What Is Google Places and Why Your Business Needs It

Travis Van SlootenSmall Business SEO

What Is Google Places

So what is Google Places, you may be asking? In short, it is the quickest and easiest way to get found on Google! In April of 2010, Google introduced a revolutionary concept that has changed the way businesses market themselves online. Google created, and then fine-tuned, a unique database that collects detailed information about brick and mortar businesses such as name, address, phone number, email address, website URL, etc. That database today is called “Google Places.”

Each business listing in Google Places is called a “Place” page, and Google allows businesses to create and customize their own listing within Google Places. Think of a Place page like a micro-website containing only the most essential information about your business. Here is a brief, 60-second introductory video that summarizes Google Places and its benefits:

Important Terminology Note: Google Places is also referred to as Google Maps, Google Local, and Google Local Business Center. They are all one in the same and are used interchangeably.

4 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Google Places Listing

1. Google Accounts for 66% of the U.S. Search Market

According to the November 2011 data from ComScore, Google accounted for 66.2% of the U.S. search market. Take a look at this chart:

search engine numbers

What’s amazing is that Google gets more than double the traffic that Yahoo! and Bing get combined! With Google accounting for well over half of the searches conducted online, it makes sense to concentrate the bulk of your marketing efforts there initially. One of the easiest things you can do to get found on Google is to secure a Google Places listing.

2. Google Places Can Get You to the First Page on Google

Research shows that 95% of all Internet searchers find what they are looking for on page 1 of the search results. Rarely is someone going to click to page 2 or 3 to find what they are looking for. (source: iCrossing.com). In short, if you’re not on the first page of Google, you might as well be invisible.

Google displays Google Places listings with their organic (natural) search results when local searches are conducted. In addition, Google gives preference to local businesses that have an optimized listing in Google Places over the organic search results so they are often found on the top of the first page. With a well-optimized and detailed Google Places listing, you can easily get found on the first page – and often times on the top of the first page!

To see how Google Places is displayed along with organic results – and usually on top of the organic results – I did a search for bakeries in my city. Here were the results:

what is google places

Notice all those Google Places listings on the top of the first page? How nice would it be to have your business found there? The good news is, you can! You just have to spend a little time with your Google Places listing and you’ll reap the rewards.

3. Google Places Can Drive More Traffic to Your Business Website

It stands to reason that if Google Places can get you on the first page of Google – and in many cases on the top of the page – you’re going to get more traffic to your business website. A recent study by BrightLocal.com concluded that Google Places directs 33% of all website traffic to local business websites. With Google Places becoming more and more popular, this number will surely grow.

4. Google Places is Mobile Ready

Google automatically formats your Google Places listing for mobile devices. Remember those stats I shared with you earlier in this guide? Let me repeat them here again. A recent study showed that 95% of smart phone users search for local information on their phones. 88% of the smart phone users take action within a day. 77% have either called or visited a local business because of the information they gathered during their smart phone search. – (sources: Google, BIA/Kelsey). With a Google Places listing, you’ll be able to tap into that “smartphone search” market.

How To Set Up Your Google Places Listing

One of the great things about Google Places is that it’s free! To get started on your listing, visit the Google Places page. The first thing you’ll be asked to so is to sign in with your Google account information. Before you begin the registration process, we have two very important tips to share with you.

Tip #1:
Sign into Google Places with a Gmail account instead of a Google account. A Gmail account and a Google account are two different things. Registering for a Gmail account automatically signs you up for a Google account. Registering for a Google account does not automatically sign you up for a Gmail account.

Tip #2:
Open a brand new Gmail account for your business and link the new account to Google Places. A business Gmail account allows employees that you designate to make modifications to changing information.

Never use a personal Gmail account for Google Places! The reason is if you use your personal Gmail account for your Google Places listing, your employees or contractors (if you outsource your online marketing), will have access to your personal email. You want your business Gmail account to be separate from your personal Gmail account.

Once you log into Google Places, you’ll begin the process of entering all your business information. Take your time entering this information as it will not only convey to your potential customers what your business is all about, but it will also determine how well your listing ranks in Google’s search results. Following is a list of the information you’ll be entering and some tips to consider for each.

Company/Organization
The name must be how your customers recognize your business. In short, it is the actual name of your company or organization. Do not add qualifiers such as city names, URLs, and phone numbers. And don’t use keywords to try to “optimize” your listing. Google considers this extraneous information to be an attempt to game the system.

Business Address
Provide the exact street address. Each location of your business can have one listing, no more. PO Boxes do not count as physical locations. If you operate in a service area, list a central location, and then define the service area.

Primary Phone Number
List one local phone number for each business address. A local phone number verifies that your business operates at the local level. You have the option of adding additional phone numbers but you should always list your local business phone number first. Each physical location of your business should list a unique phone number. Never list call center phone numbers.

Website/Email
Your business URL must take potential customers to your primary business website. Do not list an URL that deceives potential customers by redirecting them to other web pages that do not relate to your business. Use a professional email account with a domain that corresponds with your business website’s URL. If your website URL is www.freshbakedgoods.com, your corresponding email address should be customerservice@freshbakedgoods.com.

Business Description
This may be the most important piece of information that your business provides. You need to clearly describe, without using frills or reciting industry jargon, exactly what products or services you provide. Make this part of your listing “sing” about the benefits of doing business with your company. Include one to three keywords that best describe your business.

Business Categories
You have up to five categories that you can list your business. This step classifies your business and it plays a pivotal role that determines which keywords Google will use to rank your business. You select your categories by what your business is (restaurant), not by what it sells or does. Place the most important category at the top of your rankings.

Additional Details
Here is where you can utilize your creativity. Most businesses include hours of operation, accepted credit cards, discounts, etc. You should include as much information as you deem necessary to prompt potential customers to call or visit your business. The information you enter here will help you rank for long tail search terms (searches with 3 or more keywords) so take advantage of this and be sure to enter additional details.

How To Claim Your Google Places Listing

Google is such a powerful search engine that Google may automatically create a Google Places listing for your business. Google utilizes numerous sources online to create these listings. Whether a Google Places listing already exists for your business or you need to create one from scratch, you want to claim your listing. By claiming your listing, you are confirming with Google that you are the owner of the business, and more importantly, claiming your listing prevents others from the unauthorized editing of your information!

Google verifies that you are the legitimate business owner by either calling you with a special PIN number or sending your PIN number on a postcard to your business address. Once you enter that PIN number while logged into your Google Places listing, you officially claim your listing.

You can follow the guidelines outlined here to set up your listing yourself, or you should check out our Google Places Optimization Service and our other Local SEO Services.