Making the Most of Google Places

Google Places The Blues Jeans Bar

If you’re one of the billions of people who use Google Search or one of the 97% of consumers who search for local businesses online (according to Google), you may have seen specific information about the business you’re searching for along with pictures, reviews and other details to the top right of the search results. Welcome to Google Places for Business.

Google Places is a great service that helps your business get found on Google Search and Maps – best of all, it’s free! Sign up for Google Places and whenever someone does a search for your company, your business will be highlighted at the top right of the page. You can add pictures, current business information such as location and hours, and viewers can see a map of your location as well as reviews.

Google-Places-Maps-The-Blues-Jean-Bar

Unfortunately, I’ve found that a lot of retailers don’t take advantage of this free Google service. It doesn’t take much effort and the cost (or lack thereof) is certainly not an issue. Unfortunately, often online marketing and social media responsibilities are not the only duties that a retail employee (in many cases, the owner) is responsible for, so the thought of managing even one more thing can be overwhelming. And with so many Google Services out there, it can be confusing which ones to take advantage of.

Getting Started

Following are a few things you will need to know before getting started:

  • You need a Google or Google AdWords account – If you don’t have one, it’s simple and free to create a Google account.
  • Google Places is available only in certain countries – You’ll need to check to see if it is available in your area.
  • It’s Free! – There’s no reason not to do it.
  • You must have a physical mailing address – The location must be staffed during stated hours and must be able to receive mail. PO Boxes are not accepted.
  • You must adhere to the Google Quality Guidelines  – The guidelines are pretty standard, but be sure to familiarize yourself with them beforehand.

Verify Your Business

The first thing you will need to do is verify your business. To do this, go to the main landing page for Google Places (or access through your Google Webmaster account under Other Resources) and click “Get Started for Free” (you may be prompted to login first). You’ll see a map and a search bar. Enter your business name and select your business if it shows up. If it does not, you can opt to create your business where you’ll enter your business name and location details. After that, you will be asked to verify your business either by postcard or by phone. The postcard takes a week or two to come to your physical location while the phone call can be done immediately. Keep in mind, you can verify multiple locations under one Google Places account by adding new locations.

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Add Details

You can start adding details right away (even before your postcard comes if you are using this method). Be sure to update all of your business information including your business description, category, store hours, as well as upload photos of your business or products.

Make the Most of Google Places

Once you have completed all of the above steps, it’s time to make sure that you’re making the most of Google Places.

Complete Your Information Accurately and In Full

The more details you include about your company, the more chances you have of getting found. Don’t forget to include “optional” information. Some experts believe that all things being equal, Google will display the more complete listing over one that is less so. Regardless, most customers will choose the link that provides more information and more compelling information.  Making sure to have accurate phone numbers and website information is crucial. Categories should describe your business as accurately and specifically as possible. Google recommends that you go for the more specific category first as it will still show up in the general category anyway (ie. Women’s Clothing Store will still show up under Clothing Store and will give your customers a better idea of what you sell.)

Write Meaningful Descriptions

Remember that your business description is your opportunity to create compelling content that will entice searchers to click on your business. While keywords are always important when writing any content, you shouldn’t try to fill up the description with keywords. People and search engines are smart and they will spot that tactic right away. Focus on why people will want to shop at your store and compel them to click on your link.

Include Photographs and Videos

As humans, we tend to be very visual. Upon reviewing your search results, are you more likely to be drawn to a bunch of words, or a visually appealing picture or video? Personally, I am most likely to click on someplace that shows the kind of shop or boutique environment that I enjoy or clothing that suits my taste. I’m even more likely to click if I see coupons and special deals (hint…hint).

Encourage Reviews and Respond

Encourage shoppers to rate your business by including the URL for your Google Places listing on your receipts, business cards or emails and ask them to write a review for you. Great reviews are especially important when Google displays only a business name, photo and rating such as in Google’s local search carousel. Most importantly, don’t forget to take the time to respond to reviews – positive or negative. It shows a lot about your business’s character when you thank people for their time.

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If you do a Google search on business, what do you see? Are you showing up where a Google Places business shows up (you may even though you haven’t verified your business as Google pulls information from many resources)? Is the information accurate? Is what you see compelling enough to make a user want to find out more?

If not, take a few minutes to set your business up right with Google Places. Continue to update pictures, provide specials and coupons regularly, and make sure to respond to your reviews. And don’t forget to keep your website itself compelling and fresh as many people will click on the link to go to your website before or instead of going to your brick and mortar store.