Since one out of five search­es on Google is relat­ed to loca­tion, most busi­ness­es con­nect to poten­tial cus­tomers by tak­ing advan­tage of the maps list­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties pro­vid­ed by Google.  This was made eas­i­er than ever for brick-and-mor­tar busi­ness­es and ser­vice providers when Google Places was intro­duced in April of 2010 (for­mer­ly known as the Local Busi­ness Cen­ter).  Busi­ness­es can pro­vide a Google Places Page list­ing where they can edit con­tent to include impor­tant infor­ma­tion about their busi­ness.  These list­ings are then avail­able to cus­tomers through Google Web Search, Google Maps, Mobile search, 1–800-GOOG-411 voice direc­to­ry search, and Google Earth.

Google Places - Places PageGoogle Places - Search Result Page

Giv­en that over­all search vol­ume is com­prised of such a large per­cent­age of local search­es, it’s impor­tant to know how to best uti­lize a business’s Google Places page to receive the calls, web­site clicks and vis­its to the store a busi­ness is look­ing for.   To ensure qual­i­ty traf­fic one should fol­low Google’s qual­i­ty guide­lines and con­tent poli­cies, take advan­tage of addi­tion­al Google Places adver­tis­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties and after­ward exer­cise a fair amount of patience where rank­ing is con­cerned.

Qual­i­ty Guide­lines and Con­tent Poli­cies

A busi­ness own­er should begin by accu­rate­ly rep­re­sent­ing their Name, Loca­tion, Web­site and Phone Num­ber.  The cat­e­gories and descrip­tion sub­mit­ted on their Place Page should suc­cinct­ly sum­ma­rize the prod­ucts or ser­vices they offer.  Not only are there pre­set sug­gest­ed cat­e­gories avail­able to choose from but there are also cus­tom attrib­ut­es such as “Near­est cross Street” avail­able.  As a best prac­tice, infor­ma­tive and tes­ti­mo­ni­al videos and pho­tos of the busi­ness should be used.   When pho­tos and videos are sub­mit­ted by the busi­ness own­er, these will show above any that are pulled from 3rd par­ty sources.  Exam­ples of 3rd par­ty sources are oth­er local direc­to­ries and var­i­ous web­sites from which Google aggre­gates reviews, pho­tos, or oth­er infor­ma­tion.  While 3rd par­ty sources do help match the list­ing to more search­es and increas­es list­ing views it is impor­tant to keep infor­ma­tion on 3rd par­ty sites as accu­rate as pos­si­ble (This includes busi­ness own­ers encour­ag­ing cus­tomers to review or blog about their busi­ness).  Google Places con­tent poli­cies are in place to main­tain a pos­i­tive expe­ri­ence for users and busi­ness own­ers.   These poli­cies are fre­quent­ly updat­ed but include the pro­hibit­ing of obscen­i­ties and pro­mo­tion of ille­gal activ­i­ties.  The full list of poli­cies can be found here

*Rank­ing *

A fre­quent con­cern that aris­es from busi­ness own­ers with Google Places accounts is that their busi­ness list­ing does not show in local search results for relat­ed search­es.  Even when best prac­tices are fol­lowed and the list­ing has been ver­i­fied, high rank­ing isn’t often achieved overnight.  Once a list­ing is sub­mit­ted, it gen­er­al­ly takes up to 24 hours to appear on Google and often much longer than that to appear for search queries that do not con­tain the actu­al busi­ness name.  Since the list­ings are gen­er­at­ed and ranked entire­ly by auto­mat­ed math­e­mat­i­cal algo­rithm in addi­tion to geo­graph­ic loca­tion and busi­ness promi­nence, it can take sev­er­al weeks to show for relat­ed search queries.  In fact, changes made to the list­ing itself can even take up to two weeks.  Addi­tion­al­ly, the algo­rithm and index can expe­ri­ence change over time so while a list­ing may show for a par­tic­u­lar key­word or cat­e­go­ry at one time, it is nev­er a guar­an­tee.   While com­ing up with a near-per­fect  and rel­e­vant list­ing should suc­cess­ful­ly deliv­er the vis­i­bil­i­ty the busi­ness own­er is look­ing for over time, there are some addi­tion­al Google Places oppor­tu­ni­ties a busi­ness can uti­lize to get the most out of their Google Places list.

Addi­tion­al Google Places Oppor­tu­ni­ties

Dash­board Sta­tis­tics – Dash­board sta­tis­tics with­in a Google Places account can show impor­tant infor­ma­tion about a list­ing includ­ing how many times it is dis­played and clicked in Google Maps or a OneBox result on Google.com.  Also avail­able is a list of top search queries that can assist in SEO as well as Pay Per Click cam­paigns.  Dri­ving direc­tions requests loca­tions are even shown which can help a busi­ness that is decid­ing to open a new loca­tion, for exam­ple.

Google Places Dashboard Statistics

Google Tags – Google Tags are yel­low mark­ers that allow busi­ness own­ers to pro­mote their busi­ness­es and cost $25/month.  A tag can be an offer, live update, pho­to, video, reser­va­tions or menu.

Google Tags

Coupons (Offers) – Cus­tomers can print out coupons to present at the busi­ness loca­tion.  Mobile coupons are also avail­able for con­ve­nience.

Google Places Coupons and Offers

Google Boost – Cur­rent­ly avail­able in only select cities and states as well as in select cat­e­gories, Google Boost attracts more local cus­tomers to a busi­ness owner’s web­site or Place page by show­ing ads on Google and Google Maps.  The ads are sim­i­lar to Adwords ads but dis­play a full address and phone num­ber.  Also, the adver­tis­er can­not con­trol bids or key­word selec­tion.

Ser­vice Areas —   Ser­vice Areas are ben­e­fi­cial to busi­ness own­ers that serve cus­tomers at *their *loca­tions.  A ser­vice area can be shown with or with­out an address and appears as a see-through red shape or cir­cle on the map.

Service Areas

Adwords Loca­tion Exten­sions – Adwords adver­tis­ers can link their Google Places account so that their Google Places list­ing address can show as an exten­sion of their ad on Google.com and Google Maps.Location Extensions