Google Places Optimization for Local Businesses

In a world populated by smartphones, iPads and other tablets, the competition is heating up to attract consumers who are looking for local businesses “on the go”.

There are multitudes of online directories which feed into many search engines. However, Google Places reigns as the most important directory listing of them all. Google Places enables businesses to set up, claim and update their own listings within the #1 search engine. Your Google Places listing and its maintenance is of utmost importance. Otherwise, you run the risk of mobile customers being unable to find you! Therefore, we’ve compiled this list of suggestions to make it easier for you to maintain your business’s Google Places profiles.:

Claim your listing!
If you haven’t already done so, create a Google Account, login, go to the Google Places listing for your business and claim it. If one does not yet exist, you can create it. This guide will help. Populate all applicable fields with information, such as business description, categories and hours of operation. Including as much information as possible in your local profiles will improve the chances of your business locations’ appearing in the results of relevant search. Do this for each business location.
Visual Images
Visuals boost your rankings, appeal to consumers and help drive conversions. Videos and photos increase your appeal by making your offerings appear more tangible. Plus, search engines love them!
Google Business Photos can be used for virtual tour images. Use these to show off your business, projects that your company has completed, staff members in the office, even the office itself!
- Create a YouTube Channel under your Google Account for those FAQ, testimonial and demonstration videos. You can then link this to your Google Places profile.
Keep it updated
Make sure your business profile information is kept current. Each month, update your profiles with specials, coupons, new products and services, photos and videos, as well as anything else that might have changed such as phone numbers or hours of operation.
Reviews
Encouraging happy customers to rate and review your products/services on sites such as Yelp and Google can help your search engine rankings and increase click-through and conversion rates. We suggest that you create a system of requesting ratings/reviews and encourage your customers to leave such on the various engines, especially Google Places.
If you should receive a negative or unfavorable review, it is always best to respond positively and make an effort to clear up the matter, even if it comes from one of your competitors.
By the way, a 2010 BrightLocal survey found that nearly 70% of surveyed US consumers reported that they trust online consumer opinions just as much as they trust recommendations from friends!                                                                                                                                                                                           Social Check-ins
Google now uses check-ins to make recommendations to people in a users Google+ circles when they search for local businesses. You can set up your Google+ social check-in offers through your Google Places profile and use it like a virtual coupon!
(Pssst! Claim your business pages and profiles on Facebook, FourSquare and other social platforms as well to encourage visitors to check-in at your business location for offers and tips!)
Coupon Offer Programs
Google Places gives you the option of creating an Offer once your listing has been claimed. Be sure to keep such coupons updated when they expire. Also, alert your employees to the fact that they are online so they will recognize them when a customer redeems them with a printed coupon or displays them on a smartphone or tablet.
- Google Offers must be something that is unique to Google users and not available to all customers regardless of their origin. (For example, free shipping or free estimates)
- Leverage the digital coupon for more than just a one-time sale. For example, a business coach can offer a free initial consultation. A service provider can offer a discount on a maintenance contract or set-up of some kind. Use it to promote new services current clients may not be aware of.
- Have a strategy for further outreach once they use the coupon. Consider a two for one deal that gets people to bring their friends. That way, you can place your business in front of the friend too!

You will be amazed at how many businesses never take advantage of this free form of marketing! (Which, btw, is the most basic step in any SEO campaign!) Do the right thing and take control of your listings. The information is “out there” for the search engines to find so make sure your customers find what you need them to know!

Angela Shoffner is the Director of Social Media Marketing for SEO Rocket, a full service internet marketing firm that provides local and national Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Marketing, Paid Search Marketing and website analytics services. They are located in Kernersville, NC and on the web at www.SEORocket.com   

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