Google Places is currently one of the most effective free online marketing tools available to local business owners. Originally introduced into the world as the ‘Google Local Business Centre’, it is now a critical tool for increasing the visibility of your business on the internet and attracting local customers to your business.
Millions of people use Google Local (aka Google Maps) each day to find the best local businesses for their needs, and Google Places is the way to put your company in front of them.
And the best thing about Google Places – it doesn’t cost a thing to add or claim your own business listing!
This article aims to show you how to make the most out of your Google Places business listing by following these 10 easy tips:
Tip 1 – Use your real Business Name
It sounds obvious but you must make sure list your business under your real name. Some businesses have gone to extremes and stuffed extra words into their Business name. This has helped them get a short term foot-up in local listings but Google is clamping down on this behavior and these businesses will suffer in the future. That said you can consider adding 1-2 keywords in your name as long as it sounds natural and accurately represents your business. Here’s a good example:
- Real Business name – Fred Withers Ltd
- Google Places listing name – Fred Withers Plumbing Ltd
Tip 2 – Ensure your Business Information is 100% accurate
Accuracy of your business information is crucial. You should provide potential customers with exactly what they need to know about your business. Make sure that the you add your full business address, telephone number, fax number, website and email. Always use your real address not a PO box number and also list your local phone number not a 0800 or freephone number of any sort. It’s all about emphasizing your local-ness.
Tip 3 – Choose the right Business Categories and lots of them
Google Places gives you the option to list your business under 5 different Categories. Choosing the right category is critical to your success on Google Places. After all, you want your listing to be relevant and reach your intended target audience when they search for your type of business. Always select 1 or 2 of Google’s suggested categories, even if you feel that it might not fit exactly with your understanding of your business category. After that you can write your own (free-form) categories – up to 3 more – that give your business extra coverage. Ensure that you use all 5 category options available to you.
Tip 4 – Punchy & compelling Business Description
Google Places limits your Business Description to 200 characters so you need to get it perfect. The important thing is to use your most important keywords & service terms in your description. Also use phrases such as ‘professional’, ‘trusted’, ‘accredited’ to emphasise your credibility. End the business description with mention of a special offer or deal to encourage potential customers to pick up the phone or pay you a visit.
Tip 5 – Include Photos & Video
Photos and video add extra personality and details to your Google business listing. Google Places allows for 10 photos, so make sure you use them all. If you have a video camera then shoot a 1-2 minute video of yourself talking your business and what customers should expect from you. This my make you cringe and think ‘Really? Why?’ Well, because local businesses are all about the people who run them; customers love getting a glimpse of your store, your logo, and even yourself before they choose to buy from you. Show them who you are and you’ll standout from the other businesses on Google Places.
Tip 6 – Maximise the Extra Details
Include all the extra information Google Places asks for, such as your hours of operation, areas covered accepted payment methods and facilities. Take full advantage of adding all extra details possible. Both Google and your prospective customers will love you for it!
Tip 7 – Take time to complete the ‘Services’ Section
You can add a near unlimited number of services at the end of your Google Places listing. Use as many as you can without going over the top; 6-10 is a good number to aim for. Be creative with your Service listings and use this area to cram in lots of relevant service keywords but don’t use location names (a big no, no!) Here is a bad & a good example –
- Bad – Heating Services: Yes
- Good – Heating Services: gas-safe registered, radiator repair, boiler installation, hot water problems, fix central heating.
Tip 8 – Create a unique Special Offer ‘Coupon’
Local customers love special offers and so does Google so take advantage of this feature. Create a unique discount coupon that is offered only to users of Google Places. This will help your business standout from others and will help convert more online browsers into new, real customers.
Tip 9 – Generate Citations
Citations are ‘mentions’ of your business on other websites. Google uses these ‘citations’ to build up a picture of your business – i.e. it uses them to figure out how trustworthy your business is. This can worry some business owners but for those who know who to take advantage of it it’s a great opportunity.
You need to get as many ‘citations’ as you can. Here are 3 quick & easy ways to achieve this –
1. Get listed in other online directories (click here to find out more about online directory listings)
2. Ask your neighboring businesses & suppliers to put your business address details on their site with a link back to your website (you can offer to do the same in return for them)
3. Create a special offer for employees of nearby local businesses and put this on a discrete part of your website – even create a special page for each business or offer. Send details of this offer to each company in your area advertising and give them the link to the special offer page on your site. Ask them to put it on their company website if they have one. This will help generate new business directly & help with Google Places.
Tip 10 – Generate Customer Reviews
Google Places pulls in online customer reviews from multiple online directories such as Yelp.com, Qype, Insider Pages, TripAdvisor. Google uses these reviews as another factor in determining how trustworthy a business is. You can encourage your loyal customers to leave reviews about you directly these online directories or on your Google Places listing – it’s more powerful to have reviews on online directories because you reach their users as well as Google’s so you get more bang for your buck.
Most customers are happy to give you 5 minutes of their time but be sure not to bribe them or set up a ‘cash for comments’ scheme as this can backfire on you. Reviews should be genuine. Google Places now offers a way for business owners to respond to their reviews so you can publicly thank a loyal customer or respond to any negative comments and turn them to your advantage.
Everyone knows that Google advertising and marketing is an important factor in the success of any business, and now Google Places makes it an even more powerful marketing tool for local businesses. The massive audience of Google Maps holds huge potential for attracting new customers and growing your business if used correctly.
Only 10% of local businesses have claimed their Google Places listing and so now is the time to strike, claim your listing and get a head start on your competitors before they wise up!
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