The sceptics amongst you are probably thinking- not another online marketing product that consumes your time and may not even produce effective results. I say before you completely bypass this article about Google Places, you should do your business a favour and begin to become acquainted with this Google product as its benefits for your business can be huge and far-reaching. It’s a free product, an important product with fast community growing rapidly so I urge you to read on and see what Google Places can do for your business.
What is Google Places?
Let’s start from the beginning and quickly explain what Google Places is for the uninitiated (apologies if you already know what it is but its a brief explanation to bring everyone up to speed). Google Places is, essentially, an online, more advanced version of a telephone directory book. Modern search habits have changed drastically since the invention of the humble telephone directory- people turn more to Google than Yellow Pages to look for a product or service. It’s fair to say that the telephone directory as we know it is near extinction and is being replaced by other search methods- more prominently, Google Places. Nowadays, when searching for a local fish mongers, a hairdresser or let’s face it any other service, what do we do? We Google it. And the prominent first results in the search are the Google Places listings for the terms we type into Google search to find these services.
What use is Google Places for your business?
With Google Places your clients can rate your business and write reviews (or citations as Google calls it). The benefits of this are twofold- it gives searchers the opportunity to make a judgement of your business based on what others are saying about your business and it can also boost your search engine rankings. The first benefit is obvious. Let me explain a little more about how the second benefit of boosting search rankings work in relation to Google Places. If you have created a full, well optimized Google Places listing (this is another topic which I won’t go too much into here, but feel free to contact me if you have questions on this), you should notice increased Google rankings. This is because Google prioritizes well optimised, relevant Google Places listings in their search results, so the more people search for a business that matches what you offer, the more times your Google Places listing will be displayed in the results. You can check out how this works with a live Google Places slisting by using the example of one of my clients, Comforts Hairbraiding when you search for the terms “hair braiding bristol”. Notice how they are on the top page, their Google reviews showing prominently underneath the snippet, and on the top right hand side of the results page is a location map with the business information.
Google is moving towards using social signals like the number of positive reviews and the sentiment expressed by the reviewers of your business to help it decide where to place your business on its search results- with businesses with more positive reviews being ranked higher.
However, don’t panic about negative reviews negatively impacting your search engine presence- Google Places can also be a good PR tool. Negative reviews need not damage your business – and Google will not penalize you for bad reviews if handled properly. In fact, negative reviews can actually add value to your business as it can give you the opportunity to improve on your service, and can be used to demonstrate how you turned a bad customer experience to a good one through good customer service and communications.
For those of you who work from home and don’t have an office you can still list your business by just specifying the general area in which you work from.
Why is Google Places so important?
If you’re still wondering why you might indeed need Google Places to market your services, let me explain and hopefully put things into perspective with a few facts.
Google Places is cheaper than advertising on telephone directories. To advertise on a telephone directory can cost thousands of pounds a year whereas Google Places is free. Given this fact, Google Places is a no-brainer to at least give a try.
Google Places is great for SEO. A well optimised Google Places listing improves your search search engine visibility. The more complete your Google Profiles listing, and the more reviews (or citations) your listing receives, the higher up your website will climb up Google’s search rankings. Imagine your prospects being able to find you by quickly and simply typing some search terms on Google search.
Google Places allows you to reach the mobile search market. The mobile marketing is a growing trend for the future, add this to the fact that the amount of people using their mobile phones to research retailers is growing (it went up 3.9 percent in 2011) looks very promising. If that’s not enough evidence of the potential in Google Places then consider this- smartphone usage is continually growing at a fast rate and Google is the default search engine for most smartphones. This tells you that having Google Places makes good business sense now and in the future.
To put into perspective how popular Google Places is becoming, Google now adds around one million business reviews a month.
The great thing is it’s not too late to carve your presence- businesses are only now awakening to the power of Google Places for local SEO. However, you’ve got to get in their fast before your competitors do, as the community of Google Places savvy businesses is growing fast. So my advise would be to add your business to the Google Places community before the listings fall into their billions and your presence on Google is nothing but a needle in a haystack.
About the Author: Rita Auta is an experienced digital marketing consultant and Managing Director of PR Service UK- a London marketing agency. She is passionate about helping companies, organisations and individuals achieve online marketing success on budget. The Internet has democratized marketing – you no longer need the biggest budget to be heard. She believes that with a little creativity, authenticity and a good marketing plan your business can go far.
Follow Rita’s @prservicesuk account on Twitter for updates on the latest SEO & Social Media news affecting business. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.