You may not be familiar with the term “Google Places”, but if you’ve ever used Google to hunt for a local business, you’ve definitely seen Google Places in action. When you search for a local business or type of business, you’ll get Google Places listings at the top (or near the top) of your search results. The listing consists of the business name (or several names, if you searched for a type of business), along with a map of your area with red “teardrop” markers showing where each business is located.
Each Google Places listing has two links. If you click on the “Place Page” link next to a business name, you’ll be taken to Google’s Place Page for that business. The Place Page contains contact information and a link to Google Maps directions. If you click on the name of the business, you’ll be directed to the business’s website or, if the business doesn’t have a website (or hasn’t registered its website with Google) to a “Google Places” page with basic information about the business.
There are also a lot of other cool options on Google Place Pages. For example, on your Place Page you can list your opening hours (very helpful to potential customers); your service area; payment options that you offer; and other information of your choice (for example, as Google suggests, you can let people know if you offer parking, and which brands you carry). In addition to this information, you can add photos and videos to your Places Page, or post to your Google Places page like you would to your blog.
It’s fun to set up a Google Places page for your business, but is there a business case for doing so – and for adding “extra” content like photos and videos? Absolutely. On Google Places, like everywhere on the web, fresh content is king: the more information you provide on your Google Place Page, the more active and competent your business will appear, and the more confident people will feel about contacting you.
Plus, the more complete your Google Place Page is, the more likely it is to move up in the search listings. At iMarket, we make sure that all our clients have complete Place Page listings for optimum Google performance.
Here’s another good way to assess what the ROI might be on any work you choose to put into your Place Page. Do a search for your business type in your area (for example, “electricians Burlington VT”). Check the Google Places listings that come up and take a look at whether your competitors appear in the listings and if so, how much information they offer on their Place Pages. If you offer more information on your Place Page than your competitors do, you’ll have a leg up as consumers consider their options and decide whom to contact.
Since 85% of consumers search for local businesses on the web, you’ve probably already realized that having a complete Google Place Page is likely to generate a lot of leads. So, you ask, how do I get a Google Place Page?
Well, your business might even have a Google Place Page already, because Google often generates basic Place Pages by harvesting information that is already out there on the web. You should do a Google search for your business and see if a Place Page comes up in the listings. If it does, then it’s time to beef up your Place Page. Go to your Place Page and click on the “Business owner?” link in the top right corner. You will be guided through the process of validating and adding information to your Place Page. (To confirm that you are in fact the owner of your business and not a hacker or a competitor, Google will send a postal letter to your physical address. This letter will contain a PIN number that you can use to make additional updates to your Google Place Page whenever you wish.)
If you don’t have a Google Place Page, you can register for one here: http://www.google.com/places/. Note that you will have to create a Google account first if you don’t already have one. However, if your current Google account is for personal use, you will probably want to create a new business account for use with your Place Page. Among other things, having a separate business account will mean that other people edit your Place Page without reading your Gmail.
Google Place Pages have a lot of great features and can really help your business bring in new leads…but what’s the ROI? Are they worth it? You better believe it. Google Place Pages are FREE. Google doesn’t charge for setup or make you pay a monthly fee. There is absolutely no excuse for not having a Google Place Page.
Google Place Pages also contain another very important feature: consumer reviews. Google Place Page reviews have been a hot topic recently. We’ll explore it in next week’s post.