What is Google Places?

What is Google Places?

What is Google Places and why is it important for local business owners to have a Google Places page?  First of all, Google Places is a listing of all local businesses to help consumers locate a local company to patronize online.  So why is it important for local business owners to have a Google Places page?

Get Found Online for Free

Google is one of the most widely used search engines, and over ninety-five per cent (95%) of all consumers are searching for businesses in their local area on the web.  Google Places is a free local web platform offered by Google so that local businesses can get found online quickly and easily by would-be customers by posting a places page.

Free Business Promotion

You are not only able to list your business on Google Places, you can highlight all your best sales and promotions on your places page.  Google Places allows you to add videos and photographs of your most impressive inventory.  If you have regular sales which fluctuate daily, you can post live updates on your Google Places account to let prospective customers know why they should come to your business.  Additionally, patrons are able to post reviews, and you can interact with your customers and post replies to your reviews online.

Gain Valuable Search Habits of Your Customers

Joining Google Places is an excellent way to gain insight to how your business is performing online.  You will be able to view what key words people are using to find your places page, so you can make better decisions about your business, and even base your sales on trending searches.

Offer Your Customers Directions by Google

Customers can find you easily and quickly not only by searching online and finding your places page, but by using Google maps to determine your location.  Spend less time answering phones from the Yellowpages, and more time attracting new customers online to view your places page.  Don’t forget to use the suite of tools at your finger tips on your Google Places for business account.  You can show the beauty of your store online or showcase your latest hottest selling item.

Don’t pass up the traffic you could be receiving online.  If you’re not signed up with Google Places and taking advantage of search traffic to convert to foot traffic, you may be leaving a lot of money on the table.  If you’re not already part of Google Places, go now and set up your new places page.

Google Places Changes

Despite its fickle nature, many businesses rely on Google Places for their internet visibility. This visibility can easily be compromised when Google makes a minor tweak to the way they find and display Places search results.

Why Google Changes its Search Results

Google is constantly monitoring and tweaking its search algorithms in an attempt to serve up the most relevant results in a timely manner. When it comes to Places, Google can radically change the placement of search results by simply increasing or decreasing the search radius of a given query. For instance, searching Places for the term “jewelry buffalo ny” on December 28, 2011 returned one set of results; performing the same search on February 8, 2012 returned an entirely different result. The query itself was the same, what had changed was Google’s search radius.

Google uses a formula called “location sensitivity” to filter search results. This location sensitivity includes routines that determine the importance of nearby results for a given query. For instance, it could be assumed that someone searching “Chinese Buffalo NY” would be looking for a Chinese restaurant that is very close by. At the same time, someone searching “Horse Feed Buffalo NY” would likely not be as concerned with the immediate proximity of a tack shop. Location sensitivity uses a variety of data to determine how wide the search radius should be, and displays the most relevant results accordingly.

The search radius can also be affected by a number of other factors, including the density of a particular type of business within the area. Another factor is Google Navigation results. Google can begin to guess the popularity of a particular business by tracking how often users request directions to that business. If many people are requesting directions to a business, Google can deduce that the business is popular, and therefore worthy of a high search ranking.

How Search Radius Shifts Affect Businesses

While Google may not have any ill intent toward any particular businesses affected by their search radius shift, the shift can cause significant loss to those businesses. In December, one particular jewelry shop may have enjoyed a healthy stream of new clients, simply because they appeared in the first page of the Google Places search results. Fast-forward to February, and that revenue stream has dried up because they no longer have that front page visibility. This is why many businesses must pay close attention to their ranking on Google’s ever changing search landscape.

It should also be noted that the results obtained from a desktop computer can be very different from those on a mobile device. The reason for this is quite simple: a mobile device searches for places that are nearby it’s physical location. A desktop computer searches for places that are near to the center of a geographical area.

How to Avoid Losses and Adapt to Changes in Search Results

Unfortunately, there is no escaping Google’s changing search processes. It is entirely possible that one day your business sits comfortably in the top three results for a given query, but the next day it is plunged to page four. Google’s well-meaning attempt to deliver relevant results can cause your business to lose income.

There are a few strategies for recovering and maintaining visibility:

  • Ensure your listing is properly optimized for search traffic
  • Check to make sure that your listing is not being penalized because it appears to be spam or irrelevant
  • Expand your query visibility so that you are visible to more searches
  • Don’t rely solely on Google Places for your visibility, explore other internet marketing strategies.

Regular monitoring and tweaking is necessary to maintain a presence in Google’s regularly monitored and tweaked search results. Armed with this information and an easily adaptable website, you can minimize your losses due to search radius shifting.

Google Places

Optimizing Your Google Places Listing

If you operate a brick-and-mortar store, local search provides the key to remaining visible to an increasingly technological audience. Even people who prefer to buy in a store rather than online will usually do some Internet research before they buy. That means that if your business doesn’t show up when they do a Google search, you may as well not exist. Fortunately for local businesses, Google now places more importance on Google Places listings than they did in the past. If you take the time to optimize Google Places listing information, you can give yourself a boost in the search engine results page that could make all the difference in the success of your business.

Complete Listing Information

This may seem obvious, but the fact is that most Google Places listings haven’t been filled out in their entirety. A complete listing should list not only required information, but also optional details such as a business description, an email address, a business category, and a website. It’s also important to upload pictures and video to flesh out your profile. The goal is to give the customer as much useful information as possible, which in turn increases the weight your listing will be given by Google.

Keywords

Strategically placed keywords will let Google know what searches correspond most closely with your business offerings. Include keywords in your business description, but resist the urge to “stuff.” Also, don’t place keywords in your business name or category unless they legitimately belong there or your listing could be removed.

Customer Reviews

Reviews add credibility to your listing by allowing viewers to get an idea of what people who are unconnected with your business really think about you. While it’s taboo to offer incentives for reviews, you can ask for them on your Facebook page, on your website, or in your store.  A neat little trick that works well is to have your customers fill out survey once the sale is complete and use that information for reviews.  A word of caution, do not “fake” the review and any review you post online must have a hard copy to go with it.

About Your Business

The one thing that Google likes is information about your business. Providing Google with as much information as you can accomplishes two things, first it gives Google the information it is looking for about you business that it can give searchers the information they are looking for. The second thing is that it helps Google determine that your business is real. I know most people don’t this but over the years Google has had to deal with many fake Places Listings. By providing as much information as you can it will help Google verify that your business is real.

Taking the time to optimize Google Places information can set you apart from the crowd of businesses who put in minimal effort. By following these essential tips as you create your listing, you can reap huge results in terms of driving traffic to your website and to your physical store location.