Where you need to go: www.google.com/places
Google Local Business Center is now called Google Places, as Google aims to rebrand the product around the Place Pages it introduced last fall. Place Pages are the pages for business listings that are found in Google local searches. These local searches are where I suggest service based companies to really focus on education. Google Places contain relevant information about business’s from various places on the web, such as reviews, video and images, as well as other info the business puts up after claiming their listing. It is imperative that you as a business claim your listing on Google Places. Google Places, the company says, is “just the beginning of what’s to come from our efforts to make Google more local.” That’s a very powerful statement from a company that owns 85% of the global market place for search engines.
Some new and old features that come along with the name change include:
1. Service areas – Businesses who travel can show the geographic areas that they cover. Those without a storefront can make their address private.
2. Google Tag advertising – Advertising with Tags – For 25 bucks a month, businesses (in certain cities) can use Tags to highlight their listings on Google.com and Google Maps. These are yellow markers that let you promote important aspects of your business. They can be used for things like coupons, photos, and other select features.
3. Business photo shoots – Businesses (in certain cities) can request a free photo shoot from Google to have the interior of their business photographed and added to their Place Page. You can upload your own photos as well.
4. Customized QR (Quick Response) Codes – Google is providing customized QR codes from the Google Places Dashboard. The code will take customers to your place page, and can be used on business cards and other marketing materials. Customers can scan them with their smartphones. [I truly believe this will be the wave of the future for contest and other mobile marketing techniques, but that is for another blog post]
5. More Favorite Places Decals – Remember Google’s “Favorite Places” program in which the company sent brick and mortars window decals with QR codes? They’re sending them out to 50,000 more businesses in the U.S.
6. Post to your Place Page – A twitter like post where businesses can put events, specials, press releases in 160 characters that expire after 30 days.
7. Dashboard – See the activity on your Google Place page in regards to impressions, user actions (example: click on map, click on driving directions, click on website), top search queries, and data that shows where users are requesting driving directions from.
Google also gives businesses using Google Places info they haven’t been able to see in the past, like who’s searching for them, how they’re finding them, and where they’re coming from.
“One out of five searches on Google are related to location, and we want to make sure that businesses are able to be found and put their best foot forward,” says Google Maps, Earth, and Local VP John Hanke.
The standard rules still apply to Google Places. Every listing must have a mailing address and there can’t be more than one listing per physical location. Even doctors with multiple practices and services that cover multiple towns shouldn’t have two listings. Google recommends in these cases that businesses use the description or categories to explain the different services offered. Google’s quality guidelines can be found here, and may be helpful to businesses with questions about their listings.