If you can only do one new marketing activity this week – claim your business' Google Places listing. The search engine launched Google Places nationwide in November and it now reorganizes the way users see their search results. You now have an opportunity to drive local traffic to your website for little or no cost. As 97% of consumers use online media when researching products or services in their local area – a website for a business is a must and Google Places is like an online version of the free local Yellow Pages only it connects consumers to your website without having to use expensive search engine optimization (SEO).
Google has changed the way it shows results on the search engine result pages (SERP) by putting increased relevance on local listings. Depending on your industry, when someone in your geographical area Googles your product or service, up to seven of your competitors' Google Places ads will be listed on the first page results. This area appears above the organic search results, and is highlighted by small red balloons. The places will also be marked with red balloons on a map beside the listings.
Reasons for claiming your Google Places listing are:
1. There is no charge for the service – it’s free – for now.
2. Verifying your listing helps you rank higher in Google Maps and on Google SERPs.
3. Google Places pages can include basic location information, such as the address, business name, website, and phone number as well as star ratings, reviews, photos, videos, product/service information – think second website on Google.
To maximize your company's exposure on Google Places, it is important that you optimize your listing. Optimizing your listing includes completing all of the form fields and verifying it with Google. In addition, you should encourage your customers to review your business for you. The more reviews you have the better.
You may also consider adding a Google Tag to your listing. For $25 per month you will get an eye-catching yellow tag next to your listing and by your marker on the map. The Tag can be used to highlight a photo, advertise a coupon, list an offer or provide a link to your site.
As with all things Google – we can expect additional changes with Google Places. With over $29 billion in revenue Google is the undisputed king of online advertising. Yet its revenue is from a relatively small number of companies. Industry experts indicate that Google advertises for about 1 million businesses, with 24 million businesses in the US – there is a bigger piece of the pie waiting to be tasted by Google. Currently Google Places is the local directory of products and services – like Yellow Pages on the Internet. You get a free listing to be included in the book, but if you want a color ad or bolder listing you will need to pay more.