Free Local Tool that Impacts SEO
Thankfully Google Places for Business is morphing and getting a face lift. Earlier this month Google announced that it is improving the interface, making it simpler and easier to navigate. That’s good news as many of our clients find this free tool confusing and technically challenging. Even with these upgrades, be prepared for a time intensive project requiring accuracy across your online assets.
Because Google Places has such a large impact on local SEO rankings, I want to explain what it is, why it should be on your radar screen now, and how to get started:
What is Google Places?
Google Places is simply a listing. When searching on Google, have you noticed addresses showing up for local business? They look like push pins that are alphabetically labeled. These listings can be found via Google search as well as on Google Maps. It’s a place where online searchers can see local businesses on a map as well as view and submit reviews (Google Reviews).
According to Search Engine Watch, Google has 67% market share for its search engine. These numbers — combined with the fact it’s a free service — provide a very compelling argument to figure out and take advantage your Google Places listing. Each local listing is a compilation of information from a variety of sources including Yellow Pages and other third-party providers.
Claim Your Business Page
The first order of business is to claim your page. Google will ask you to verify that you’re the business owner(via a phone call or snail mail postcard). Every Google Places business listing must have a mailing address. Even if your business is virtual (e.g., you work from home), you still have to add a physical address. You’ll be able to specify service areas and hide your address further along in the process.
Even if you’re not ready to complete your business page profile, we suggest claiming and verifying your listing. While this tool is still developing and gaining acceptance, you want to remain in control of what is published about your business. For example, aggressive or unethical competitors can pose as you and and post erroneous information.
To get started, Google Places has a comprehensive user guide. It answers most questions as well as lays out these quality guidelines that you need to follow:
- Only business owners or authorized representatives can verify a listing.
- The business name field is not a place to keyword stuff. Adding extraneous words attempting to manipulate search results is a no-no.
- Make sure your address is written exactly the same way across all your internet listings.
- Add only precise (and real) addresses for your business. A post office box doesn’t qualify.
- Don’t create more than one listing for a business location. Departments within businesses ideally have separate phone numbers and/or customer entrances.
- Include direct phone numbers or website urls so no redirects to landing pages or phone numbers other than the actual business.
One final note: Google is connecting Places with local search and Google Plus. While you’re at it, add a Google Plus profile.