Achieving a front page ranking in Google Places is an integral part of local SEO. The search results pages in Google gives a fair bit of real estate to the businesses who have well optimised listings in Google Places and even if you are at the top of the organic searches, you could well be below those businesses ranking highly in Google Places.
Here are a few simple tips for optimising your Google Places listing which should hopefully give you some advantage over your competition.
1. Claim Your Business
This may seem obvious but many businesses overlook this important step. If your business comes up in the Google Places results page before you have created a listing you will need to verify ownership before you can go ahead and edit the listing.
This is as simple as clicking the link ‘Business Owner?’ then following the instructions. You can go ahead and edit your listing and Google will either post or SMS a verification code to you.
If your business does not currently show up you will need to create the listing and follow the same steps above.
You can share a lot of crucial information about your business on your Google Places listing, not just your location and contact details. The more information you fill in the better and this includes adding a comprehensive description, photos, videos, reviews, hours of operation, payment options as well as additional details such as parking options, brands that you supply and other customisation details specifically for your business.
Citations basically means other websites that mention your business. These mentions don’t necessarily have to provide a link back to your website. This could include local directories, business associations, blogs and even a mention of your business in the local online publication.
Adding your information to local directories is a great way to get started in building up your citations. In Australia my favourite ones are currently Yellow Pages, True Local, Start Local, Aussie Web, Hot Frog, Local Business Guide, Aussie Local, Laton and National Wide. Again, add as much information about your business as possible at each of these directories.
Which brings us to the next point. When adding your details to these local directories, ensure you keep everything consistent with your Google Places listing such as your street address, phone numbers, opening hours, etc.
The same is true for details on all of your website properties including your main website plus any social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Entering the correct categories is the best way to ensure your business is found by people searching for your services. You can add up to five categories, with one of them being a Google-suggested category. Think about what your customers would be searching for and choose the most appropriate. Make sure you use all of the five that you are entitled to.
6. Capture Audience Feedback
Getting great reviews on your listing is a huge bonus for you which should boost your rankings. If you take a look at any of the top listings in Google Places results you’ll notice they often have the most reviews.
You can add a link somewhere on your website to encourage customers to leave a review or simple ask them next time you are speaking.
For a bricks and mortar business display a sign in a prominent place or for a business such as a restaurant, add a flier to the bill.
It is against Google’s policies to offer incentives to customers to leave reviews but if you’ve done a great service then your customers and clients should be more than happy to help you out.
In the past, Google used to include review snippets and ratings from third party websites such as Trip Advisor. As of July 2011, they no longer do this and all reviews must now be made by users who are logged into their Google accounts.
The screen shots below were taken 4 days apart, this shows the impact of Google’s decision to no longer include third party reviews. Not only have the number of review radically decreased but this has also affected the ratings of some of these hotels.
7. Change Often
Making regular changes to your listing, such as altering the description or adding new images from time to time, can help boost your rankings. Keep the content fresh as you would your website.
Unfortunately coupons are not currently available in Australia but if you’re in the US, definitely use this option.
Avoid over-using your keywords in your listing, only use where appropriate. For example never add your keywords to the ‘Company/Organisation Name’ field unless it is part of your company name. This could be seen as spam by Google and your listing could be suspended or put under review for several weeks.
Duplicate listings for a single business location is also a big no-no. If there is more than one listing for your business, log in to your account and delete one immediately. To do this select the ‘Remove this listing from my Google Places account’ option.
I encourage you to read the Google Places Guidelines for further information.
Finally I wanted to leave you with this thought, as quoted from Google:
More people search for businesses online than anywhere else, so it’s important to make sure your business listing can be easily found on Google.com and Google Maps. With Google Places, creating a great listing takes just a few minutes and doesn’t cost a thing.