How to Create and Optimize Your Google+ Local (Google Places) Page

Travis Van SlootenSmall Business SEO

This is the final post in a series of posts I’ve written on Google+ Local (a.k.a. Google Places). The first post I explained what is Google+ Local. After that I outlined the 4 pieces of the Google+ Local puzzle. Finally, I provided an overview of how to set up a Google+ Local page.

In this final post of the series, I’m going to walk you through how to create and optimize your Google+ Local page.

The first thing you’ll need to do is visit Google Places and you’ll be taken to the main login page. Click on the “Get started now” button.

google plus local places login

You will then be prompted to enter your Google account information. Once you do that you’ll be taken to a screen where you have to enter the official telephone number for your business.

google places search

Once you enter your telephone number, Google will search to see if a page exists. If one doesn’t, then you’ll be taken to the entry fields.

Now you would think filling out the information fields would be pretty straight forward. Unfortunately, it’s not as straightforward as you would think. If you don’t fill out some of these fields correctly it can have an adverse effect on how you appear to customers, and how you rank on Google.

First, the screenshot of the Basic Information fields. Then I’ll explain what to enter in those fields.

Google Plus Local Places Basic Information

Company/Organization
Google wants you to use your legal DBA. If your business is “John Smith Dentistry, Inc.,” then that’s exactly what you’ll want to put in this field. Do not put anything other than your DBA in this field.

Street Address
It’s best to spell out all elements of your address (Street instead of St. and North instead of N.). Use the second field for your Suite# if you have one and don’t abbreviate Suite either.

Description
The purpose of the description is entice potential customers to contact you or visit your website. Write something that is compelling and don’t keyword stuff it!

The easiest way to write the description is to answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” It should also include a local search term or two while focusing on specific benefits.

Example:

We have offered teeth whitening to our patients for over a decade. Call us today to improve your smile!

Category
You can choose up to 5 categories. Start typing in any terms that seem relevant to see what Google suggests. The categories that Google suggests are Google’s default categories. You want to use as many of these as you can first. Then for the remaining categories, you should create custom categories that fit.

Always strive to have five categories but make sure you’re not just repeating the same category in different ways (i.e. Painter, Painting Company, Painting Contractor – these are all the same so pick one).

Also, when you use custom categories, use categories that match the keywords your customers are searching for. For example, if during your keyword research you discover that most people search for “Painting Contractor” instead of “Painting Company,” then use “Painting Contractor” as a category.

You can do keyword research for free by using Google’s Keyword Tool. You’ll want to start your research by using terms that you believe your customers would use to find your products and services.

If you are a dentist, for example, you would start with terms like “dentists” “dentistry” “dental clinic” etc. Look at the results returned in the Google keyword tool. Which terms get the most searches?

What other terms does Google suggest are similar – and how many searches do they get? Make a list of the terms that are the most relevant to your business and that get the most searches and use some of them in your description and categories.

Side Note on Categories:
When you create custom categories, be sure you follow the “is not does” rule or Google may flag your page. For example, use “Sedation Dentist” as a category instead of “Sedation Dentistry.” The latter category is something you do.

Once the basic information is completed, you’ll have the Service Areas and Location Settings fields.

google plus service areas

Service Areas
This section is critically important! If you serve customers at their location, such as a service-based business, you MUST select, “Yes, this business serves customers at their locations.” In addition, you MUST select, “Do not show my business address on my Maps listing.” If you don’t follow these rules, you run the high risk of having your page removed!

If you are a service-based business, be sure you take advantage of the “Distance from one location” or “List of areas served” options.

Next up are the Hours of operations.

google-places-hours-of-operation

Hours of Operations
Be sure to specify your hours of operation so your customers know when they can contact you!

Finally, we have the Payment options, Photos, Videos, and Additional Details.

google places payment options
google plus entry fields

Payment Options
You’ll want to specify what forms of payment you accept.

Photos
Photos are very important! They give your business “personality” and it reassures customers that your business really exists. You can add up to 10 photos. Try to include as many pictures as you can – 10 is ideal. Include photos of:

  • Your products – especially food photos if you own a restaurant
  • Your customers interacting with you or your business
  • Your storefront
  • Your business sign or logo

Videos
Google+ Local pages currently don’t support videos. Videos were supported before the transition from Places to Google+. If you have videos, I still recommend you upload them so when Google supports them again (which they will be doing soon I imagine), your videos will already be in place.

Additional Details
These fields haven’t shown in a long time. Google simply doesn’t display them any more so why they are still there is anybody’s guess. There are some in the local SEO circles that believe Google still uses the information you enter here in determining when your page shows up for a local search.

To that end, it doesn’t hurt to include professional associations, brands you carry, and anything else that is relevant to your business.

After you enter all the information outlined above, click on the “Submit” button and you’ll be taken to a screen with a message that your page needs to be verified. In almost all cases, you will be given only one option to verify – by postcard.

Put your name in the attention field and submit the form and you’re done! Your postcard will arrive in less than 10 days. When it does, log back in to your Places dashboard and you’ll see a box next to your listing where you can enter the PIN code found on the postcard. After you do that, you’ll have officially claimed your listing!

Success Tips

There are some tactics you’ll need to avoid if you want to be successful with your Google+ Local page.

  • Avoid listing your business in a city if you are not physically located in that city, even if you are very close. It may be tempting to try to get your business listed in a bigger city if you are located in a suburb of that city or a small town near that city, but it won’t work. Google will penalize you by potentially shutting down your Google+ Local page.
  • Don’t use fake or virtual addresses. Google doesn’t like it (i.e. can potentially ban your page), and your customers don’t either. If they can’t find you, they can’t do business with you.
  • Make sure you have just one Google+ Local page for each physical location you have. As mentioned before, if multiple listings exist for a given location, have them deleted by Google.
  • Make sure your phone number is local. Don’t use toll free numbers.
  • Make sure your address is spelled and capitalized correctly, using standard formats. Use your 5 digit zip code, not your zip+4. “Suite” should always be written out, not capitalized as Ste.

There you have it. It shouldn’t take more than 15-20 minutes to fill out your Google+ Local page properly and have it fully optimized!