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