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Step 3: Google Maps For Business

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Please note: We are currently in the process of updating this page to ensure it’s in line with Google Plus Business Pages – stay tuned!

Local search is the future of search.

Google Maps has generated a lot of headlines over the last couple of years.  The introduction of satellite images has allowed everyone with Internet access to view our planet in a level of detail that you’d previously only see on television.  Street View advanced the technology still further, although not without courting some controversy along the way.

Yet through all of this progress, as a business owner, the most significant change brought about by Google Maps is the way that it has pushed Yellow Pages to the verge of extinction.

Despite the globalisation of business brought about by the Internet, people still like to buy from local companies.  In fact, particularly in the service industry (dentists, restaurants, mechanics, etc.), customers will always have a need for businesses that operate on their doorstep.  You’d be forgiven for assuming that this is good news for the online Yellow Pages, until you realise that Google Maps has successfully inserted itself into the search process, making – in my opinion – Yellow Pages redundant. Do I hear Google Maps for business?

Before you think I’ve gone crazy, I’m not claiming that everyone searching for local businesses are visiting Google Maps over Yellow Pages, but it is true to say that people are so confident in Google’s ability to provide results, they are simply entering their local search terms into their favourite search engine.  The result is that Google has been given the opportunity to steer people to Google Maps by inserting content directly into the search results.

Google’s presentation keeps changing (presumably until they find the most effective style), so you’ll have to try it for yourself, but at the time of writing, performing a search on “dentist melbourne” looks like this.

But that’s not all.  Scroll down a little further and Google lists the website, address and telephone number of seven local dentists, with this information being pulled directly from Google Maps or Google Places (more on this site in a moment).  Sometimes these results even appear at the very top of the page, above the top ranked sites for that search term.

Can you see what Google has achieved here?  To locate a local business, you don’t need to visit Google Maps, you don’t need to visit Yellow Pages, and you don’t need to rely on individual companies properly optimising their sites for the search engines.  You can simply perform a regular Google search and you have instant access to a range of suitable suppliers.

Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but if your business relies on local trade, traditional search engine optimisation is no longer enough.  The good news is that making sure your business is featured on Google Maps is much easier than you think.  In fact, there’s a good chance that your business is already in Google’s database and it simply remains for you to claim your listing, make sure it’s accurate, and polish it until it stands out from the crowd.

Google Places is used to populate the data on Google Maps and allows you to add photos, hours of business, telephone numbers, and so on.  I have a video available that walks you through the process (see “Additional reading and support” at the end of this chapter), but it’s a very straightforward process, so if you’re confident then head over to places.google.com and search for your business to see if it’s already on there, waiting for you to claim it.  If not, then it’s simply a matter of registering your details and Google will do the rest.

Creating content for your Google Places entry is primarily an exercise in common sense, but make use of your marketing skills to write appealing descriptions, choose the appropriate categories and use targeted keywords.  There’s no need to try to do anything too clever, and I certainly don’t recommend trying anything tricky in the hope of boosting the visibility of your listing.  If you want to go that extra mile, try adding coupons or special offers that will encourage people to pay attention to your listing.

Beyond that, the most important aspect of your listing is the reviews.  It might be tempting to ask some friends and family to post comments to get the ball rolling, but abusing the review facility is extremely risky and could result in your listing being removed altogether.  There’s nothing wrong, however, with inviting your regular customers to post a review.  Create a shortcut link (bit.ly works well) for your Google Places listing, print it on a business card or flyer, and pass it around.  Is it going too far to offer incentives to customers in exchange for posting a review?  I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Local search is definitely here to stay and as more and more people become accustomed to using the Internet for… pretty much everything, the need to ensure your business is visible through this kind of search will become increasingly vital.

Three things you can do now:

  1. Perform a local search on Google Maps or Google Places to see if your business is listed.
  2. Create an entry for your business; if an entry already exists, click on the “Business Owner?” link to claim your listing.
  3. Fix any errors in the business details and add a compelling description of your services.

Three things you can outsource:

  1. Hire a photographer to take some high-quality pictures of your business premises that you can add to your listing (they’re bound to look better than the Street View image that Google is using as a placeholder).
  2. Hire a researcher to identify local business listing websites and update your details so that they match your Google Places entry.
  3. Update your promotional literature to include a link to your Google Places listing, along with an invitation to leave a review.

Additional reading and support

If you want to learn more about local search, visit the links below.

1. Video session on how to claim your Google Places listing:

2. Google Places:

3. Service for optimising Google Places listings:

4. Local citation finder for other business listings:

If you have any questions about the content of this chapter, please don’t hesitate to contact me at www.davesupports.com.

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