Quick Tips for Optimizing Your Google Places Page
For brick-and-mortar businesses, optimizing for local search is becoming increasingly important to reinforcing your presence online. Google has been and will continue to place importance on local search.
The best part about claiming your Google Places business listing is that it’s free and gives you a chance to rank on a search engine results page — even if you don’t have a website or your site is not ranking high.
So, with a little time and attention invested, you could be on your way to attracting more clients for your business.
In recent months, we’ve seen local businesses outrank the “organic” results we’re used to seeing in the search engine results pages (SERP).
I put the word organic in quotes because the local results are still organically served up, they’ve just been moving from their prior location in the middle of the SERP, underneath the top-ranking websites, to above those sites.
That means, for some businesses, optimizing a Places page can put your business in top rankings on a search engine results page even if you don’t have a website.
First things first: Go to the Google Places home page to claim your listing if you haven’t already.
You might just have a listing that you don’t know about. This is because anyone can add information about your business unless it’s already been verified by you, the administrator.
Once you’ve claimed your page, only you will be able to edit details about your business.
A little research at Bruce Clay, Inc. has revealed basic components that need to be on your Places page. At the very minimum, you need to have the following:
Correct Contact Information
Complete and accurate information about where your business is located is obviously a very important step, and one that can sometimes be incorrect if someone else entered the data. This is so Google can link your business to a physical location on Google Maps.
If your business is moving locations, you want to be mindful to begin the process of updating your Places page ahead of time. You don’t want multiple Places pages for your business, and deleting old Places pages can be difficult.
For now, only one website can be included in the Places page. So for brands with multiple websites, the main corporate website should be the site that’s included in the listing.
In the local SERPs, Google will typically show businesses within a 25 to 30 mile radius of the location a user is searching in. Remember, Google now sets your location for you from wherever you’re at.
However, research shows in some cases that the set location doesn’t matter for the results if the query uses a well-known city name.
For example, a search for “restaurants in Lebanon,” when the location is set to Lebanon, Ohio, returns results for the country Lebanon.
But if you were just to search for “restaurants” while the location is set for Lebanon, Ohio, the results come back correctly. This is a glitch that will likely be fixed by Google.
Business Category Set with Important Keywords
Bruce Clay, Inc. research shows the category section on the Places page is a critical component to local SERPs ranking. This is where you’ll include important keywords for what your business does.
We found that some businesses without any keywords in their category weren’t ranking at all. By simply adding in one keyword phrase, those businesses were immediately ranking in the local SERP.
In some cases, we’ve found local business Places pages outranking major websites for the same keywords.
For those who have spent a fair amount of time optimizing their sites for the search engines, it doesn’t seem quite fair that local businesses that simply enter a keyword into their category on Places page would outrank them.
But, Google is likely to continue to make tweaks to the algorithm that serves up the results, so we may see this changing.
For more tips on how to optimize your Places page, visit the Google Places help for business owners page.
Other Ways to Make Your Business Stand out in the Local SERP
There are other ways you can promote your business on a local SERP. Having reviews of your business is a great start, as Google not only lists its own but also aggregates reviews from sites like Yelp.
And don’t forget that Google Places with Hotpot is another review service that allows users to find your local business based on customized suggestions.
You may also want to consider using the Google Tags feature to offer coupons or promote other features of your business that will make it stand out.
In a blog post I wrote earlier this year on boosting in-house Internet marketing for 2011, I aggregated several posts written on local search developments in the past several months. Those posts can help you to gain more insight on the impact local search is having.
You can also check out an SEO Newsletter article from September of last year, talking about the three-prong approach to local SEO.
If you’re interested in ways you can help your local business rank outside of the Google Places page, look into our LocalPack™ service.