If you’re a local business, the importance of local search referrals should not be underestimated. As potential customers try to find you they are increasingly turning to online search methods as opposed to the traditional offline options such as Yellow Pages. When it comes to online search, local or otherwise, Google is the one resource you absolutely must consider before all others.
Since Google launched Google Places to replace its Local Business Center in 2010, it’s not just the appearance and functionality that have changed. Google Places results have now become the dominant resource for local search results. In short, if you’re not taking advantage of a free Google Places page or if your page isn’t properly optimized, you’re missing out on a lot of targeted traffic and potential customers. With that in mind, here’s a quick 4 Step Process to get in the game.
Step 1: Create or Claim Your Google Places Page
Depending on how long your business has been around, you may already have a Places page. Google often creates a Places page using other online references for information. To find out, go to Google and do a search for your company name to see if one already exists. If you see a listing for your business, click the link to the Places page and look for the Business Owner? link that’s usually on the top of the page at the right. Once you click the link you can just follow the instructions create an account and to claim it. If you don’t find a Places page for your company, you can create one by going to www.google.com/places/.
Step 2: Get Your Google Places Page Verified
Once you have claimed or created a Places page, the next vital step is to verify it. This is a step Google makes you complete in order to ensure that you are the business owner and can be trusted to update the information. If you don’t verify your listing, it won’t be considered a trustworthy page and your appearance in search results will be very limited.
Verification can be done through 1 of 2 ways and Google determines whether you can use one of them or not. The most common option is a postcard that is mailed to you that must be received for verification. The second option that is sometimes made available is phone verification. If you’re offered this option take it because it’s much quicker.
Step 3: Optimize Your Places Page
Once you’re “Verified” it’s important to do what you can to optimize your page and improve your search performance as much as possible. This can significantly increase your traffic. Here are a few of the basics you’ll want to focus on.
- Optimize your business name/page title – Use your business name and, if possible, a reference to your location. This is more important if you have a similar name to other businesses or are part of a chain or franchise but is helpful regardless.
- Optimize Your Places page description keywords – Keep your Places page description focused and concise and include your most important keywords you’d like to be found for in search. Don’t go too crazy with this, though, as Google is very proficient at sniffing out keyword stuffing and they may penalize you if you overdo it.
- Select appropriate, targeted categories – You can choose up to five categories so select the best ones based on relevance to your business and likelihood that you’ll be found in search.
- Make your Places page as complete as possible – The more complete your Places page the better it is likely to perform in search. Include photos and videos and your social media links to make your page more engaging and include relevant information on your hours, services and other relevant details. Basically, make your page sell for you.
Step 4: Bolster Your Google Places Rankings
Your website ranking and traffic profile can have an impact on Google Places but your overall online profile is important as well. Any listings or mention you have online likely have an effect on your Google Places page ranking. Here are a few things to do to improve your Google Places page performance.
- Reinforce the Connection to Your Website – Obviously you should have your website link in your Google Places page but you should also make sure your website and Places page share key common pieces of information including name, address, phone number and contact email address. These should be in plain text (not images) and included on your Home Page if possible.
- Local Directories – It’s a great idea to get listed on other local directories to reinforce your Google Places page. Many are free and the best ones will allow you to include a link to your website so you can boost your website SEO in addition to your Places page. If you’re not familiar with any, take a look at your better competitors and see where they’re listed.
- Local Reviews – Reviews can be a double-edged sword, as they can be good or bad, but they help indicate to search engines that you’re legitimate. Encourage customers to submit reviews of your business and claim your listing on any relevant review sites.
Update and Replicate Your Efforts
Finally, you should periodically review and update your Places page to keep it fresh and dynamic. In addition, although Google is the largest and most important option for local pages, they aren’t the only game in town. It’s a good idea to make use of other local search listings like Yahoo and Bing as well. For the limited amount of time you’ll need to spend creating them, these local search listing can provide an excellent return in terms of traffic generated.