Local Search Marketing – Google places optimization
With Billions using the internet to find local products and services, and over 80% of those using Google, it is absolutely essential that every business has an online presence. If your business can’t be found in the search engines, it is simply invisible to these prospective clients. Add to that the fact that by the end of 2012 it is expected that over 50% of mobile phone users will own a smartphone and it is becoming more important by the day that your business is visible in the local online search results.
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Claim your listing!
This is a pretty obvious first step but one which is often overlooked and if another Google Places page is set up, can result in duplicate listings. To avoid this, do a full search in the “Maps” section of Google for your full business name and phone number. Often Google has already “scraped” a listing for your business from data found in other online business directories and if so, you need to claim ownership of this listing and verify it by postcard.
Before completing your business profile it is important to decide on which keywords would be most beneficial for your business to rank for. These keywords should be included where suitable in the business description and categories columns.
Upload photos and videos:
Choose ten photos of your business premises, products or whatever you think is suitable and get them optimised them for your Google Places page. If these are quality photos of the business premises upload them to Panoramio or get them geotagged in Picasa or Flickr to help Google associate them with your business Places page. If you have any quality videos associated to your business get them uploaded to Youtube and be sure to include your business NAP (Name, Address, Phone No.) in the description!
A citation for a listing is the equivalent to a backlink in organic SEO. These are basically every time the Google bot sees a reference to your business “NAP” online. The more relevant the citation, the more credit Google will give to your Places page. e.g. if you are a Plumber, a citation found on a builders directory will be given a lot more credit than a citation on a “Places to eat” directory. It is also very important that you make sure to keep all your business listings in exactly the same format to make sure Google can associate them correctly.
Don’t be shy in asking clients past and present to leave reviews on your page. Get a QR code linking to your Places page and have it visible in your shop window, on your reception desk, on invoices, wherever! This same QR code will bring clients to whatever vouchers or special offers you might be running at that time. These reviews don’t all have to be 5 stars either, no business has a blemish free reputation but it is how you respond to the not so good reviews that shows prospects your business integrity.
Business address visible on site:
If you have a website make sure your business address is visible in text/html format in the footer or somewhere on every page. You can also upload a geo-sitemap to your root folder to help Google make the connection between your organic website and your Google Places page. If your business has multiple locations you should have at least a separate page on your website for each business location and link this individual page to each of your separate Google Places pages.
Keep your customers “sweet”!:
Now that you have increased your business’ visibility online it is all the more important that you make sure you keep your customers happy and make sure they continue to leave those good reviews. It is important to remember that customer reviews can be scraped from other online directories like Yell or Hotfrog and posted on your Google Places page so offline customer service must be maintained to ensure your online reputation stays intact.