Google's Local Business Center: A Major Update & A New Name -'Places'If you have a brick and mortar store, and rely on walk-in traffic for your survival, you may be wondering what the Internet can do for your business. Believe it or not, a lot - and you don't even need a website.
In the "old days", the bulk of businesses relied on the Yellow Pages to get the phone ringing. The majority of marketing dollars were spent getting listed in this ten pound paperweight. With the popularity of the Net, less people let "their fingers do the walking" when they need something, and more are letting their mouse do the talking.
Online search has gone mainstream when it comes to searching for local businesses. Google states that 73% of searches are done for local content. Another study by BIA/Kelsey and Constat report that 97% of consumers use online resources when doing research for products/services in their local area. See www.kelseygroup.com/press/pr100310.asp
Google has always understood the power of local search, and years ago launched its Local Business Center where any business can get a listing for free. Recently, they've done a major overhaul and have re-launched with a new name of "Google Places", showcasing a host of new features. google.com/places . The name change was done to tie in with Google's Place Pages which were launched over a year ago and include over 50 million places worldwide. tinyurl.com/yc56vx9
If you want customers to be able to find you, and haven't listed your offline store here yet, you need to get with the program. You are missing out on the opportunity to reach millions of Google users, including Google Map users, Google's 800 Voice Directory Search and even Google Earth. And all of this exposure won't cost you a dime. It's totally free.
Now that I have your attention, let's go over the steps for inclusion. As with all things Google, you'll need to sign into Google Places with your Google Account. Up to 100 single locations can be added but, if you have more than ten to list you'll need to use their "Bulk Upload Tool".
There is a verification process that must be done to prove you're the owner of the business being listed. The choice is yours, it's by phone or mail. Once this is done, your listing goes live.
Now in case you're thinking all that's included in a listing is an address and phone number, hold onto your hat. Here are some of the listing options.
1) Show the geographic area you service.
2) Photos- Upload your own, up to ten images per listing, in JPG, GIF, PNG, TIFF, BMP. A professional photo shoot can also be requested for your business.
3) Place Page Posts- You can post real time updates here, up to 160 characters, announcing special sales, events, and new products. One post appears at a time.
4) Custom QR Codes: For use with smart phones to take users to your mobile website.
5) Advertise: They do have a "Tags Program" in select cities for $25.00 a month where your business will be highlighted on Google.com and Google Maps.
6) List your operating hours. Biz description and even reviews.
7) Post Videos: Up to five videos can be posted, but you'll need to publish them to YouTube first, then include the url's on your Place Page.
8) Payment Types Taken
9) Coupons: Create online coupons to give people incentive to visit your site. There's a separate "coupon tab" that appears on your listing page.
10) Privacy: If you work from home and have no storefront you can choose to make your address private in your listing.
At this point you should be realizing how important being listed in Google Places is to your business. If you'd like to see what your listing looks like to a searcher, log into Google Places and click on "see your listing on Google Maps".
Now remember ,search results are based on relevance and "geographic distance", so you can't buy your way to the top of the list as with pay-per-click advertising. As previously mentioned, the "tags program", if available in your area, can be utilized for having your business how up highlighted for $25.00 a month.
If you're interested in paying for your links to show up on the Google Maps search results page, if related to the search terms and location searched, that can be done using Google's Adwords program with what's called "Local Targeted Ads". google.com/adwords
By the way, Google also includes a "Reporting Dashboard" that will tell you how people find you, and what keywords they used to search. It's powerful stuff that can also be used in your local search engine optimization work.
Do yourself a favour - if you're not listed with "Google Places", do it today. It's targeted, free traffic. Now where else can you say that when it comes to marketing on the Internet. People are looking for your business online and with Google Places you can make it easier for them to find you. Website or not - it simply doesn't matter - but getting people in the door does, and Google is there to help.