Offering potential customers complete, accurate, and meaningful information about your local business at the exact moment they’re searching for services or products that you sell can lead to more traffic and sales, both in-store and online.
Google Places for Business is a service that helps business owners share information about their stores, products, and geographic locations with interested shoppers when those shoppers search for products or types of businesses on various Google properties.
The service is aimed specifically at brick-and-mortar shops and boutiques or multi-channel retailers that sell both from a physical retail location and an online store.
In our last post, we looked at how to get started with Google places. In this post we'll show you seven areas you need to pay attention to in order to make your Google Places listing as compelling to searchers as possible.
Let's dive in.
1. Follow the Google Places Quality Guidelines
The first step in optimizing your Google Places listing is making sure you meet Google's quality guidelines. This is the basic information Google wants to see in place and the foundation for creating a good listing.
You can find the Google Places for Business Quality Guidelines in the help section of the Places site. These guidelines are short and simple, so take a few minutes to read through them.
The key takeaways are:
Be certain you’re authorized to manage the Places listing
Represent your business accurately online and offline
Use precise location information
2. Fully Complete Your Places Listing
Google and many marketing experts recommend that you make your Places listing as complete as possible in order to make it more attractive to searchers.
Search Engine Optimization consultant Geoff Kenyon explains, “Google wants to give users the best experience possible; in most circumstances the user will have a better experience if there is more information present on the Places page. This means not only filling out the required text fields but also the optional ones."
The implication is that all other things being equal, Google, given a choice between two similar Places listings, would display the more complete listing more prominently.
Even when several results are shown side-by-side — as is the case with Google’s new local carousel (search for “coffee new york” for an example) — a more complete listing will be more compelling to the shopper.
With this in mind, be certain to include your website URL, email address, telephone number, hours of operation, accepted forms of payment and well written description of your business.
3. Choose Proper Business Categories
Google Places listings are categorized to help users find just the sort of business they want.
For the most part, Google will show a business’s first three categories to help users decide which listings to examine further when it displays local search results. Additional categories are often displayed only when the users clicks a link.
There are strong indications that Google uses the category information you provide, in part, to decide when or how prominently to display your listing.
With this in mind it is very important to select categories that accurately describe your business and that will resonate with your potential customers.
Mike Blumenthal, an expert in local search, has a neat tool to help you choose categories for your Google Places for Business listing based on words or phrases. Blumenthal also has lists of current Places categories that you can review:
Google recommends that you choose more specific categories rather than more general ones. “The important thing is that the categories are accurate and describe your business well. Google's search algorithm makes sure that users looking for ‘Book Stores’ will see businesses in more specific categories like ‘Used Book Stores,’ ‘Comic Book Stores,’ and ‘Rare Book Stores’ too.”
4. Write Meaningful Descriptions
Depending on a user’s device or context, Google may show more or less of your Google Places listing.
When the user does see a business description, you want that description to be persuasive and drive clicks.
The goal then should be to convey your core value proposition to the customer and to think of clickthroughs rather than focusing on stuffing keywords.
Google is already using your geography and the categories that you selected to decide which Places listings to show in response to a particular search query, so use this opportunity to communicate with words that speak directly to your potential customer and position your business as the solution to their problems.
5. Include Rich Content
In 2012, Digital marketing firm, Meditative, released the results of an eye-tracking study done to determine what users looked at when they were viewing Google Places listings on an iPhone.
Interestingly, for the first couple of listings, users’ eyes moved from left to right across the listing information. But by about the third listing, the user’s attention had almost completely moved to the pictures positioned along the right-side of the screen.
In other words, when given many listings to look at, people will often rely on a photograph to decide which listings merit additional attention.
Google has also started to include more photographs in some places listings, giving users the opportunity to view several of a listing’s pictures.
With this in mind, consider adding as much rich content — pictures and video primarily — as makes sense to communicate what your store sells and why it is special. Also, the higher quality images and video you can provide, the better.
You can also include other content like special offers, coupon codes, recent blog posts, or updates from Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Google+.
6. Encourage Customer Reviews and Feedback
In some instances, Google will display a Place listing’s reviews, photo, and name only — with the reviews getting top billing. This means that if you want your Places listing to perform well in say the Google local search carousel, you’ll need customer reviews.
When shoppers visit your physical store, consider handing them a card with the URL for your Places listing on it, and ask them to take a moment to write a review.
You could also include a link to your Places listing on your website or encourage people to leave reviews when you send them transactional emails or newsletters.
7. Integrate with Google+
Google is encouraging business with Places listings to integrate those listings with a Google+ for Business account.
Integrating Places with Plus will give your business the ability to:
Create posts that customers can read
Respond to reviews
Set a cover photo
The process is as simple as creating a Google+ profile with the email address associated with your Places account.
What's your experience with Google Places? Have you found it to be a good source of inbound traffic for your business?
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