Since the implementation of Google+, Google has made drastic changes to the way businesses set up their Google Places page (now known as Google Places for Business), while adding a social aspect for businesses to participate in by creating a Google+ Local page (Google’s equivalent to a Facebook business page).
If a search phrase is recognized as a local search by Google then the search engine will display business pages that provide that service or product in the searcher’s local area. Google is getting much better at recognizing what’s a local search even without stating the city in the search phrase. Google picks up on your location and attempts to best serve the searcher’s intent. For instance, if you’re located in St. Louis and search “Plumber,” that is a good enough indication for Google provide the searcher with local results in the St. Louis area.
So, how do businesses go about creating and optimizing their Google Places Business page? Well, the following is a 5 step plan to create and optimize your GP Business page.
Step 1: Claim your Google Places for Business page
If you’re a legitimate business, Google most likely has already created a basic GP for Business page for your business. Although Google provides your business information on the internet already, this means it’s far from optimized and most likely won’t show up high in organic local search results. Thus you must search for, claim and verify your business listing.
First things first, you’ll want to search for your business on Google Places for Business. You can sign in/up here with the gmail account you wish to use. Once signed in/up, you can search for your business. If you find it, click on it to claim the listing. If you don’t find it, you’ll have to add a listing to Google Places for Business. Either way, it’s very simple.
Once you claim or add a listing, you’ll have to verify your listing through mail. Google will send you a postcard to your business’s address. Once you receive it, which should take 1-2 weeks, enter in the PIN number to verify it.
Step 2: Optimize Your Business Listing
While claiming or adding your business, make sure to enter the correct business name, address, email, website, hours of operation, and phone number. For proper optimization and accurate representation of your business information, it is vital to enter this info in correctly.
Next in line for proper optimization is to choose the correct business category. Choose the closest category (or categories) your business falls into from Google’s category presets. You can also create manual category entries, but these won’t have as great of an impact the presets will have when it comes to search. By all means, though, create a manual entry if it clearly defines what your business does or offers.
Third, write up a unique description about your business. This is a highly important piece of information that separates your business from your competition. Don’t keyword stuff and please don’t be generic. Be the brand you want your company to be.
Lastly, add photos and videos that showcase your business. These items are THE most important elements of your Google Places for Business page because they reveal so much unique information to searchers and increase conversions.
Your goals should be to 100% complete your business listing because this signifies the fullest of optimizations. If you do all the above, while being unique with your description, photos and videos, then your Google Places for Business page will fully optimized and ready to show up in local search results.
Step 3: Seek Honest & Positive Reviews
Referrals, testimonials and word of mouth marketing are some of the best things a business can acquire. 1) They’re free forms of advertising, 2) they’re trustworthy, 3) they create a good reputation for your business, 4) they provide you more business and conversions, and 5) they improve your organic local search results.
Of course, all of these are fantastic for a business, but let’s look at the fifth reason. Why do positive reviews improve a business’s local listing in search results? Google always seeks to provide the best possible results for searchers. Since reviews are a great representation of how that business is perceived by past clients and seeing how potential new clients almost rely heavily on these reviews, they can have a significant impact on a business’s listing. If a business gets a ton of bad reviews, why would Google put them up in the #1 slot in local search? Chances are that business isn’t very quality driven.
Samuel Ott is a Search Marketing Specialist at Lift Division, a local SEO services provider in Columbia, Mo.