I write a fair amount about local search because it's an important topic that's only going to become more important as millions upon millions of folks move over to smart phones to do their browsing and shopping.
The undisputed leader in all things search is Google and so it's important to pay close attention to the shifting landscape of local tools and services created and supported by Google. You might want to start with this overview video from Google – How Local Search Ranking Works.
In today's post I want to cover the Google Place page and make sure you understand some of the ways to get this centerpiece in the local search game working hard for you.
1) Claim – The first step of course is to claim your Place page. There's a pretty good chance that a listing exists from a phone record so start with Add Your Listing page and see if you can locate by phone number. Once you do you'll be given the chance to edit the listing. You will have to verify ownership and any changes to basic information will require that you verify again, but make sure you do it. Take the official Google Place Page tour here.
List your business name exactly as it is, don't get cute by adding geographic terms as Google may whack you for this. List your address and even if you have a toll free number list your local number as the area code is a big location signal for Google (You can list more than one number.)
Home based business or businesses that want to designate a wide service area can choose this option in Service Areas and Location Settings and then list zip codes or service distance and then hide the home address from the listing if they like. – This video describes service areas.
2) Keywords, Categories, and Description – During the process of enhancing your profile you will get the chance to pick the category that best describes your business. You get to use 5 and you should add them all. Make sure you use the most accurate terms suggested by Google in their list, but you can create custom categories not on the list if they are indeed accurate. This is a place where Google gets a little miffed if you try to stuff location words in so be careful and don't get too creative.
Use your description to get your important keywords and location terms in – blah blah blah a keyword and keyword service serving city, suburb and neighborhood – but don't stuff, make these read well to human eyeballs.
3) Add Video and Images - Google gives you the ability to add photos and video and you should take advantage of this. In fact, you absolutely should add at least one photo, even if it's just your logo, as it will show next to your listing in place searches. You get the chance to upload a photo from your computer, but consider adding images to Google Picasa or Flickr and taking the time to geotag them. This way when you add the photos by giving Google the URL to the photo you get some extra geographic data.
You can list up to 5 YouTube video URLs and my feeling is that if these are described, optimized and geotagged well on YouTube (a Google company) it can only help your cause. Video embedded in your page also makes for a more engaging page when someone shows up too.
4) Google Tags and Google Boost - Tags and Boost are two new local advertising options for your Place Page and they do cost money. By purchasing either of these options you won't enhance your chances to show up higher in Google's index, but you can make your listing stand out and they may be worth the fairly low cost.
For a flat monthly fee of $25, businesses can enhance their listings that appear on Google.com and Google Maps with a yellow tag that emphasizes specific information such as a coupon, video, website, menu, reservations, photos, or a custom message.
Boost enables business owners to easily create online search ads from directly within their Google Places account. This way your local ads show up in the sponsored results and you get a blue pin instead of a red one. (Not available everywhere yet – use this form to get notified when it's available in your city)
5) Rate and Review – Anyone visiting your Google Place Page can write a review as long as they have a Google account. Ratings appear to play a fairly significant role in getting your Place Page to rank well although Google won't say much on the subject. Getting lots of positive reviews, even if they weren't a ranking factor is good for business. While you don't want to create anything that is fake you do want to put some energy into stimulating reviews.
- Any time a customer compliments ask for a review, post those reviews in other prominent places such as your store and website.
- Go through your list of customers and highlight those with GMail addresses – there's a good chance they are can more easily participate.
- Get in the habit of reviewing your business customers, suppliers and partners – check out the Google Hotpot tool.
The local search game will continue to evolve, but don't pass up this chance to start building your local foundation right now!