One thing that Google has done quite consistently is provide business owners with a variety of tools that can help ensure they reach customers with relevant content. One of these tools is ‘Google Places For Business.’ (https://www.google.com/business/) This tool allows brick and mortar businesses to share information about their location, hours, products and more to customers within a reasonable geographic area. This service is especially valuable to businesses with an online sales presence combined with a brick and mortar store.
By using this tool in combination with other tools provided by Google, and by following the most recent SEO guidelines that Google provides, business owners can successfully reach their target consumers. This includes those interested in shopping online and those who prefer an in-person experience. The following tips will demonstrate how to maximize the effectiveness of your Google Places listing. This guide assumes that you have already taken the steps necessary to log into Google Places using your Adwords account or the Gmail account you wish to have associated with your business. It also assumes that you’ve taken the basic steps to add your business. Hint: try searching for your business. Google will create listings based on information it is able to determine even before you sign up. If that’s the case, you can simply update and add to the existing information.
Understand What Google Places Can do For You
Before you take steps to optimize your Google Places listing, it’s best to have a full understanding of what the tool can actually do for you. Google Places provides local search users with information about your hours, location, products, contact information, hours, website and services. Even better, if you have updates such as a sale or special event, Google Places will share that as well.
Even better, Google Places doesn’t just present your information to people using its standard search engine. It propagates your information to Google Maps, Google+, Google Voice search, Google Earth, mobile search, etc. As long as your information is up-to-date and accurate, it will reach your target audience.
Tell Google Where You Are
If your business has multiple locations, you don’t need to define each one through a separate account. Google Places has an option for you to create and upload a file with information on all of your different locations. This will allow you to manage all of your places from within a single dashboard.
Learn and Adhere to Google’s Quality Guidelines
Google is committed to ensuring that users are served search engine results that are truly relevant to them. Because of this, they have created quality guidelines that businesses using Google Places must adhere to. These guidelines are provided here. Please read them and check for updates regularly.
Fortunately, they are pretty easy to understand and follow. You must be a brick and mortar business. You must represent your business honestly. Your physical location information must be complete and accurate. You shouldn’t represent yourself as the owner of a location without authorization. For example, if you run a weekly class at your local community center, you cannot claim that address as your business or represent yourself as the owner. You must own an eligible business. Finally, you must not lie, misrepresent, or use your listing to harass others.
Be Smart When Choosing Business Categories
Google frowns on businesses that attempt to spread themselves across too many categories. They may penalize those that do. Further, the whole point of optimization is to reach the potential customers who are truly interested in your specific products or services. Spreading yourself too thin simply does not make sense.
Keep in mind that the first three categories that you choose are the ones that will most likely be displayed. Google also advises business owners to select specific categories over generic categories. Imagine that you own a tutoring center that offers services such as ESL classes. One of the things you may do is help students learn to translate road signs and other information they may come across on a daily basis. However, that doesn’t mean you should categorize yourself as a translation service per se. That may get you lost among established translation sites in search results. Instead, choose categories such as ESL and tutoring.
Use Lots of Visuals and Add Other Engaging Content
If it helps, think of the information that users see when your Google Places listing appears in search results as any other content. It’s important to make it eye catching and engaging. How do you make your blog posts and social media content eye catching and engaging? You use visuals.
Do the same thing here. Upload plenty of pictures and videos depicting your store, products, employees and customers. Other engaging content might include information on special offers, discount codes specifically for customers who find you through your Google Places listing, quotes and testimonials, even social media updates.
Embrace Google + And Integrate it With Google Places
Google+ may not have lived up to its promise to become a social network rivaling Facebook, but the company has essentially rebranded it as a tool for businesses to connect with customers and one another. Because of this, creating a Google+ profile using your Google places associated e-mail is probably a wise idea. This will connect the two together.
Next, go into Google+ and add a relevant cover photo. You can also use Google+ to share updates that can be seen via your Google Places profile in search results. Because Google is encouraging businesses to do this, it seems reasonable to presume that search ranking preference may be given to those that comply.
Add as Much Information as Possible
Another recommendation that comes directly from Google is that you fill out all of your profile information, or as much as you possibly can. Because of their desire to return the most relevant search results to users, they want as many specific details as possible. In fact, if you and a competitor are closely located to one another, have the same products and services, and all other factors are equal, the business with the more fully-completed profile is going to be ranked higher.
Of course, it isn’t just rankings that are important. Customers will be drawn to your listing the more information you provide to them. In addition to that, you will increase your likelihood of attracting customers who are specifically interested in what you have to offer.
Create Descriptions That Are Valuable to Searchers
Google uses your geographical location along with the business categories you have used in their local search algorithms. Because of this, you don’t need to focus on these in your business description. You should also avoid focusing on keyword saturation as well. It simply is not necessary.
Instead, use descriptions to communicate to customers directly. Communicate the benefits of clicking into your business website, or of coming to see you in person. This is your opportunity to speak to potential customers and create a great impression of your business. Remember though, that most local search users are on mobile devices. This can impact the amount of information that they see. So, make your first sentence or two really count.
Solicit Feedback And Reviews From Customers
Google controls much of what is displayed in local search results. In many cases, reviews take top priority. So, in order to earn the most desireable rankings, encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews. The more positive reviews you have, the better. Of course, reviews written via Google itself are going to earn the most consideration. That being said, Google will also take reviews from Yelp and other sources into consideration and display those as well.
The best way to get customers to submit positive reviews is to first, of course, provide stellar products and services. Beyond that however, the key is simply telling them where they can write reviews and making it as easy as possible for them to do so. Here are a few things to try:
- Include links to relevant review sites on receipts and other communications;
- Link to review sites on your website and social media account;
- Include a postcard with links to review sites in items that you package or ship;
- Send follow-up e-mails thanking customers for their business and encourage them to leave a review if they are happy with your products or services;
- Offer something of value in return for leaving a review such as a discount or coupon code.
Remember that it isn’t just Google that finds positive reviews credible. It’s very likely that your potential customers will be more inclined to give you their business if they believe you have served others well.
Local search is extremely valuable in driving foot traffic to your store. It can also benefit your online shop as well. Take full advantage of the tools that Google has provided to you, and you will increase the likelihood of earning a place in the coveted top three Google local search positions. Even better, the customers you do attract will be fully informed, and much more likely to make a purchase.
Dina Indelicato is a blogger enthusiast and freelance writer. She is always open to research about new topics and gain new experiences to share with her readers. You can find her on Twitter @DinaIndelicato and Facebook.
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