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GoogleApps_March26_CIf a customer wants to know about a company, the first place they turn to is Google. Many businesses, large and small, know that customers will normally turn to Google, and as such have started using the various Google apps to drive their online marketing. One of the most under utilized apps is Google Places.

Places, introduced in 2009, is actually two different services. The first service, is essentially a mini website, within Google, for local businesses with contact information, reviews, pictures, nearest transit stop, street view, and so on. Google realized that when people want to find a business or service they will typically type in the service and their location – e.g., if a person is in New York, and wants to find a computer repair center, they will typically enter something like: Computer Repair New York. Using Places, businesses in a particular area will be ranked to appear higher in search results if the user is in the same general area. While the results show up on search results, Places is actually a part of Google Maps. If a business has signed up, and provided their info, it will also show up as a pinpoint when a relevant search query is entered in Google Maps. The best part of Places is that it is free for businesses.

The second service is the Places App. This app is for everybody and is similar to popular local search services like Foursquare. You enter a search in Places and, based on your location and search, results will show up with the closest result first. People can call, email, review, and even suggest businesses. Places is available in Google search results, Google Maps and as a standalone App for smartphones.

How Do I Get My Business On Places?

If you are interested in getting your business on to Places you will need to get a few things ready before you apply:

  1. A Google account: You will need a Google account that is related to your business. If you do not have one, it is free to sign up.
  2. Any content you would like to show up on your Places page, including pictures, basic brochures or product information, and if you have them, videos. The more precise your information is, the better your organic result will be.

After you have your information ready, head over to the Places website and click Get Started. From there it’s as simple as following the on-screen prompts, and then waiting for Google to put your Places page online. Once it’s online you will be able to update information in real time, and be on the way to generating more customers.

Watch Out! Common Mistakes Made by Businesses
Here are four common mistakes business often make when establishing their Places profile:

  • Unclear Keywords: Places lets you select keywords and categories for your business. Many businesses make the mistake of selecting categories that don’t fit their business model, and this will potentially confuse viewers, resulting in many needless calls and emails about your services. Google Places allows a maximum of five categories. We suggest picking one or two pre-built options, (if there are similar ones to your business model), and three custom ones. Try to develop keywords that specify exactly what you do.
  • Get the Basics Right: The mobile version of Places allows and encourages users to call businesses. Therefore, it is important you have not only the right phone number, but the right format – e.g., many phone numbers in Canada require you to input the area code regardless of the location. If you don’t have it, no one will be able to contact you. Also, ensure you are using the correct name for your company. Put the name of your business as it is registered with your phone and Internet company.
  • Proper Citations: Citations are references to your business that, when used correctly, help place your business higher in local search results. It is important that when building citations your company name, phone number and other information are exactly the same as what you have listed on Places. If you have used N.W. in Places, and on another site  like Yelp, you have cited your business address with North West, the results will be diminished and your business will show up lower in search results.
  • Too Many Chiefs, Not Enough Indians: It is important that you limit the number of people who have access to the account you use for your Places page. The more people who have access, the higher the chance your information can be changed, often with negative results.

Places, if leveraged right, is a great way to help boost your online presence and marketing potential. If you would like to learn more about Google Places or any other Google App, please get in touch.

Published on 26th March 2012 by Jeanne DeWitt.

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