With Nov 2010 change, Google Places now an even bigger opportunity for clicks & mortar businesses
Importance: [rating=5] (if you have a physical location!)
Our commentary: Google Places has evolved as with most Google products quite significantly in the last 12months. With the renaming of the service from Local Business Centre there are a number of new features, but the most significant was in late November when the Places algorithm changed to favour businesses with a Places presence.
As you can see by a recent search Google places now takes up larger area on a Google results page for a local search. Even more significant, all the top entries have a Places entry, so you're effectively invisible unless you do Places marketing well.
This clearly presents a great opportunity for businesses though as with traditional search results there is only room for a certain amount of results and we all understand the value of being number 1.
The big question then is, how do I make sure I am at the top for relevant searches? Unlike traditional search results, inbound links and the likes are less relevant but there tactics you can use to try and ensure your business is prominent where relevant.
A guide I'd recommend is by David Mihm (see local search best practice guide) outlines the factors that are likely to be taken into account when Google generates results in Google Places.
This is another useful reference source with analysis for the latest Google Places updates.
Marketing implications: If Google places are relevant to your business, the starting point is to register with Google Places if you haven't already.
The priorities should be to implemented the following (without making it too complicated):
- Copy / Content : Utilising relevant key-terms in your titles, descriptions just as you would a web page is clearly an obvious place to start. Be sure to utilise content you have such as videos, images etc within your listing. Being active on your listings is important too, putting coupon codes live and adding videos / images overtime is important to show you are active & taking it seriously. Particularly important for companies with multiple listings.
- Relevant & Engaging Website : Google will expect relevant websites / landing pages to direct people to, just as it would with its paid search advertising. Creating pages specifically for your listings (if they don't already exist) is key to ensure you listing is highly ranked but also for you to ensure the traffic is converted into enquiry / sales.
- Reviews : Quite possibly the most important area in my opinion. Encourage customers to recommend / review you through the Google places system will undoubtedly push your business in the results. The sentiment & rating attached to each comment will impact how that rating is used within the algorithm. Not only will it impact your ranking it will instil confidence into searchers that you are genuine and good at what you do.
Keep Google Places simple it doesn't need to be complicated and focus on how you can encourage & promote the comments & ratings around your business as it would make sense that this is what will help you do well in search results.
This post has been orientated around Google places but they tend to lead these type of innovations & updates, which means Yahoo / Bing will not be far behind. Checkout their versions of Google places at: