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