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The Beginner’s Guide to Google Places

May 17, 2012 · 10 comments

in Business, Internet Marketing, Search Engine Marketing

Google Places GuideDo you have a brick-and-mortar business that you’re trying to promote online?

If so, you could be missing out on a lot of online traffic if you haven’t taken advantage of all the benefits Google Places offers for local business.

If you’re new to Google Places, here are a few tips that will help you set up an optimized profile and set you and the right track for local search success.

Why Google Places is Important

Google Places pages aren’t just for Google Maps searches any more. Google now integrates local “Places” search results for a lot of local keyword search queries, especially those with a lot of search volumes. Instead of the traditional layout of 10 organic listings per page, Google now either inserts a section of local results near the top of the page, or sometimes even incorporates a local listing with an organic listing.

These listings have prime positioning near the top of the page, but they also provide an extra visual element with star ratings and at-a-glance contact info. Even if your website is ranking well organically, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be included in these local listing, as Google uses a slightly different algorithm for its local Places listings. If you want to boost your local web visibility, keep reading to find out how to set up your profile.

Local Search

Setting Up Your Page

Setting up a Google Places page isn’t difficult, but you’ll want to follow some best practices to give your profile the best chance for ranking well.

First, you’ll want to check to see if a page has already been created for your business. Any Google user can create a local page for a business, but only the business owner can claim the listing (we’ll cover that next), and fill out the page with information that is “from the owner.”

You can find out if a page for your business already exists by doing a Google search for your business name or even going to the actual Google Places website to check for listings according to your business phone number.

If a page for your business already exists, you’ll have to claim the listing before you can start editing information. If you’re starting with a brand new listing, you’ll fill out all of the information first before you go through the claiming process.

The most important thing you should remember when setting up your page is to fill out as much information as possible. Add photos and videos; fill out a description that is informative but also incorporates keywords, and fill in business hours, payment types, areas served, etc.

When filling in “category” information, make sure you choose existing categories that the system suggests in the drop down list. Making up your own category could prevent your page from showing for relevant listings.

The next most important thing you need to know is that your business name, address, and phone number should be consistent with what is found on your website, and also what is found on other review sites on the internet.

This is referred to in the industry as NAP consistency, and it’s used as part of Google’s algorithm for ranking local places pages. Here are some examples of address variations that you want to avoid:

  • 1234 South Yourstreet Suite 103
  • 1234 S. Yourstreet Ste. 103
  • 1234 S Yourstreet #103

There really isn’t a right or wrong choice for which format to use, but just make sure that the one you choose is used consistently.

Claiming Your Profile

In order for your Places listing to get the “owner verified” checkmark, you’ll need to go through the claiming process to show Google that you really are the business owner. This is also how Google is able to prove that your business has an actual physical location.

To do this, there are a few different options, but all involve acquiring a PIN that you will be able to enter into your Google Places account to verify the listing. Depending on the requirements in your country, Google will either send you a postcard through the mailing system, send an automated phone call to the phone number you listed in the profile, or in some countries, can even send an SMS message that includes your PIN.

After you have received your PIN, you’ll just have to enter it into the Places system when prompted and your listing will be good to go. You can always sign back into your account and update information after you have claimed your listing.

Creating Citations to Optimize Your Profile

Claiming and filling out a complete list is the first step to helping your Places page rank well, but there is another element you’ll to need to focus on to help your listing rank well, too. “Citations” is the term used to refer to anywhere else your business name, address and phone number are found together elsewhere on the internet.

You can think of these citations as being similar to how building links is beneficial for SEO. The more citations on the internet that refer to your business, the better chance it has at ranking. You’ll want to find other directly listing sites around the internet, whether national or local, to add your business to. Remember that when you create additional listings, or citations, that you always use NAP consistency like mentioned previously.

Also, don’t forget about customer reviews! They’re an important element to your listing, too. In the beginning, don’t hesitate to just ask some of your happy customers to write a review. You might be surprised at what a great response you get.

Conclusion

As with anything, the best way to learn about something is to actually do it. If you’re ready to create your own Google Places listing for your business, stop by the Google Places home page today and get started. Have any additional thoughts, comments, or questions? Leave them in the comments section below!

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Joyce Edwards May 18, 2012 at 1:17 am

I have a brick and mortar business that I do use Google places with. It is a wonderful tool.
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Donna Merrill May 18, 2012 at 5:15 am

One of my businesses is a brick and mortar one that I have had for 20 years. I do have Google Places and it is amazing. I can keep in touch with clients that try to find me, now that I am not traveling as much to that location. I do have someone working there, but things can get confusing. Claiming it is so important. I think it is great.
Thanks
Donna
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Erika May 18, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Glad you both have had a good experience with Google Places for your businesses! It really is a great (and cost effective) tool for small businesses to utilize.

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Perry Davis May 18, 2012 at 11:55 pm

Hello Erika

With the rise of smart phone use it’s more important than ever to use Google Places. If you are not showing up on “the map” you are losing new business opportunities every day. ComScore a global leader in measuring the digital world says, 66% of Americans use local search to find local businesses”. You have shared information that will enable people to increase their business in their local area. What if you do not have a brick and mortar business but a service business for a local area, will Google Places be an as important?

Thanks

Perry A Davis Jr
Music City
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Erika May 19, 2012 at 12:17 am

Perry,
That’s a great question. The only stipulation for creating a Google Places account is that you have to have some sort of physical address to prove that you are “local,” ruling out businesses that are strictly web-based with no physical places of business. More often than not, you have to claim the Places profile by having a postcard sent through physical mail to your address.
If businesses are in the service industry and don’t actually have customers come to their physical location, they can still use Google Places as long as they can verify a physical location. Once a listing is claimed, service businesses can choose to un-publish their address on the profile, but rather state their service radius in the area. This allows their listing to show up for local searches, but doesn’t show an address for customers to visit.
I have a particular client who is in the HVAC industry and gets a lot of traffic to their Places profile from local search, even though customers don’t necessarily come to their physical location. I would still highly recommend Google Places for service businesses as well.
Hope that was helpful!

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Holly May 19, 2012 at 6:47 am

Wow, I had no idea it was so indepth… What a lot it can do… Thanks for the details!
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William Amis May 19, 2012 at 8:51 am

Erika,

I support endless brick and mortar business globally. This is an idea that I have not incorporate into my total support form them. I started with local businesses and it just went viral.

I want to thank you for the clarity you have placed here which is priceless. This will be my referral when I visit locations to give them the support created for each unique business.

I will be watching for future articles from you. Erika, your a gem and I appreciate your passion for excellence. Well done!

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Kimberly Castleberry May 22, 2012 at 2:14 pm

This is a great guest post by Erica and really does a lovely job of showcasing the things we need to pay attention to with Google Places. Google places play an important role in SEO. It’s important that Google Places owners be aware of the recent change in listing an address that can cause places pages to be removed if they are not following the rule closely.
Kim
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Sugel May 25, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Google places, aka Google local, is the name of a system that Google has created to help local businesses, attractions, venues & other places connect with searchers. This system is made up of 2 main components, a backend for people to create, update, and even delete information about their place of business. When a Google local listings show up in the serch results, basic contact information such as Business Name, Address, Phone Number, website url, and reviews are diplayed in a list along with 3 or 7 other businesses relevant to the keywords that are being searched.

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