Recently I have been very impressed with the new Google Places aka Local Business Center. They have been continuing to add new features to your Local Business Listing that allow you really make the listing a viable marketing tool. As you probably have noticed, search is becoming much more targeted and focused, so utilizing not only Google but the other search engine local business centers is imperative for local business owners.
Getting Started With Google Places
Google Places is where you can create a free local business listing that will allow you to drive local traffic to your website, through the local business results that are shown in Google when someone searches for what you do in the area. This can be an effective way to put your business in front of potentially thousands of local customers who are searching for exactly what you do. However just creating a listing is not enough, you need to optimize that listing to encourage users to want to contact you.
Here is a brief intro on Google Places
Create a Complete and Verified Listing
In order for your listing to have the best opportunity of ranking in the local business results, you need to make sure you have a completely filled out listing. That means filling out every field that they offer you, including adding images and video.
On top of having a complete listing, probably the most important aspect of your listing is to verify it with Google. This means that the information you listed in verified with Google is the correct information. Usually this means they either call the number you submitted and provide you with a pin # to enter, or they will send a postcard in the mail with the verification pin on it.
Using Google Tags
With Google Tags you can make it easier to highlight aspects of your Local Business Listing that you want your customers to see. Highlight things like coupons, your website URL, a video, images, or even a link to your menu. So depending on the business you have, you can tailor it to promote the features that are most important to you. This makes your local listing stand out from the rest of the listings that are displayed in the local 7 pack.
Benefits to Google Tags
- Extremely easy to setup
- A flat monthly fee of $25/month
- Promote important info within your local listing
- Track your Tags within the local analytics dashboard
- Your tags start showing up within an hour
Watch the “What are Google Tags” Video
Watch the Getting Started with Google Tags
Encourage Customer Reviews
Recently I went to the eye doctor for a normal checkup. Everything went very well and I was in and out of there in 45 minutes. About a week later I received a letter in the mail from my eye doctor thanking me for coming in and requesting that I go to a URL to leave a review about my experience on their Google Local Business Listing. I went on and saw all of the other great reviews that people had left, saying how great their experience was….and I did the same.
If you can encourage your customers to leave a positive review on your listing it can tremendously help the effective. Sending a letter in the mail, e-mail or even calling them are all great ways of following up on their experience and to remind them to share their experience by leaving a review.
Add a Coupon
People LOVE coupons and promo codes, so if Google gives you the ability to attach coupons to your listing, you should probably do it. You can also create time sensitive coupons that will only be good for the time frame you set. By creating a printable coupon, it can be another way to measure and track the number of leads/customers that are coming to you from your local listing.
Post to Your Place Page
Within your local business listing, you can post updates, current specials, events, promotions, or anything that you want to inform your customers about. This can be an easy way to keep your listing fresh and updated with the latest things going on with your store or restaurant.
Some good examples:
- Specials: “Free chips and salsa today from 4-6. We’ll even throw in free guacamole.”
Posted 3 hours prior to the start of Afternoon Special
- Events: “Come to “Anything Goes – Poetry or Prose ” Today from 7:30 pm to 9:45 pm.”
Posted 4 hours prior to the event, linking to the Facebook event page.
- New products: “Have you checked out our newest pastries? they are so tasty!”
Study Your Analytics
Probably my favorite feature that Google added to the Google Places account center is the analytics they provide. You can see what people searched to find your local listing. It can also tell you possible trends in the local area for the type of food your customers are looking for. If you notice that a lot of people are finding your listing from searching “Greek Restaurant”, maybe you need to tweak your menu so it caters to those types of customers.
Another great feature is the ability to see how many visitors you are getting to your listing. This can be a good indication of if you are driving customers in the local area or if they are outside of your market. You can also see how engaged the user is with your listing, by seeing if they converted into an “Action”, which means they did something like viewed your menu or got driving directions.
Hi There I currently have two duplicate place page listings for the same company and I would like to merge them. How do I go about doing that? I tried sifting though Google help/support but with no luck, thought maybe you could have the answer? Thanks Sadie
Google Maps optimization is something to look forward to. We can not deny that a website enlisted in Google Maps is an instant placement on the first page. It will not be long before a major change happens.
Is it just me or does that "other" category really bother other people. I have some really strange obsession about finding out what the "other" is. Is there a way of finding that information out?
Good summary of Google Places Mark. You didn't mention anything about citations though. Citations are like the links of Local SEO. I have a tool that helps you find citations: http://www.whitespark.ca/tools/local-citation-finder/
I'm finding that Google is simultaneously making Places more useful and more complicated for SMBs. I'll definitely be directing my clients (and my students) to this post! Do you have any tips for getting Google to correct a location error on a map? It took several months for them to correctly position the marker for a client I reported a few months ago, and now I have another one in the wrong spot.
I've heard a lot of good about Google Analytics but I'm so used to Statcounter. Plus I would have to change so much code in order to convert over.
comprehensive contribution - thx. a small tip. depending on the size of its competitors, it is sometimes helpful not just to claim your business. preliminary work is required! 8-)
Hi Mark, this is a great post about what's currently possible with local listings on Google Places and what local business should do. Definitely a must read. Not all features are available to international users but it's good to know what might come and will be available in other countries in the future.
Rob, Hmm, that's a good question. Could it be that Google Maps is not familiar with that location? Sometimes it will take Google a little while to add new streets into Google Maps, so that could be the issue? Hope that helps. Mark
Gary- I used to use Starcounter, but have been using Google Analytics for a year. I encourage you to try it out, the information received from Starcounter doesn't compare to the information and monitoring (detailed & targeted)from Google Analytics
Birger, Good point that I forgot to mention. Yes features like Google Tags is only available for the US market, but will be rolled out to international countries soon. Thanks for mentioning that and leaving the comment! - Mark