Last October, Google rolled out Google Place Search, a new user interface for local search that organizes information around location. These changes merged the Google Map listings and organic results in a new way that makes it critical to pay attention to your online presence. Gone are the pack of 7 or 3 results at the top with a map, replaced by blended results that incorporate pieces of your website, your Google places listing, citations about your business from other sources and reviews from sites such as CitySearch, Yelp, Yahoo, Merchant Circle, InsiderPages and other Internet Yellow Pages sites and directories. The major objective of the change is to cluster search results around specific locations so you can more easily compare results and select the business that best meets your needs.
After 3 months, the effects of this change has become very apparent. In some ways this change created new challenges for those of us who succeed in getting our client’s websites on the first page of Google’s organic search results. Prior to this update, those organic results would be very visible below the Google Map and associated businesses. Now, to be listed prominently, you need to create a quality Places page that provides greater information to those who are interested in what you have to offer and continue to work your website SEO for organic results. Those businesses that do both very well will reap the benefits of this change.
How to achieve prominence on the “Map”
There are a few important factors for ranking well in Google Places.
The number of citations (mentions of your business name and address) for your business on business directories, news blogs or a social networking sites
To Google, citations are a vote of confidence in your listing and those from authoritative sites, such as your local Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau, carry more weight. Citations have a positive effect on your Google Places ranking and should be considered an important element of a local Search engine marketing campaign. However, your citations must be consistent and contain the same information. Use the same business name, address and telephone number across all. Having your business listed as ABC Plumbing and Heating on one site and ABC Plumbing for another could result in them being considered different businesses. Search for your company name and see where it shows up. If you can claim and edit the listing to make it consistent, do so.
The number of quality reviews for your company on Google other review sites
It is important that businesses get customers to provide reviews through review sites in order to move their local listing up in the results pages. After you have created listings for your company on all those that are relevant to your industry, provide links to these profiles via your website. Put these links on your testimonials page so when you ask a customer for a review and point them to that page, they see what others have said and will be encouraged to do the same. Make sure your reviews are spread out across different sites for the best effect so encourage your customers to write a review on their preferred site.
A well written, optimized Google Places page
After you claim your page, attend to the details to create a quality Google Places page. Review Google Place’s Quality Guidelines to ensure you stay within their criteria and stay visible.
- Accurately provide your name, address and local phone number. Don’t put your phone number or town in your business name. Although there are still some listings out there with them in the names, shortly those may be banned or buried in the results.
- Provide an email account on your own domain.
- Use a local phone number, not an 800 number.
- Use all five categories available starting with relevant standard categories that Google provides and then create others using your important keywords.
- Display your address if at all possible. If you list a service area, keep your address visible. PO Boxes are not allowed.
- Add links to the “Additional Details” area of your listing to give people the opportunity to contact you. Any page that has a contact form is a good candidate.
This is just an overview of what you need to do to create a quality online presence that helps your business stand out. Once you have your online properties established, you need to work on getting reviews and keep your information up-to-date. What have I missed that is an important item for ranking well locally?