We recently published a free report outlining 3 steps small business owners can use to generate local business. This strategy focuses on how to setup Google Places for your small business. We have seen (through managing our client’s local online campaigns) that Google Places often out-performs other forms of online advertising. This is especially true for service based businesses such as contractor trades people, professionals like lawyers and accountants, and can also include restaurants and other retail businesses. That said, the strategy is very low cost to implement so every business should consider it. There is little to “lose.” Before we layout some tips and strategies, as well as pitfalls to avoid, let’s clarify the general confusion related to Google Local.
The Google search engine is perhaps the easiest tool to use in the world. Just type in your keywords, press search. Boom. But when it comes to their other products, they aren’t always so user friendly or obvious. So if you hear Google Places, Google Local, Google Maps, Google Business page, etc., just consider them to be the same thing. (I’ll spare you the details related to name changes and iterations.) For simplicity, the strategy we use with our clients is this. When someone searches for their product or service, we want their small business to show up on the “maps” listing. Check out the picture below for one of our clients, Hackler Plumbing. I’ll explain it below the picture.
When your customers type in a search term related to your local business, you want your business to show up in Google Places aka “Maps.” Why is this important? Let me demonstrate how powerful this is by using our above (and real) example.
Your business has 3 options to target potential customers on this above search result. Here they are.
First, you could pay for Google adwords and show up in the top 3 results you see on the above screen shot. This would literally cost you approx $100 PER CLICK, as seen below image taken directly from the Google Adwords dashboard. Now, as a Google adwords management company we would get our client clicks around $10, but the average business owner is currently bidding $39 on the low end. If it takes 50 clicks to get 1 client, that’s $1950 per lead! That’s one heck’uva customer acquisition cost. Google Adwords used to be “where it was at,” but we steer most of our clients away from it and deploy better new customer getting strategies. It’s unfortunate that some Adwords management companies are still advising their clients on using the old fashioned way. Alas. So check out the insane PPC rates below for this client example, and quickly learn why Google is worth a bagillion dollars.
Second, you could optimize your website for organic seo results to show up on Google’s first page. As you can see in the first screen shot, we’ve certainly done that for our client in question. They are out-ranking all of their competition, and they currently enjoy the first 2 spots on Google’s first page. We’re both happy about that, but organic seo can be extremely competitive and it often takes a bit of time to achieve this. Since most of our clients have hired 3 to 5 other “local seo services” before they try us, we are adamant about conservative time estimates. (Typically 6 mos.) That said, doing organic seo is labor intensive, therefore, more of an investment on a client’s part. We are big fans of organic local SEO, but this post is to encourage another strategy that often generates the majority of new customer phone calls. Hence your 3rd option, below.
Third, you may learn how to setup your Google Places listing to show up in the maps results. Only certain keywords trigger Google places results, so you’ll first have to determine which service descriptions fit your industry and also trigger maps. Next, you’ll need to get the basics done so that you can later add more Google local listing optimization. Google is plopping 7 results (typically) right on their front page, so why not try to show up there and receive new customer phone calls? Seems like a no brainer to us, and this is exactly what we help our local small business clients set out to do.
Will Google Places work for your business?
It’s common for small business owners to wonder if this will work for their business, because they often feel theirs is unique. While every business is different, there are common trends that inform strategy and expectation. Lean on Google’s “hunch,” meaning that if they have decided to provide a business and phone number for a search related to your industry, chances are there’s a reason. To interrupt their otherwise normal results to serve a phone number means they anticipate that searcher wants to call someone. Why not put your phone number in the caller’s path and take a chance? If you are like our other clients, the odds are good you will receive new phone calls. In fact, our (informal) survey discovered our clients receive about 50% of their new customers via Google Places! Whoa. That’s pretty darn good, and even better is the fact that you can learn how to setup your Google Places listing for free. Of course there are advanced “tricks” (otherwise known as hard work, tedious, silly minutia) that often results in a top listing on Google Places, but you can get out of the gate for free and sometimes get lucky.
How can you setup Google Places for your Local Business?
We thought you’d never ask. This brief guide will take you through the relatively simple steps to establish your Google Places business listing.
1. How to Setup Google Places. Pretty Easy.
Here is some info stated directly on Google’s related Q & A page.
Before you get started, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Adding your local business information to Google Places for Business is free, and Google doesn’t accept payment to include particular listings or sites in our search results. However, we do offer locally-targeted advertising through our AdWords program, as well as the opportunity to give your customers deals or discounts through our Offers program. (My Note: Skip Adwords and Offers right now. And probably forever.)
Every business listing must have a mailing address.
This is the physical address where mail can be sent to your business. If you work from home or you are a mobile-only business you can take advantage of our service-area settings instead. Learn more.
Check out our quality guidelines.
In order for your business location to be approved to appear on Google, it should follow our quality guidelines. Be sure to familiarize yourself with them.
To start creating a free local business listing, go to Google Places for Business and sign in with your Google account. If you don’t already have a Google account, click Sign up now to create a new Google account.
(Back to my notes, below.)
Here’s what you DO want to do, in a nutshell:
A. List your business NAP correctly. (NAP=Name, Address, Phone) *You’ll be limited in what you can edit until you verify your listing, but we chat about that in #2.
B. Choose your business category very carefully, and accurately. (Ideally the same as the keyword that pulls Places results.)
C. Include the keyword triggers that pull Google Places results in your business description.
D. Include your business hours, forms of payment, and the items you’re tempted to skip. (Make your listing complete.)
E. Upload at least 5 (ideally 10) images (There are some strategic things to do with your pictures, ask us how by email if you’re curious).
Here’s what you DO NOT want to do, in a nutshell:
A. Don’t try to fake out Google. (Their robots are smarter than our robots.) If you don’t have a valid address, don’t enter a PO Box, a UPS store suite, or a vacant building. Believe it or not, small business owners use to abuse this. (Probably your competitors, not too hard to believe.) They would setup multiple locations by getting UPS store boxes in neighboring towns, but Google shut this down. Yea, sometimes you can sneak one through…but it’s not a good long term strategy. (And we advise against it despite other local SEO services still using this expired approach.) Pick a real address. Just do it.
B. Address Continued. If you have a home office, no biggie. If you don’t do business with customers there, choose SAB. (Service area business.) This will allow you to hide your address, which you likely want to do anyway. Choose your city and the ones that you also service. These must be near your address, so if you’re in McKinney…don’t choose Austin. If you do meet clients at your home address, go ahead and say so.
C. If you plan to move to a different city in a month, well, go ahead and setup your listing, but realize that this will fluctuate your results a bit. Don’t put a ton of time and effort into Google local listing optimization yet.
D. Don’t use a phone number that has a different area code that your city. In McKinney, lots of people relocate from other places. That’s cool. It’s common to see various area codes, but your Google Places listing should sport a number akin to your area. Oh, and don’t enter a 888 number or call tracking number in your profile. Don’t have a local area code? Just get one. It’s worth it, and not that expensive.
2. Verify Your Google Places Listing
Once you followed these simple steps to learn how to setup your Google Places business listing, you’ll be prompted to verify it. The most common method is to request a postcard. We’ve found these will show up almost 7 days to the dot. If there’s a holiday mixed in there, it could be a day or two later. Once received, just head back to your Google Places listing and enter the PIN number. Once received, Google will open up their local vault so you can exploit their riches. Not really, but you’ll be able to fully tweak and change your listing like we discussed above. Google will NOT show your places listing until it’s verified, so get it done. Seriously. It’s not hard. If you’ve reached this point and feel overwhelmed, relax. Just drop us a line and we’ll help you do this at no charge. We do this A LOT so we get it. 214-856-0556
3. Begin Building Citations to Reinforce or Validate Your Google Places Listing
What in the world are citations? No, they aren’t traffic tickets or write-up’s for jaywalking. Citations are basically references to your business and it’s NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) on sites other than your Places listing. For example, sites like YP.com, Yelp, BBB.org, and Chamber of Commerce are all citation sources. These sites (and many others) offer opportunities to list your business and this begins to establish credibility in Google’s eyes. Building citations is not the only thing that helps rank your Google Places listing, but it certainly helps. (It’s about 15-20% of the equation, most think.) To be honest, building citations is about as fun as stubbing your toe. That said, if you invest some time here it will payoff for your listing. When new customers begin calling you from your newly ranked listing, it will all seem worth it. (And it is.) Of course, if you’re like other small business owners your time is more valuable to you than this type of stuff. We have some pretty awesome tools to expedite this process, so if fast is your mindset, let us know and we’d be glad to share some quicker methods that aren’t as painstaking.
So this wraps up the basics in how to setup your Google Places listing. Let me emphasize this is free to every business owner, and if you get calls from “Google” to do this for you, it’s not legit. In fact, we offer online marketing and we even get these robo calls ourselves. It’s pretty hilarious, actually. Just ignore those calls, because at best they want to sell you local SEO services, and at worst it’s a scam as they pretend to be Google to “list” your business for a fee. If you follow these 3 (mostly) simple steps you will be ahead of many of your local competitors. There is certainly more to the local search game than just these 3 things, but without them you can’t build upon it with advanced Google local listing optimization. I’ve used a real, live case study to demonstrate the power of ranking your local business in Google Places. The client in the above screen shot is very happy, and since fired Google in terms of paying for costly adwords clicks each month. Their maps listing generates a lot of phone calls from new customers, and we expect the same to be true for you.
Warning: Boring, but Doable.
While doing the above isn’t hard, it’s no secret that Google’s tools are not always user friendly. So if you get stuck, feel free to ask for help. We are happy to chat by phone or email to help guide you through setup, and we don’t charge for that sorta thing. Our goal is to help local businesses grow, as this impacts our local economy and benefits our family, friends, and community. Seriously, if you have a question just give us a ring. We’re quite the opposite of high pressure people, and most of our business comes through referrals anyway. 214-856-0556
Send us an email if you’d like some assistance to get this done.
Let’s get your Google Places listing started so you can get new customers calling you!