Google Place Search (formerly known as Google Places) rules local search. Just try it. Go to Google and type in “Personal Injury Attorney Your City.” The first seven listings in the “natural search listings” are all Google Places pages. Since 20% of searches are local and the majority of their over $30 billion in revenue comes from small businesses, Google has decided to go hard after local small business advertising.
They started by creating 50 million Google Places pages using aggregated data from online directories and the Yellow Pages. These pages are mobile optimized and attached to Google Maps.
Only about 8% of local businesses have actually claimed their Google Place Search page. Even less have fully optimized their pages. However, this is changing fast. Local businesses are getting hip to the importance of Google Places pages. If you have a local business, the first place potential customers will start to find you is on your Google Places page from their smart phone. You want to make sure you are at the top of the list for your category. Here is how you get a jump on your competition in local search:
1. Stake Your Claim!
Google made the Google Place Search Page now you need to claim yours. You need to claim it because it is possible that the information listed is not correct and the more completely you fill out your page the higher it is ranked in searches. In order to be able to add information to your page you need to claim it first. Google verifies your claim to the page by sending you a postcard by snail mail with a confirmation code or by sending you a message on your phone.
2. Complete All Information on Your Google Place Search Page
Now that you have claimed your page you want the information to be accurate and complete. Is the address the same? Have you changed phone numbers? You want to add pictures, videos, links to your website, reviews, coupons and as much pertinent information about your business as possible. You want to do this for 2 reasons. First you want your customers to have the most accurate and relevant information about your business. Next you want to completely optimize your Google Place Search Page because optimized pages get ranked first. The better optimized your page the higher it ranks in local search and you want to be first right? Remember, most likely your customers will find your Google Place Search page before they will find your website so you want this to be as attractive and complete as possible.
3. Citations Citations Citations
Citations are listings and references made to you in other local directories. Google aggregates links and reviews from other local directories and places them in your Google Places listing. This also is a factor in determining your rank in local search.
So you want to be lísted in as many other local dírectories as possible to boost your rank in Google Place Search. Also, these directories, such as Yelp, are highly trafficked directories in their own right and people will find your business directly there as well.
Súbmitting to each of these directories making sure the information is accurate on each is a very tedious task. Here are a couple of services which will do the submissions for you: Localeze.com and Universal Business Listing.
Another trick is to use YouTube as a citation source. On your YouTube video description make sure you include the same name address and phone number that is on your Google Place Search Page and include local tags in the tag section and Google will pick this up as a local citation.
To get even more citations you can use a free service called Whitespark which will give you an even more in depth list of local directories. If your niche is highly competitive, these extra citations can mean the difference between getting a top listing, or not, in Google local search.
4. Get as Many Reviews as Possible
The number one rule with reviews is that they have to be real. Do not just put a bunch of phony reviews on Google or anywhere else. People are smart, Google is smart. You will get busted. This could end up with you not only losing credibility but having your page penalized. Plus, in some cases it can be illegal.
Some business owners have their customers write hand written reviews right there in the local business. They then upload the scanned version of the review with a link using a service called Posterous. With the customer’s permission you can also just input the review online right then and there. Many customers have smart phones and they can place the review directly online themselves while they are in the establishment.
You can even incentivize your customers to give you a review. Maybe you could give 10% off or a coupon if they place a review online. Be careful, some directories allow this others do not. Check the TOS of the directory you are placing the review on first.
The more reviews you have the higher you are ranked on Google Place Search. Also people look at reviews before making a purchase. This is something that really needs your attention. If you do happen to get a negative review many directories will let you respond. Keep up with this, your business depends on it.