Archive for April, 2012

Google Places: How to Sign Up and How It Can Help Your Business

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Google Places for business is a free promotional platform for local businesses. Your Google Places listing can help your business get found in local Google search results. Claiming your listing enables you to make your services stand out by giving you control of your profile. You can add photos, videos, and offers to show customers why they should choose you. You’ll also be able to post updates and respond to reviews that are submitted about your business. Monitoring your Google Places account will also help you learn more about your customers: How many times did searchers show interest in your listing? What are the top search queries that they are using to search for you? But first, you need to create your account…

  1. Go to www.google.com/placesforbusiness to sign up. (Free!)
  2. You will need to create a Google account first, if you don’t already have one. Best to not use a personal one and just create one for the business. Google has pretty clear instructions that walk you through the process.
  3. Many businesses that have been around awhile already have Google Places listings that can be pulled in from various sources such as online data aggregators. If you type in Your Business Name, City, State in Google Maps search [maps.google.com] and see a listing link to the left of Google Map search results with red map pinpoint next to business name, this should indicate if one exists or not. Also, Google can check for you—when you go to the “Google Places for Business” page, Google searches to see if you have a listing when you type in your business phone number, and then walks you through the process of claiming or editing your listing. However, it’s best to take advantage of any existing listing with good reviews and conduct a manual search as mentioned above, so you can be sure of which listing is being claimed. If you have a brand new business, needless to say, this won’t be an issue and new businesses can sign up directly at www.google.com/placesforbusiness.
  4. If you DO have a listing that already exists, click on the business name link, which will take you to your listing. Once you are on the actual listing page, click on the link in the upper right that says “Business Owner?” You will be prompted to sign in to Google in order to edit info in your listing. (Once you have verified your listing, that same link will change to “Owner Verified Listing.”)
  5. At the end of the process, Google will prompt you with a verification code that can be sent via mail or phone. The mail option can take a number of weeks and gets tossed inadvertently. Best to choose the phone option and have someone standing by at your main business number, because the verification process is automated and the call will be sent immediately. (New businesses that are creating a listing from scratch will only have the mail option.) Google is using your business number to verify you are indeed a real business and you’re not misrepresenting yourself and trying to rip off someone else’s listing. Once you have the verification PIN #, plug that number into the field where Google prompts you to, and you’re done. You now can edit away, consolidate any duplicate listings, and add information.
  6. Best to add service keywords about your business to the “Category” section, as well as add specific services to the business description section. Google has streamlined the listing display, so some information in the admin area of your listing may not show up in the public display.
  7. Consider asking satisfied customers if they might be willing to share their thoughts online at Google (and other sites). It’s always best to “capture the moment” when a client offers positive feedback and inquire if they would be willing to “digitize” their comments, which can then help others just like themselves…  Plentiful positive reviews is one factor that can help your Google Places listing rise to the top of local search results. Some businesses put up a review page on their website with links to online listings to help precipitate action on this; others also offer an incentive (raffle entry or similar offer) to encourage follow through, so you might consider these options to help gain good reviews. A raffle entry is considered a better incentive, as direct discounts for each review posted is considered less ethical (like buying reviews).
  8. Keep your Google Places listing current to show how your practice stands out from the rest. You can post information about your business, monitor website traffic, post coupons, and so on. Check out the Google Places YouTube channel  and Google Places Support to find out more about how this can work for your business.