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Google Places: Why it is important and 7 things to consider

A ‘Google Place’ is a free listing with Google for any business with a physical location. Your location and company name appears on Google Maps (see image below), and in the Places section of a Google search, which, for location based searches, is getting more and more common. Users can also visit your Places listing to view more information about your company including photos, opening hours, contact numbers, customer reviews and directions.

It is designed to make physical shops and locations much simpler to identify on the web, and in particular any business local to the searcher will be given priority in search results. Any business with a physical premises – such as retail outlets, estate agents, coffee shop or lawyers – should have one to make the most of their local search engine optimisation efforts.

Why is local SEO important?

According to the VP of Consumer Products at Google, 20% of searches on Google are now related to location and Google Maps usage grew 40% in 2012.

Therefore an increasing number of searches have local intent behind them and, as Google want to deliver the most helpful results for their users, Places listings are being featured in many more search engine results pages. This is part of Google’s ‘Universal Search Listings’ strategy where more useful information is featured in their search results (like maps, videos and news).

Case Study – Bathrooms Bristol

As Google increases the use of its universal search results it will start to impact the first page for Google search results more and more.  Let’s have a look at an example search – ‘Bathrooms Bristol’. 

This is the first results page for a Google search. This Places listing is being shown because Google has deemed it to be of more relevance to my search and you can see the Places listing takes up the majority of the natural search results area of the page. In fact in some instances the Google Places results can take up to 70% of the space on the first listing page – that is page ranking gold!

In fact we know a company whose website is terrible, and ranks no-where on Google for any relevant phrases, but because they have optimised their Places listing they still get a lot of online enquiries.  We would obviously not recommend having all your eggs in one basket but the Places listings can be very helpful and separate to your overall website performance so you should take time to review your Places listing.

With this in mind, here are seven important factors to consider when optimising your Google Places listing – they will make a real difference to your local SEO results:

  1. Completeness & Consistency. Invest time to fully complete all sections for your company, including photos, unique company descriptions and any other helpful information you can think of. More is definitely better. And make sure you are being informative, attention grabbing, relevant and …consistent with other local listing sites and other webpages like Google Maps and Google+. This means using the same company name, address and telephone numbers throughout all your local SEO work.
  2. Keywords. Make sure that you enter keyword rich text in company descriptions and elsewhere – concentrate on the key search terms your local customers will use.
  3. Service Area. This is an important point to get right. If you only serve customers at the business address given then check the box ‘I serve customers at my business address’. If you also serve customers at their locations also check the box ‘My business has service areas where I visit customers at their locations’ and then set the areas that you cover.
  4. Encourage Reviews. Ask your customers to review your company through their Google+ accounts or on your Google Maps listing. This will give your listing greater credibility and can also improve rankings.
  5. Page Link. Have a think about which page you want to direct your local customers to from a Places or Maps listing – is the homepage going to be relevant to a localised search or do you have a more relevant sub-page?
  6. Citations. Make sure that all mentions of you on other local websites or local and national directories have the same address and phone number that you have on your website and Google Places listing.  This is very important but it is amazing how often information does vary or how out of date directories can be.
  7. Check Your Stats. Monitor your page impressions, click throughs and conversions against the top search queries from local searches and amend your listing if necessary.

If you would like help with setting up your Google Places listing, or your overall local SEO strategy, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with the professionals here at Varn.