According to data from Google, 97 percent of customers use the Internet to find local businesses. Even more impressive is the fact that 73 percent of Web activity is grounded in local content. The Internet clearly offers huge opportunities for local business owners to increase their visibility. Local business owners have many marketing tools at their disposal but most of them focus on search engine optimization strategies and paid searches. Though this can be effective, they are overlooking a free tool that can be invaluable, called Google Places.
What is Google Places?
Google released Places in September 2009 as a replacement for the Google Local Business Center. Places was positioned as a webpage for each place in the world. On the page, all relevant information about a location can be found, helping to connect people with the places they love. In the two and a half years since its release, Places has confounded many business owners.
A Google Places account is free and relatively easy to establish. A local business owner simply submits company profile information including contact details, videos, and photos. The account can be enhanced by highlighting promotions, posting live updates, and responding to customer reviews. Google verifies the account and crawls the Web to pull information regarding the business from sources like Yellow Pages and Yelp.
Using Google Places Effectively
Though a Google Places account is not difficult to establish, it must be maintained by an experienced worker if it is to generate paying customers. A business should register itself in a single category and should provide contact information in the same format as it widely appears on the Web. For example, if the business address is listed as 100 First Street throughout the Web, this is the address that should be supplied when establishing the Google Places account, not 100 First St.
The top seven rated businesses registered on Google Places appear at the top of the Google search results list for relevant keywords. To be included on this elite list, a company listing must have a score of 100 percent, created by citation building from other websites, customer ratings and reviews, a precise company description, photos featuring relevant keyword tags, videos, and 2D barcodes.
A company can get this coveted page one ranking if it works hard to maintain its score. Web users find, rate, and share places they patronize, providing local recommendations to others. Whenever they search for places on Google, they receive personalized recommendations, increasing the visibility of local companies using Google Places. Google Business Photos was recently released to complement Places, offering a 360-degree view of the interior of a local establishment.