In my small business online marketing guide, I mentioned that the #1 way to start promoting your company online is to claim its local listing on the search engines. For Google, this means setting up your Google Places page.
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What Is Google Places?
Previously called the Local Business Center, Google Places is a free service. You are able to create a business listing, which Google may show in the search results.
Some benefits of creating your Places page include:
- Better rankings when Google displays local search results
- The ability to customize the business page shown on Google
- Access to data regarding views and interaction with your Places page
- An opportunity to offer coupons to customers directly on the Places page
- A chance to help inform Google as to the industry and service area for your company
- Potential to try other new features, such as paid advertising and free photo shoots
How To Setup A Google Places Page
Step 1: Sign In With A Google Account
Go to the Google Places site – http://google.com/local/add. You’ll be asked to sign in with your Google Account, or to register a new one. If you have a Google account, great. If not, signing up is a quick 1-page exercise.
Step 2: Add Your Business
Now you want to add your business. When I was writing this article, the first page seen upon sign-in was this:
Uploading a data file is an option for businesses that have many locations. To keep things simple, we’re going to use theAdd new business button. If you have more than five or so locations, the data file might be worthwhile – if you click that button, Google will provide instructions.
When you choose to add your business, you’ll see a screen like this:
Most of this is pretty easy. A few things to keep in mind:
- Google requires that you use a real company name under company/organization. You can probably use “Luigi’s Italian Restaurant” if your company name is “Luigi’s,” and this should help your page appear for Italian searches. If, however, you just list a dozen keywords alongside your company name, it might someday be penalized as spam.
- Notice that underneath the map it says Fix incorrect marker location. After you fill in your address information, this map will update. If it puts your business in the wrong place – fix it! This is the place your company will appear at on Google Maps.
- If you don’t have a website, that’s ok – but it’s well worth coming back and adding it once you do.
- Create a good-sounding description. If you can include some keywords people might be searching for, that’s a bonus.
- Spend some time with the categories. You’ll notice that it provides suggestions as you type. Use these to find as many relevant categories as you can, up to the limit of 5.
Once you’re finished, click next (you can always come back and edit later). You’ll probably end up on a page asking if you are already on Google Maps. Look closely here – Google may have pulled your information from somewhere else, or a competitor could even have claimed your listing. Then either claim your existing listing or add a new one.
Step 3: Add More Information
After adding the basic info, the next step asks for some optional information, which will be displayed on your Places page. Fill out everything you can. If you don’t have photos or video, come back and add them later. The more info you add, the more likely Google will be to display your page, and it’s also helpful for potential customers.
Step 4: Validate Your Listing
You can validate your listing by phone or postcard. Either way, you will be contacted by Google with a short code. I highly recommend the phone validation – the postcard is much slower. If you choose phone validation, Google will immediately call the number in your listing. It’s ok if you can’t answer right then – you’ll be able to login to the Places Dashboard and request another phone call at a convenient time. The listing will not be active until confirmed.
Using Your Google Places Page
After your Google Places listing has been confirmed you’ll have access to a variety of features. You can access them anytime at the Places Dashboard.
Edit Your Listing
Click on Edit, and existing information can be edited, or new info added. Remember to go back and fill in any sections you skipped during the initial setup.
View Visitor Statistics & Post To Page
Click on View report, and a page will appear that looks like this:
There is some great information here, as you can see the number of visitors to your page, what those visitors do on the page, what searches they are using, and where they are asking for driving directions from.
You can also post to your place page, using the small box in the upper-right corner. This allows for the posting of real-time updates, primarily intended for businesses that have special events happening on a regular basis.
At the very top of the page on your dashboard screen, there should be a link to Coupons. Upon clicking this link, you’ll be taken to a page where you can create a new coupon, or manage existing coupons.
The coupons are fairly self-explanatory. The big benefit is that they receive a prominent showing on your Places page, and should help convince customers to consider your business. Coupons can either be printed by a customer, or displayed on their cell-phone (so be prepared to track customer use of non-printed coupons).
Google Tags ($25/Month)
Google is testing a feature called Tags, which is available in a select set of cities. The program runs $25 per month, and allows a business to highlight their listing on Google Maps with a special yellow tag containing additional information.
I don’t have much experience with the efficacy of this advertising method. It’s inexpensive enough, however, to give a try – and the statistics on the Google Places Dashboard should make it easy to see how it has worked. You can access more information at the Google Tags page.
If you’ve used Tags, please leave a comment regarding your experience.
Google Places QR Codes
QR codes are small symbols that can be read by cell phones. On the right hand side of the statistics page, you will see a QR code for your business. If it is scanned by the camera of a properly setup phone, the Places QR code will send the phone directly to your Places page.
Google would like you to print out the QR code and have it available to your customers. This might be a good way to get customers to review your business on Google Places, although you will need a very tech-savvy clientel to get much use in the near future.
Free Photo Shoots
Google is currently providing free photo shoots to businesses in select cities. The shots are taken by a local photographer, and are intended for use on Google Places. This could be an easy way to get more professional shots than you would take yourself – for more information, visit Google’s Business Photos page.
Responding To Reviews
And That’s Google Places
By now you should have your Google Places page setup, and be familiar with many of its features. Google is rapidly evolving the Places service – so be sure to login regularly to keep up, or consider following this blog for updates (Facebook, Email, RSS, or Twitter).
If you’re ready for more work, consider these other sites for online business listings.