside from helping to keep your listing highly ranked, they usually include relevant content and are social verification to your clients or prospects. It is a surprisingly empowering exercise to ask your best customers to leave a review. Just drop them an email with the URL for your place listing or put a request on you company Facebook page or send them a branded custom email letter –give me a call and i will be happy to help with any of these options. Also, find out where your competitors are reviewed and make an effort to get reviewed there too.

Keywords

Keywords are an important consideration when posting any information about your business on the internet. Lots to say here – not a lite subject. Basically it is worth doing your homework or work with an SEO consultant – again, give me a call and I will be glad to help. A little work on keyword research is a valuable investment to inform all copy you write for any information you post whether it is here or on your site, blog, email marketing, Facebook page, LinkedIn, Twitter or any other social media. There are no shortcuts here – experience and research will prove valuable.

Details Details

Fill it all out! Fill out all of the required details at the minimum and use the 200-character limit in the description (utilizing the aforementioned keywords) to accurately describe your business including products and service areas. The business description should answer the following questions:

  • Where are you?
  • Who are you?
  • What is your business?
  • Where service area do you cover?

Fill in your website details. If you do not have a website, it’s best to at least have a basic one page website – readily available through any of the many free website builders or create a Blogger a WordPress blog-site. Fill out the fields as accurately as possible since Google will attempt to cross-reference them with information from other business databases that mention your company. You might just have a listing that you don’t even know about. Service Area – Google Places now also offers the option to hide your business address completely, (particularly appealing to very small businesses or professionals who operate out of their homes) as long as you indicate your service area. Anyone can add information about your business until you have verified it. Then only you can edit it. If your local market is all or most of your business, it is worth the effort. A few figures to back this up…

  • 97% use the internet to research services and merchants in their local area
  • 90% of users don’t go past the first results page.
  • 83% of local searchers will call or visit the business listing that stands out as the best to them

Categories – This is said to be the most critical area so, again, some basic keyword research will serve you well here. Google offers one main category and four related categories to help define your services. Start entering a primary category for your business and Google Places will offer up a category for you choose. Pick the most appropriate ones as your main category and then continue with related categories and other services. You may have learned to stuff keywords in the past. While this may have been a usable “trick” it is no longer effective and can even take you down or out of rankings. Keep it accurate, and authentic.

Images and Videos

Adding photos or videos not only enriches this free listing offering, it may be the final factor that takes you to a 100% complete listing which appears to be important in order to optimize your listing. It has been recommended by a few experts to add the full ten images offered. You may also wish to upload informational, DIY or review videos to give new prospects an clear idea of what to expect from you and your business. In conclusion, There are many cases of local businesses outranking top unsponsored results which would usually be at the top of SERPs (search engine results page). That means, for some businesses, optimizing a Places page can help put your business in top rankings on a local SERP even if you don’t have a website. For companies who have invested finances and time into optimizing their sites for SERPs, it doesn’t seem possible that local businesses just filling out relevant information on Places page could outrank them. The majority of Google’s revenue comes from online ads and local has great potential to drive adwords sales. It also helps the SERPs become more relevant for users in general, increasing Google’s popularity. Google seems to be continuing to make tweaks to the algorithms that serve up the results and local seems to be becoming more and more important to them. Google Places has gradually dominated local search and now wrapping it up with Google places -not only describing businesses but showing them exactly where to find the business in their neighbourhood and handing them offers, reviews, product examples and related links in the same package. The social factor is going to continue to influence rankings across the board. This includes things like user reviews, Facebook “likes” and anything else that includes information from your trusted community. Matt Cutts confirmed social cues do play significantly into ranking and there is now a new Social Search from Google which is applied if you are signed into your Google account. Social is integrated heavily so it just makes sense to take advantage of free options such as these local business listings as much as possible. Invest efforts (not necessarily dollars) into optimizing for local and social. If you haven’t already, start building your social network, particularly Facebook. For some very small businesses, it is possible to create a decent web presence with just a Facebook page and some local business listings -definitely including Google Places – if budgets are really tight.   I hope you found this reliable, real, simple and interesting (and branded). Make the most of your online investment – it can be your most powerful sales and communication tool. Call Boost to begin to uncover your full online communication potential.