According to Google, 97 percent of consumers search for local businesses online. Let that sink in for a minute. Essentially, what Google is saying is that nearly all of your customers are searching for you online at some point. It’s a significant data point that should grab the attention of anyone running marketing or tasked with growing a business.

But surprisingly, many business owners and marketers aren’t familiar with Google Places, how it is woven into local search results, and its relevance to their Internet search strategy.

In this issue of In Depth w/ Adept we answer some key questions about Google Places and share what you need to know about recent changes with this important search tool to make the most of your online presence.

What is Google Places?

Anyone who has typed a search query into Google that also contains an address, street name, or even a city or state, has benefitted from Google Places. It’s the function that millions of Internet users know and appreciate – that little red marker on the map that gives consumers critical information such as a business phone number, street address and directions. While it’s undoubtedly valuable for the end user, it also can be a strategic online tool for business owners. Google allows businesses to register with Google Places for free to help consumers find their location. Once registered, Google will identify a business on Google Maps and become accessible during searches that include geographic information.. But there’s more to Google Places than simple mapping that businesses need to know.

Your Google Places strategy: claim it, build it, monitor it.

Claim it.

Businesses can claim its presence on Google Places by registering with their phone number using a Google account. It’s possible that information may exist about a location based on information that Google pulls from other sources (e.g., Yellow Pages, third-party providers). However, information sent directly to Google from a registered account user will override any preexisting information. This is critical as existing information could be wrong and could impact how Google interprets the data, which impacts search rankings.

Build it.

Google allows businesses to use the Google Places more strategically than earlier iterations of the platform. Businesses can now add photography, video, detailed content descriptions and even ongoing specials. Smart businesses will think of Google Places as a customizable microsite, giving consumers quick access to critical information before they get to their site.

Monitor it.

“Hey, where did these customer reviews come from?” Many times this is how businesses are introduced to Google Places – through posted reviews of their business. Google Places allows consumers the opportunity to posts reviews of businesses and also aggregates reviews from other sites including Yahoo!, CitySearch, Angie’s List and so on. While reminding employees of the long-term social media ramifications of customer service is smart business, encouraging a loyal and satisfied customer base to write a review of their experience can influence consumer attitudes and work to offset the occasional lackluster review. Consumers want to spend with confidence, and a strategy to solicit that validating feedback could help serve as a game changer for businesses.

Say goodbye to double listings, hello to smarter SEO

Earlier this year Google made changes so that companies could no longer have the organic search listing of their website and the Google Places listing appear as two separate rankings on the first page of search results. Now most Google Places listings are combined with corresponding website listings. This leveling of the playing field puts greater emphasis on strategic SEO, encouraging companies to get savvier about original content, key words and descriptions, and alignment of that content from your website to Google Places. Companies that don’t connect these dots risk getting left behind.

What’s the takeaway?

  • Remember the data point – 97 percent of consumer search for local businesses online.
  • Take advantage of Google Places. Claim your business listing and ensure content is accurate.
  • Build content on your Google Places profile. Think of it as an additional microsite for your business to help attract customers.
  • Monitor and ask for customer reviews. Positive feedback helps drive consumer impressions and influence their decisions.
  • Ensure you have an SEO strategy in place. Confirm that your content is well aligned from your website and Google Places listing.

Final Thoughts

Just as we discussed in our previous newsletter, Google again is saying that content is king, search is becoming more sophisticated, and change is the only constant of a rapidly evolving Internet. Google Places is just another example of this reality – and it’s relevant to all businesses.

This information is intended to help you and your business better navigate the changes on web and adjust your web-based strategy accordingly. If you need our help optimizing your online presence, feel free to contact us.