Are you taking full advantage of the simple, powerful, and free internet marketing tool from Google called Places for Business? If not (or if you’ve never even heard of Google Places), I’ll not only tell you why you should, I’ll walk you through how to do it, start-to-finish.
Every Vermont business should claim its Google Places listing
Google Places helps local businesses—especially those with a brick-and-mortar location—connect easily with customers. 97% of consumers search for local businesses online, and Google delivers lists of nearby Places for every relevant search. That means your business, even if it doesn’t have a website, could come up near the top of search results on Google!
Now that we’ve made the “why” clear, let’s move on to the “how to.”
How to find, claim & optimize your Places for Business listing
1) Find the Google Places page for your business
Start by searching for your type of business and location (i.e. “book store montpelier vt”) on Google Search. You should see a list of local Google Places, something like the following image.
Find your Places page in the list (yes, even if you haven’t created or verified your Places page, chances are it already exists with basic or incorrect contact info), and click on the text beside your company name—either “Google review(s)” or “Place page.” That will take you to your Places page! (Take a moment to look around, because once you claim and optimize your page it will look quite a bit better.)
Couldn’t find your Google Places page? It’s possible Google hasn’t automatically created a page for you yet. Don’t worry though, just visit Google’s Places for Business site and they will help you create one from scratch! It’s easy, and once you find yourself at Step 3 below, this article will walk you through the rest of the process.
2) Claim your Places for Business listing
Look in the top-right corner of the page, above the map of your location. See where it says “Business Owner?” It should look like the following image.
Click on “Business owner.” On the next screen, select “Edit my business information” and click Continue.
You’re about to begin the verification process. (The rest of the steps are quick and easy, but afterward Google verifies you’re the proper owner by mailing a postcard to the business address. Not exactly instantaneous, I know, but it does keep other people from hijacking your good name!)
3) Complete or correct your business contact information
This next page is broken up into a number of main headings:
- Basic Information
- Service Areas and Location Settings
- Hours of Operations
- Payment Options
- Additional Details
Most of the Basic Information section is straightforward (don’t overlook the option to “Add more phone numbers” if applicable), but once you’ve filled in your business website address or checked the box if you don’t have one, you move into areas where you can optimize your Google Places page to attract new customers and drive more business to your website and/or storefront. Ready for the good stuff? Let’s go!
Optimize Basic Information
Description: Google is asking you what your business is about so it can help customers find you. This is valuable SEO (Search Engine Optimization) real estate. Write a fresh description (don’t copy and paste from your website!) and keep in mind the keywords people might use to search for your type of business, including your location, popular products or services, etc. You only have 200 characters; try to use them all.
Category: Start typing a category that describes your business, and a menu of default options will appear from which to select. You also have the option of manually entering new categories. You can select up to 5 categories that accurately fit your business, and you should pick or enter all 5 if possible.
The next three sections—Service Areas and Location Settings, Hours of Operations, and Payment Options—are self-explanatory, so I’ll skip ahead to…
Optimize Photos & Videos
Photos: If this seems like fluff to you, guess again. People love images; images are powerful. And you can upload 10 of them! The most important image, I think, is the photo showing your storefront just the way your customers will see it as they approach from the road. This photo, combined with the Google Map, will make finding your store painless, which means you’re removing major roadblocks that stand in the way of a visitor making the effort to walk through your door. Also consider including photos of your inventory, an in-store event, happy customers, happy employees, etc.
Videos: You may not have any videos, but if you have a cell phone or a digital camera, you’ve got a way to create some. Like photos, videos can be powerful selling tools. They don’t have to be fancy or high tech or feature any Hollywood talent, but they should be short! People don’t watch videos longer than 1 minute usually, almost never over 4 minutes. So grab your camera, record a quick walking-tour of your location (with or without narration), and upload it to your page. The next visitor to your Google Places page might watch the video, get a feel for your store, see some products they’d like to buy, and decide to make the trip. (You can have up to 5 videos, so remember to capture future special events and load them up!)
Optimize Additional Details
This is it! The last section on the page. As the saying goes, however, “last but not least.” Many businesses leave this important section blank, so make sure you utilize it to get ahead of the competition!
Additional Details: What are some key benefits of your store, business, and location that will matter to perspective customers? As shown in the picture above, if you have free parking, add, “Free parking : Yes.” If you carry certain popular brands, include that info. What else? How about gift certificates? ”Gift certificates available : Yes.” Are you near a college campus and take their credit cards? ”UVM CatCards : Accepted.” Does your store accept refunds? ”Refund policy : 30 days.” How about something odd or quirky. Do you bring your pet to work? ”Store mascot : ‘Roger’ the dog.” (Don’t forget to include a photo of Roger!) You get the idea.
Now that your listing is optimized and maximized, you’re ready to hit…
4) Carefully review your Google Places info
On the right side of this page, all the info you’ve just entered will be displayed. Be sure to review carefully and hit Previous to make any edits. On the left side of the page, Google confirms the address they’ll use to send your validation postcard, and they review some legal matters.
All set? Go ahead and click Finish!
Success! You’ve found, claimed & optimized your Google Places for Business listing!
Here’s the confirmation screen you’ll see after you click Submit.
All that’s left to do now is follow the instructions printed on the postcard from Google when it arrives.
Final tips for your Google Places for Business listing
Keep an eye on it. You already have too much on your plate, but your Places page can become a real forum for interacting with your customers. Watch for reviews, respond when appropriate, update your photos, look for visitor photos, etc.
Send people to it. If you collect customer email addresses and communicate with them, consider plugging your Places page with a link and ask people to share their positive experiences! After all, you have lots of fans out there, and some of them will be delighted to be your cheerleaders.
Check the analytics. You may not have a website tracking program installed on your business website (you may not have a website at all), but your free Places page includes basic analytics. Now you can get a clearer picture of the online behavior of your target market.
Try offering a coupon. Coupons can be quickly created through your Dashboard (see the tab in the above image?) and added to your Places page. If you do test out Places coupons, keep an eye on store traffic and analytics so you can gauge the success of your special offer.
Try Google AdWords Express. AdWords Express is a streamlined version of the world-famous Google AdWords online advertising platform, and you’ll see a link to try this promotional tool in your Places dashboard. Ready to shift some newspaper advertising budget to Internet Advertising and see how much better it can be? IM Vermont specializes in affordable Google AdWords management services.
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