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November 8, 2011

#Winning with Google Places — PubCon Vegas

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Welcome back to our PubCon liveblog coverage. We’re about to get jiggy with Google Places optimization. Brian Combs of Ionadas Local is presenting for us. He promises us there will be no more Charlie Sheen references from this point on.

Brian Combs PubCon

The look and feel of Google Places changes weekly. About a year ago, Google started blending the Google Places algorithm with the traditional algo. Optimizing for Places is a lot like optimizing a site.

When should you optimize? If you want any of the following:

  • Website visits
  • Phone calls
  • Foot traffic

Find the right keywords! Just like traditional SEO. Look at long tail. Find a balance between traffic, competitiveness, semantic appropriateness, current ranking.

Before you start, find out: does the listing already exist?If not, create it. Use a unique Google account, don’t let a personal Gmail account be the selected email. Verify by phone or email.

Some tips:

  • P.O. boxes might be depreciated by Google.
  • Use keywords and locations throughout, but don’t overuse them.
  • Upload images and/or videos. Link to your YouTube channel.
  • Be careful with keyword stuffing in the company name/organization field.
  • Google is cracking down on this. Using an 800 number is probably a disadvantage.
  • Categories: you have up to five. At least one of them should be a standard Google category. Don ‘t use city names or geographic modifiers, you could be penalized.
  • Service areas: Plumbers, for example, would use this. You can hide your actual address if you work out of your house. When Google first created this, it was broken, and is now getting better.
  • Additional details fields: This is a good place to use longer tail keywords.
Website optimization:
  • Optimize for location as well as keywords
  • Keywords and locations in Title tag
  • Contact info page: directions, map pulled form Google, sperate pages for multiple addresses
  • Site footer: Include name, address and phone
  • hCard microformat
Citation building (establishes your company’s importance online):
  • Get citations in major IYPs
  • Local directories
  • Vertical directories
  • Competitors

Google Places and Local Optimization

Link building:
  • It still matters and is critical for competitive keywords
  • Keyword usage: anchor text links, text around links, include name, address and phone number near link.
Reviews:
  • Impacts rankings, but quantity matters
  • Impacts conversion, but quality matters
  • Feedback channel
  • Google Places versus third-party reviews
  • Google Places reviews can help your rankings within minutes, but they don’t syndicate out
  • Make it count: Be logged into Google
  • Third-party reviews: Types — Internet Yellow Pages, vertical sites, city-based sites
  • Keywords in reviews impacts rankings, good for long-tail, great for blocked terms. Be careful when manipulating review content.
  • Questionable reviews are removed. You can submit a problem report and Google does respond sometimes. Algorithmic, not human-driven.
  • Are reviews from “private” users devalued?
  • Put Yelp logos in the windows; train your staff to look for those customers who respond to those and give them some extra special treatment.
Ways to encourage reviews:
  • Be creative with promotions and requests
  • Be ethical and transparent
Types of complainers:
  • Legitimate
  • Unrealistic: Respond, but goal is to inform others, not fix the problem.
  • Lunatics: If you’re going to engage, it’s like wrestling with a pig — you’re both going to get dirty and the pig likes it. Have a second pair of eyes on your response.
  • Former employees/competitors: These are easy to spot.
If you engage, expect to make mistakes, pick your battles and remember, there are no secrets.
Things to avoid:
  • Don’t self review
  • Review services could result in a penalty
Controversial issues:
  • Incentivized reviews
  • Encouraging reviews at multiple sites
  • Entering reviews at place of business
Closing thoughts:
  • If your business sucks, you might not want to encourage reviews
  • If you found this presentation helpful, review Ionadas Local of Austin, Texas on Google Places!
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