Do a search for just about any kind of business, add your city’s name, and you’ll see Google prioritizing local businesses in the search results. You could have a national brand specializing in that business and a heavily SEO’d site with a ton of back links pointing at it, but if you don’t have a physical location in that city, you’ll be out-ranked by the little guy.
How? Take a look at the image at left. We did a search for “burritos in Boston” and the first seven results are for local businesses using a Google Places listing. Google Places is Google’s business directory service – kind of like the Yellow Pages. By adding a location to your search, Google knows you’re looking for something near that location. When you set up a Google Places listing, you are giving your business a chance to show up at the top of the page, ahead of the regular organic search results. This is prime real estate! Big companies pay experts a lot of money to help them get their sites ranking as high up in the results as possible. Google Places is FREE.
Simply having a Google Places listing isn’t the end of the story, though. Just like the competition to rank high in the normal search results, there is often a lot of competition in the Google Places listings. So how do you make sure your listing gets top placement? Like most aspects of Search Engine Optimization; it’s simple, but not always easy.
Step #1 Profile Completeness
It may seem obvious, but some businesses don’t take the time to fill out every section that Google offers for the listing. By offering sections to fill in information about your business, Google is practically telling you that this info is, or can be, important. Make sure you take your time and fill out as much of your Google Places information as you can.
Step #2 Consistency
Many businesses have multiple phone lines, a few extra domain names, or maybe an ambiguous street address. Google isn’t the only directory game in town and they know it, so they look at other directories to make sure they have the correct and most relevant results for their users. Make it easy for them to confirm and provide the best search results possible by using the same information for every online directory you enter. Make sure phone numbers, web addresses, street addresses and business descriptions are all consistent. This makes it obvious to Google which business you are, and what business you’re in. Help them provide quality information to people searching on Google, and they’ll help you.
Step #3 Reviews
Reviews help establish your business as being important. Not just your score in the reviews, but how many you get. A ton of 4 star reviews makes you a lot more important than a handful of 5 star reviews. The more often your business is reviewed, the more popular your business is considered to be by Google. Make sure you find a way to encourage your customers to leave feedback online. It doesn’t just have to be on Google, either. Google includes a “reviews from around the web” section in their listings where they include reviews from a variety of other sites. Anywhere your customers want to review their experience, encourage it, but be sure to address any negative reviews you receive.
That’s it! Any small business can take advantage of the premium placement of Google Places listings in the search engine results by simply filling it out completely, with the same information they use elsewhere and encouraging the social interaction of leaving reviews. If you don’t already have a Google Places listing, set one up now. If you do have one, make sure you’re making the most of it, and watch your listing rise to the top of the Google search results.