Location, Location, Location: How to Boost Your Local Business Search with a Google Places Page

As former House Speaker Tip O’Neill, a master of catering to his Boston constituency, once said, “All politics is local.”

For small businesses looking to build a loyal customer base, there’s a similar truism.

The new/old reality, even as the Internet enables global reach, is this: Most consumers are looking for reliable businesses and services close to home.

According to recent Google data, 73 percent of all online activity involves local search. In addition, Inc.com reports, 97 percent of consumers go online to find local businesses. And they’re basing their purchasing decisions on easily found answers, accurate information and positive customer reviews.

So, how do you get your local business found? A free and relatively easy way is to register with Google Places.

Enhance Your Local Search Optimization with a Free Google Places Page
There are three requirements to set up a Google Places page:

  • A Google account.
  • A phone number for your business that can be verified and will appear on your business listing.
  • A mailing address for same. (If you work out of your home and want to maintain privacy, you can hide this information online and specify a service area, instead. More on this, below.)

The Google Places interface enables you to enhance your listing with category keywords, a description of your business, photos and video. You can also add a QR code (two dimensional bar code). In addition, customers can write reviews of your business on your Places page.

The more enriched content and positive reviews you have, the better your chances of being listed in the top seven that appear in a local Google search for businesses in your category, such as Restaurants.

How to Get Started with Google Places
Once you set up your Google account (free and easy, just requires a verifiable email account—not necessarily with Gmail—and password), your first step in the Google Places interface is to enter your phone number. When you submit your number, Google will check to see that no one else is using it for their own Places page. There are instructions for what to do if someone is using your number without your permission, as well.

Next you’ll see a series of forms to complete, including your business mailing address, business description, category and more. The Places User Guide is worth reading before you start entering content. You’ll also find a helpful tour of a Places page to get oriented.

When your page is set up, you’ll have the option of hiding your business address, if you wish to keep it private (such as a home office), and designating a service area, instead. Instructions are found in the Places User Guide, within the Service Areas tab under More Features. (Yes, it’s buried. I had to search a bit to find it.)

After you’ve completed your listing to your satisfaction, you’ll need to verify it in order to receive a PIN to activate your listing. This helps to protect you from someone else setting up a business listing for you without your knowledge or approval. Verification can be done by phone, text or postcard. When you’ve finished this step, your Places page will be visible within about 24 hours.

So What if You Want to Keep Your Phone Number Private?
Since a Google Places listing requires a phone number, if you use your private cell for your business calls and don’t want it plastered all over the Internet, you’ll need another alternative.

One answer is a Facebook Fan page, which doesn’t require a phone number, includes geographic location information and can be tailored for a region rather than specific address, as well. More on that in a future post.

Quality, Accurate Information are Keys to a Successful Places Page
While it may take some time and patience to complete all of the information fields and get your Places page verified, the most important aspect is this: Be sure your content is clear, understandable and accurate. Potential customers will click away in seconds if your listing doesn’t match up with the content on your website, and you risk bad reviews if your information is false or misleading. (Not to mention, that’s just bad business.)

So take your time and do it right. Don’t delegate to anyone in your organization who doesn’t understand your brand message or can’t write well. The local search results will be worth the effort.

2 Responses to “Location, Location, Location: How to Boost Your Local Business Search with a Google Places Page”

  1. Edward Booth says:

    Great post. You’ve narrowed down Google places setup to a simple set of instructions. I especially like your suggestions for the use of the QR code in the places page as well as your comments about clear, understandable and accurate content. I couldn’t agree with you more. Thank you. I will share with my clients.

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