Ranking in Google Places – A Definitive Guide
Your exhaustive guide to Google Places SEO
Find out what it takes to optimize your Google Places listing to get the most visibility and traffic for you local business. This guide will show you: what Google Places is, why you should care and how to use Google Places to increase your business’ online visibility.
- How to get your business listed if it isn’t
- How to get higher rankings with your Google Places listing
- Advanced Strategies, Troubleshooting
- And much more…
This guide was created by bringing me real experiences with real local SEO clients. Find out what I’ve learned, and how I handle a lot of common problems.
Sample From The Guide
What is Google Places?
Google Places is a business listing page within Google’s Maps service. Within Google Maps, a user can find products or services offered by local businesses; as well as transportation directions and business information.
The business information shown to a user within Google Maps is the product of the information compiled and retrieved from Google Places (or the business’ “Place Page”).
If you’ve ever conducted a search at Google.com, you’ve probably already been exposed to Google Places. You’ll know this by the incorporation of a map and a set of listings when you include a city or region within your search.
In fact, recent changes in Google’s search engine will now show the Maps listings with a great deal of emphasis when a local search is conducted; pushing the “organic” listings down the page.
Thelistings from Google Maps take up the majority of the results page. And each of these listings is created by a Google Places listing.
And why should I care?
Google states that 1 out of 5 searches on Google is related to a location. It is difficult to know just how many searches that comes out to, but it’s been estimated that Google provides results for more than 2 billion searches every day. That’s more than 400 million local searches every day conducted by people looking for something in their area.
So, if you own a business that provides services or products to consumers in your local area, and you need to gain more visibility to those consumers online, then Google Places is where you need to be.
Furthermore, we’ve noticed that not only does a well-ranking Google Places listing send a lot of traffic to a website (more than organic listings in many cases), but the traffic from Google Places often converts at a much higher rate than organic traffic.
Sure, it becomes a bit more difficult and time-consuming as competition increases, or in areas of high population (just imagine having a client in New York…who owns a pizzeria), but most small business owners should be able to handle most of the process of making a Google Places listing work well for their business.
Even if you simply don’t have the time and you decide to hire someone to take care of your Google Places listing, then you should at least understand the process. By understanding your Google Places listing and the ranking factors that come into play, you can hire the best person or firm to get the job done.
Before we can jump in, there is just one more thing we need to cover.
Before We Get Started
Any time you’re dealing with Google, it’s a good idea to understand what it is they are looking for when they return results to a user. In the case of Google Places, there are 2 major points we need to make so your business gets the best, maximum exposure; and ensures that Google regards your listing in a positive fashion.
Know The Rules
Google has a history of being the best at fighting spam on their search engine, and Google Places is no different. Google has a set of guidelines in place to ensure listings are ranked based on their relevance, and not their ability to game the system.
As such, it’s a good idea to make yourself aware of these guidelines. You can read them, and more helpful articles at the Google Places help page:
Generally speaking, don’t try to trick Google. They don’t like it. And when they catch a bad listing, they remove it completely or penalize it. Once one of those things happens, you have to start over.
You may be thinking that there is some method that is working, or have been told of something that someone is doing to get higher rankings. After this guide, there will be a few sections on additional information regarding Google Places, a section of which we will use to discuss the reasons those methods don’t work. If they are working right now, we’ll give you a few real-world cases as a warning against relying on short-term gains.
Know Your Business
Another interesting thing about Google; they love data. They built a business around the collection, categorization and retrieval of data. In order to ensure Google makes the best decision on returning results to a user, you’ll need to provide to them as much relevant information as you can.
Following is a list of things you’ll need during the creation/modification of your Google Places listing. Get them all together now so you won’t have to scramble around later when you are asked for it.
- The official business name – This is the exact name of the business. Try to stay away from unofficial acronyms or shortened names.
- Physical Address – PO Boxes don’t work. And you will need this later when we get your listing to rank.
- Phone Number – Gather all the phone numbers you need. Toll and fax included.
- Email address – You will need an email address to list in your Google Places listing. Keep in mind that people may use this to contact you.
- Website Address – You don’t need a website to have a Google Places listing, but it will help a lot when we start looking at ranking the listing. Plus, you really need a website.
- Business Category – We will go over the details later, but start thinking about the categories that might define your business.
- Gather Images – Take pictures of your business and any items that might apply to the definition of your products/services. For example, if you own a bakery, a few shots of cupcakes wouldn’t hurt.
- Gather Videos – If you have them, get them together. Instructional videos are best, but information/commercial videos will do fine.
- Gather Additional Details – Aside from categories, you can also list details that apply to your business. Do you carry certain brands of products? How about specific services provided? Start thinking about these.
- Locations – All of the above points apply for each location you have. This isn’t too big of a deal if you only have a few listings around town; it gets interesting if you have hundreds across the nation.
2 Ways Google Collects Listing Data
The information provided in Google Maps is the result of 2 main data-gathering methods.
Third Party Sites
Google will sometimes rely on the information provided on third-party websites with business listings. They crawl the sites, find business listings and pull them into Google Maps.
Obviously, Google has the ability to crawl a very large portion of the Internet and harvest a great deal of information. And there is plenty of it out there for Google’s taking.
More often than not, your business is probably listed on many websites. Usually, this is the result of a business listing data center getting your business’ information from public listings of your company, and sharing it among other directories. These are what we call “feeder directories.” We’ll talk about them more in coming sections, but for now just know that once you start a business, it is also listed somewhere publicly, ensuring that it will eventually be shared across the Internet.
Remember this, as it is often the cause of a lot of problems in Google Places, like incorrect business information and duplicate listings. We will also talk about how to remedy those types of problems after the guide.
The other manner in which Google might receive and list your business is by acquiring the information directly from a business owner. Because the listing is being created by the owner of the company (or an authorized individual), Google will take the direct submission and the information provided as more authoritative.
Being that other websites could be incorrect or out-dated, the information you provide directly to Google will always take priority. At least, this is what they claim. There are cases where this isn’t true, and we will talk about those cases and solutions in later sections. For now, let’s just get your business in there.
Search for Your Business
We need to first see if your business is already listed in Google Places. If it is, we need to make sure there aren’t any problems like duplicate listings or incorrect information.
Finding Your Business
Searching for a Google Places page is simple enough. Simply go to http://maps.google.com and search for the name of your business.
It’s a good idea to search for more than just the business name though. Try your street address and phone number. Also, go ahead and try a few “common” searches one of your customers might make. If you still don’t see any listings for your business, it’s probably not in there.
Google will also do a search for you when you first begin the claiming process, and if they find similar listings they will let you know.
What if You Find Your Business?
If you find a listing for your business, then there are a few things we need to look at. Take a look at all of the information on the listing’s Place page and note any corrections that need to be made. Also, see if there are more listings, and make a note of those as well.
When you’re looking at the Place page, you should see a link in the upper-right corner (almost the exact middle of the screen). The link will either say “Business owner?” or “Owner-verified listing.”
If your listing has the “Business owner?” link, then nobody has claimed ownership of this Place page yet. However, if the page you are looking at has the “Owner-verified listing” link, then somebody claimed that listing. Don’t worry too much. This could just mean that someone in your company has already claimed the listing. Ask around the office to make sure.
If your business was claimed, but not by anyone in your organization, then it means that someone claimed the listing, and not likely for honorable reasons. Take a closer look at the listing, and you may notice that the phone number or website address is incorrect.
No matter. Whether your business has a listing or not, you will soon be taking ownership.