12 December 2011
This article outlines how to optimise your Google Places page to boost your chances of ranking for your local search terms.
Claim your profile
If you haven't yet done so your first step is to claim your Google Places profile.
Some business owners make the mistake of thinking they don't need to do anything because they already have a basic profile set up in Google Places. In fact, Google collates these details automatically from other "trusted" sources without your input, but you still need to claim your business in order to make any changes or update your information.
Claiming your profile involves a manual verification process, so that Google can check that you are who you say you are and that you are located at the correct address. When you apply, Google sends out a postcard with a pin number so you can verify your account. The verification process can take up to two weeks. Telephone or SMS verification may also be available depending on your location.
Complete your Profile
This may sound obvious, but it's surprising how many businesses omit essential details or only submit the bare minimum information.
This section is fairly self-explanatory. Stick to the following guidelines and you should be fine:
- Make sure you correctly enter your official company name and full address including postcode.
- Add your main telephone number. You can also enter additional numbers such as freephone, mobile and fax.
- Add your company email and website address.
- Take some time to write a good description of your business. You are only allowed 200 characters so you'll have to fit everything into a couple of sentences. If appropriate include the main keywords you want to rank for within your description.
- In the Category field you will be asked to select up to 5 categories that describe your business. If possible, make your category selections from the suggestions provided by Google. At least one category must be from Google's suggested list.
Service Areas and Location Settings
This section allows you to specify whether you service customers at their own location, for example: plumbers and pizza delivery - or whether customers come to your business location, for example: dentists and cafes. If you provide services over a specific geographical area you can include the areas you cover here.
In this section you can add the opening hours of your business.
If you want to show which payment methods you accept you can include them here.
Google lets you add up to 10 photos to your Places page. This is a great way to introduce your potential customers to your business so make use of this facility to add interest to your profile. You should certainly include your business logo here for branding purposes. Photos of your business premises and staff as well as product images can also be highly effective.
You can add up to 5 videos to your profile. If you use videos as part of your marketing activities make sure you include them here. You can upload your videos to YouTube, then link to them from your Places page.
In this section you can create your own custom fields. With a bit of thought and creativity you can use this section to provide a whole range of additional details of interest to your customers. Information about certifications, services offered, specialties, products, brands, customer car parking, special events and much more can be included here.
Just Do It
As you can see from the above you can add a lot of information to your profile. Don't be put off if you think this seems too complicated, it's really not. But you should take the time to fill out your information as completely as possible and make a list of anything which you may want to add later. If you get stuck for ideas, take a look at some of the top ranking pages for other companies in your industry who may be operating in other areas.
Google Places includes a facility for users to submit reviews about your business, services and products. Having a high number of positive reviews is good for your business. Like web testimonials, positive reviews help to raise the trust factor which is vital to doing business online. Reviews can also help to increase your ranking. If you don't yet have any reviews there are a number of things you can do.
- If any of your customers provides you with positive feedback, take a proactive approach and ask them if they would be willing to write a review about you online. If customers have already taken the time to sing your praises they may well be willing to oblige with an online review.
- Another approach is to simply ask your customers to provide a review on your behalf if they like your service. You'd be surprised how effective this strategy can be if you take the right approach. Make sure you ask nicely, provide them with a link to your review page and don't forget to say thanks.
- You can also add a link to your reviews page in any online correspondence you send to your customers. If you send a company newsletter you could have a section asking for reviews. You could also add a request for reviews in any general customer service emails you send. Another great place to ask for reviews would be in any post sales follow up correspondence where you may be thanking a customer for their business and asking for feedback.
- Providing an incentive for you customers is another great way to get results. You could offer a discount or a free gift to customers who post a review online. You could even have a monthly draw for customer reviews and feedback. Be careful not to insist on positive reviews if you take this route as this could be seen as a bribe.
- Create a QR Code that goes to your Google Place review page so your mobile customers can easily submit a review from their mobile phone.
NB. Do not under any circumstances post fake reviews. In some countries this is against the law and could easily backfire against you.
If you don't have time to set up your own Google Places account or would prefer someone else to do it for you, just get in touch and we'll take care of everything. For more information call: 024 7655 1111 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org