Google Places
I am running an online store and targeting some local market. In the beginning I was working fine and getting enough visits to my online store. Out of those visits few are converted into sales which helped me to maintain my living standard and secure some extra pennies for future. But now I want more (Great, it’s obvious). So that was a short introduction of an online seller who sell some product (let’s say XYZ). So this XYZ merchant want to increase his sales and earn more money. As he stated that he targets local market so it is really important for him to go for a Google places listing of his store. So, we will discuss some ups and downs, pros and cons, good and bad, this and that, of Google places listing.

But before that I have few questions for you such as, Have you claimed a Google Place page for your business? If you have a Google Place page running, is it showing up at or near the top of local business listings in search results for some keywords or simply words from which you want people to find your store?

If your answer is "NO" to either question, keep reading, otherwise browse to some other blog of mine or find some other blog of advance SEO tactics. I have few tips or tricks for optimizing your small business Google Place page to share with you. Many of these local SEO tips are also applicable for Bing Local Listings and Yahoo Local Listings, which offer free business listing services, too.

But before that it would be beneficial if you read a little background if you are not familiar with Google Places (As you know my blog is for beginners and topics I cover are for normal guys, not marketing GURUS).

Google Places for Local Search

A Google Place page is a free of cost (completely free) marketing medium that businesses can use to describe or showcase their products and services, list their running hours, business details like address, phone number, email address, and website (its optional) . You can (I would say you must) add photos and videos to your Place page and ask your happy (or unhappy too) customers to add reviews or their comments about your service. Here is the link through which you can start creating your place page

Google place page may appear at or near the top of search results for a localized search query (nothing is guaranteed in SEO), like "New Delhi Plumbers" or "gyms in Mumbai". This is the place where you want your business to show up in a local search -- at or near the top of Google Places pages results for your category and location. A result appearing in search results other than Google maps is visible in a 7 pack result or say most of the times 7 places results are visible while someone searches for a location appended word.

A Google Place page appearing in search results contains a red push pin that shows the business's location on a corresponding map. From the search results page, users can click to go right to a business's website, access reviews of the business, or read its Places page (Isn’t it great for your business).

In few cases as I said above, the search results will also show the address and phone number for a Google Places page listing, along with snippets of reviews posted directly to Google or sites such as Yelp and CitySearch (these are called Citation sites). On many mobile phone or tablet web browsers, you can even click the phone number to call a business directly from the search result page that displays the business's Google Places listing.

So now I am hoping that you are aware about the dynamics of Google Places service for your business. Now, let’s move on to the tips to improve and maintain your places listing to generate more traffic (money).

Few tips to improve your Google places listings

1.      Google prefers places pages in its search results with localized queries. If you do not have a Place page for your business, you're destroying great chances of getting to the top of the first page of search results. It needs few minutes only to set up a Google Places page for a business, so I don’t think there's a reason to not to use this free service for a business for your local customers.

2.      In Google Places interface, Google allows you to describe your business in up to 200 characters. It is suggested to use your most important keywords (words that you want your customers to type to find you). Wait, do not just stuff keywords in it, write a useful, compelling description that will appeal to readers first and to Google second.

3.      There is a great utility offered by Google to create a listing for each location you have for your business. You can list local phone number and address, rather than a corporate headquarters address or toll-free phone number. If your business serves many locations but has only one physical address, it's best to simply create one Places page for your actual location and then add the areas you service in your places listing.

4.      While creating a Google Place page for your business, you can list up to five different categories to describe the products or services you offer to your customers. It is suggested to use all standard categories in the list but if you want you can list 4 custom categories of your choice in the list. But try to find all five from Google’s standard suggestions.

5.      As we all know that Google is smart just like humans and can manipulate things like a person, so there is a factor which you must take care of. It is always suggested to avoid the keyword in your business name as Google may consider it as spam (something illegal in Google’s dictionary) and push your places listing down. It will be beneficial to add your genuine business name in the business name section of your Google places listing. Do not act smart as Google is smarter than us!

6.      Most of your customers must have some thoughts or comments about the service you offered or offering to them. So, why not share their comments or reviews on Google places no matter positive or negative. Always ask your happy (or unhappy) customers to add their thoughts in the form of reviews on your places listing. And you should also reply to their reviews on places. This will improve your credibility and performance on places listing. Try to get as many positive -- and legitimate -- reviews posted to your Google Places, Yelp, CitySearch and other listings (These are Citation sites, will write something about these soon!).

7.      You can add up to 10 photos and up to five videos for free. SEO experts don't uniformly agree that adding photos and videos per se helps boost your Places page ranking. But some believe geo-tagged photos and videos in particular may give you a bump. At a minimum, photos and videos can make your Places page more appealing to potential customers.

8.      Finally, one important tip is to analyze your Google places listing on regular basis. You must be aware of the things going on with your listing. You can learn the top search queries that caused users to see your listing and how many clicks occurred to your website over the past week or month. The information isn't nearly as comprehensive as what you get with Google Analytics, but it's helpful nonetheless. You can have analytics automatically emailed to you as well.

So, now I hope you can setup a Google place listing for your business as you read above the utility this free service that Google offers. Increase your visibility and chances of getting more traffic for your business with Google places listing.

By Anurag Sharma

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