Google Places Optimization

Google Places (what used to be called Google Maps) has become a major way for a local business to gain traffic from Google. With Google's new emphasis on local search results they are putting more focus on that section of their Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

Every local business needs to focus on claiming and optimizing their Places listing. This is "low hanging fruit" Search Engine Optimization for any local business and not taking advantage of the opportunity is a mistake. The sooner a business addresses the opportunity the sooner they can get high listings and beat their competition to the opportunity.

How Google Places Works

Google automatically adds most local businesses to their Places section on their results page. You only see the Places listing when a city or region is added to the search term.

The first step in optimizing that listing is to "claim" it and to optimize it so you can begin to try and get as high a listing as possible. More below about how to do that.

The 3 Parts of a Google SERP

There are actually three parts of Google's Search Engine Results Page...the 3 parts of Google

Getting into each section is done differently (although getting into one helps all the others).

For the Ads Section you buy your way into it by doing Google AdWords advertising. This is called Pay Per Click and you bid on keywords and Google places the ad for you based on various optimization factors. Take a look at this page to learn more.

To get into the Organic Section you do a tactic called Search Engine Optimization. This involves making your site relevant to search keywords in Google's eyes so they rank you highly. You are competing with thousands of other websites for that ranking. Getting on the first page can be very difficult, especialy for businesses that have a lot of local competition. Still it's an important online marketing factor and must be done to grow a web presence.

Getting into Google Places is easy. In fact your business might already be in that section. The problem is getting a high ranking in that section. The so called "Seven Pack" that you see on the first page of Google is often difficult to achieve without optimization and effort.

Remember Google only shows the Places listing when a regional keyword is added to the search like a city, phone number or zip code.

Google only shows seven results on the first page but there may be thousands more that you can find when you click on "More results..." So optimization is required to move your Places listing higher in the rankings.

Here's how you do it...

Optimization of your Google Places listing begins with "claiming" your listing. All you have to do is...

1. Have a Google Account
If you have Gmail or are using Adsense then you have a Google Account. If you don't then it's just a matter of going to Google and choosing an option from the More tab at the top.

2. Claim Your Listing
You must go to your Places listing and claim it. This involves verifying that you are the actual owner of the business. Click on this link to go to Google Local

3. Optimze Your Listing
For your listing to rank highly you should add images, videos and be sure your major "buying" keywords are part of your discription

For suggestions from Google on how to make your Places page work, visit these instructions on Google's help pages.

Suggestions for Creating and Optimizing Your Google Places Listing

Editor's Note: The below information comes directly from Google's Help pages.

Ownership: Only business owners or authorized representatives may verify their business listings on Google Places.

Account Email Address: Use a shared business email account, if multiple users will be updating your business listing. If possible, use an email account under your business domain. For example, if your business website is www.google.com, a matching email address would be you@google.com.

Your Business Listing

Business Name: Represent your business exactly as it appears in the offline world.

Business Location: Use a precise, accurate address to describe your business location.

Website & Phone: Provide a phone number that connects to your individual business location as directly as possible, and provide one website that represents your individual business location.

Categories: Provide at least one category from the suggestions provided in the form as you type. Aim for categories that are specific, but brief.

Custom Attributes & Description: Use the description and custom attribute fields to include additional information about your listing. Learn more about acceptab custom attributes.

Other Items of Note

Ineligible Business Models: Only businesses that make in-person contact with customers qualify for a Google Places listing.

Businesses that are under construction or that have not yet opened to the public are not eligible for a listing on Google Places.

Rental properties, such as vacation homes or vacant apartments, are not eligible for a listing on Google Places. Create a listing for the central office that processes the rentals or leasing offices, rather than the individual rental properties.

Disclaimer: Google reserves the right to suspend access to Google Places or other Google Services to individuals or businesses that violate these guidelines, and may work with law enforcement in the event that the violation is unlawful.

» Click here if you'd like to arrange a consultation to discuss how to take advantage of Google Places.

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About MeRick Hart local online marketing advisor

Hi I'm Rick Hart. I'm a professional online marketer. I help people succeed online with website design, search engine optimization, and online promotion of their websites.

I've been in marketing for over 30 years. Most of that time I was a freelance graphic designer but since 2005 I've been specializing in online marketing.

My first job in online marketing was as an Affiliate Manager. If you don't know what that is don't worry. Basically I helped companies market their products online through an affiliate program. You can learn more at my affiliate marketing website if you like.

I continued to learn the details of online marketing and since 2008 I've been offering my services as an online marketing consultant to many individuals and companies who want to improve their online marketing.

There are a lot of ways to meet new customers online. It all starts with "meeting people where they are now" in the search engines or on social media sites. How you do that is where I come in. I can help you...

• Build a website

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If you're new to Online Marketing and want to learn the basics, please visit my Online Marketing Primer. It will give you the 10,000 foot view of how it all works.

If you'd like to arrange a free 30-minute personal consultation contact me here.

I look forward to helping you take advantage of the "best form of marketing ever invented" and finding new customers online.

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