Are you Missing Out on the Benefits of
A Guide to Google Places
The aim of local search is to provide a search user with a selection of businesses near-by without the need to visit many different websites to find the locations or get contact information.
I still find that some business owners have not claimed their listing, and some that have at least put their business on the map have not filled out their profile or business details enough to have a chance against their competitors.
What Is A Places Result?
You see these ‘places’ results when you search for a business or trade with a local term, such as: “Carpet Cleaners Essex”, “Plumbers in London” etc.
They come in a group of 8 results from A to G underneath the paid listings but above the organic results, those local listings are linked to a Places business profile and the locations are shown by pins on a map. (see image below)
By creating a google places listing for your business you can take advantage of a free mini web page and listing in the Google search results. For certain businesses, local search can be just as effective as your own website for generating enquiries.
It is still necessary to have your own website however, as there is only a limited amount of information you can include in your places profile and a ranking factor within the local search results is the authority and rank of the website connected to the Places listing.
The big boy in search (including Local) is Google, so Google Places is the first platform you should concentrate on and if you have time later you can sign up with others such as Bing Local.
You can claim your business listing by going to http://www.google.com/places/
Your Places Profile
Ranking Your Google Places Page Higher
Google places is part of a search engine, so therefore it is possible to optimize your profile for better rankings just as you can optimize your site to rank higher in the organic results. There are several factors at play in where your business is listed and in typical Google tradition, the public is not really privy to that information.
It is obvious however that the location of the searcher is the most important ranking factor, your business in London should never appear in a search for similar businesses in Scotland. But it is possible to optimize your profile to compete with your local rivals.
Some independent studies investigating raking factors within Google Local results have discovered some best practises to follow to ensure you can get an upper hand on your less savvy competitors.
Be 100% complete
To get a good ranking in the places search results it is important to add as much information as possible, try to use all of the available text space, upload as many pictures as you can, include at least one video and complete the profile 100% if possible.
Reviews are an important ranking factor, but it can be a difficult process to encourage your customers to leave reviews on google places especially if the customer has to create an account to do so. You cannot write reviews on behalf of your customers, you must get them to use their own Google account, which is a barrier to some people.
Could you create some kind of ethical bribe? Such as discount on next order or booking when leaving a review to provide an incentive to your clients.
One important factor in your profile performance in local results is the amount of other references or citations your business has elsewhere on the internet.
You should sign up with some other business directories on the web, such as freeindex, yelp etc and where possible link to your google local places page (and of course your own domain) to build up these citations.
You could also link from your domain to your google local page and the profile on the other directories, this will give the google search spider a nice easy to follow path to all of your references from one place.
Ensure you have the same contact information across each of your social profiles or business pages, when the Google bot crawls the web it should see the same contact details for your business across all of the web properties connected to your brand. Consistency is key.