Google Places, formerly known as the Google Local Business Center is perhaps the best “free lunch available on the Internet for local searches.”
Google Local has been around for a while and may be confused as Google Maps, but it is much more powerful. Google Places will display local business information at the top of many local search results, accompanied by a map. Since June 2010, Google Places listings consist of 1, 3 or 7 businesses for most searches. Considering that most local searches provide millions of organic search results, showing in the top 7 of Google Places can be a huge boon to a local or even national business. Here you have the ability to get to the top of the Google search result page…quickly…and at virtually no cost if you spend some time or get some assistance optomizing your listing. And it can reap huge benefits. We have a client whose Google Places listing we recently optomized. With ONE MONTH, his business was displayed for over 2,00 queries generating over 100 clicks to his website. Amazing. No adwords…no lengthly wait for website optomization. At least for local terms. And no other cost.
So how do you get ranked in the top for Google Places? Read on for tips and advice and you can also call Agile to assist in your efforts.
Breaking into the top 7 takes knowledge and time and staying there may take more effort depending on how competetive a term is. A Local search term such as Restaurants Worcester Ma is much more competetive than Gaskets Worcester Ma. Either way, it all starts with claiming and optimizing your Google Places local business listing.
Visit http://www.google.com/places and register for an account. Follow the prompts until you can click on the button that says “Add a Business”. OR do a search for your company name. If you see the Place this page listing next to a map, click on “Place page” and on the next page click on “Edit this Place”.
The first page of the submission form has rudimentary info to fill in but there are several key areas to comcern yourself with., but there are 3 important opportunities to optimize the listing.
While this may seem like a no brainer, there are some very minor modifications you could make here that would be instrumental in ranking higher. Choose your business name carefuly. No one specifically checks the listings to verify that the company name matches your incorporation documents, but be careful. If your company’s legal name is Joe’s Pizza, you may want to carefully tweak it for the purposes of Google Places optimization. Two common methods are to add a keyword descriptor or your primary city. For example: Joe’s Pizza of Worcester or Joe’s Worcester Pizza Company” would likey rank higher for a Worcester pizza search. However, be careful because if you manipulate your company name too much and stuff keywords into the field, you could lose your listing alltogether. And remember, Google probably has a record of your company and name in Google Places that is has pulled from various listings and databases such as InfoUsa or Yellow Pages. You can only tweak this so much (more on existing database later.)
Write 200 character description of your business focusing almost exclusively on your key products and services. Do not waste space here with superlatives or marketing speak. Do not include geographic references here as it will not help. The geography is almost entirely controlled by the city you list for your address. Inclusion of additional cities does virtually nothing when it comes to optimizing your Google Places listing. And if you have no physical address in a city or local phne number verified by other directories, forget it.
Try to include multiple uses of the primary keyword in various forms – if you are a Carpenter, make sure you include terms such as “bathroom remodeling or “hanyman services” or “siding” etc. In addition, “free” is a top search word for virtually any search phrase, but ask yourself if you want to attract people looking for “free stuff”
It is important to remember that the description is designed to reach a wide swath of people and not win writing awards. Keep it simple and include your top keywords. You have limited space so make sure you include all your key products or services.
This may be the most key area of your listing. Google Places requires the use of at least one standard category, even if that category barely matches your company or product or service. For example, if you a re Sheet metal fabricator you may have to select “Fabricator” even if that category is too braod. Begin by typing your top keywords and choose the most relevant category. Google Places provides the ability to include 5 categories. Be very careful what you choose here, as you have little chance of ranking for a keyword that is not in your Category list. And you may have to choose only your top categories since you are limited to four custom categories.
For our hypothetical company, the categories might look something like:
Hanyman (Top keyword search / Custom Category)
Bathroom Remodeling (Top keyword search / Custom Category)
Hardwood Floors (Top keyword search / Custom Category)
Additions (Custom category)
Note: Google will provide tracking data on a monthly basis. If you select a category and seem to have no traffic even when you are ranking, you can always go back and edit your listing and select another category. You may modify your listing at any time.
You have two options here. “All customers come to our place of business” or you can select a Service area with a radius on a map. There are differing opinions but I would select would most accurately describes your business. If you are a Carpenter and only want business 20 miles away, you can select this. If you are a Pizza parlor, then physical address works. If you sell gaskets all over New England, then I would widen your Service Area as far as possible.
Business hours and payment options are purely optional and serve little if any value to the optimization process. Potential customers certainly will find the information useful.
Work hard to have customers write reviews on your Google places listing. DO NOT try and game the system here as Google can detect your IP and you need to sign in to your Google account to post a review. And people can sniff out phony reviews as well so even if you rank, someone still needs to click through and call or visit your site. Ask customers, friends etc to write a review as it is very important for competetive listings.
You can also feature a coupon such as “10% off First Order” but it doesn not seem to help ranking and I have not seen a big conversions of these.
Once you are done, your listing may appear within hours or it may take weeks after it is verified. Google will also provide monthly statisitcs for how often your company appeared and how often someoone took action. Be patient but pay attention. Tweak if you need to and keep working on reviews.
The new Google Places local business listing will not be active until verified. Usually, verification can be completed by triggering a phone call from Google’s computers to the phone number of record for the listing. In some instances, Google requires verification via a postcard mailed to the address of record for the listing. Postcards can take up to 5 weeks to arrive.
A few points to keep in mind
- It is difficult to rank if your business has no presence in other business directories, yellow pages etc.
- It is very helpful to have a local number and not an 800 number or corporate number
- You need a physical address, not a PO Box.
- Take time in determining best search terms. Search for yourself with the term and your geographic area. See if Google Local results are displayed and how many companies are listed. Try various forms of the category term. For instance, you could try regional versions of Hoses, Hydraulic hoses, hydraulic hose repair, hydraulic servies etc before deciding in which terms to use.
Even if you are not a local company, many people will still search locally or within a state or region. So even if you are a national manufacturer, try claiming your listing and see what searches you may bring in. After all, it is a free lunch.
If you would like help or advise call us at 508-320-2625.