By Melissa J Luther
Google’s Local Business Center officially became Google Places on April 20, 2010. This change is the natural extension of the Place Pages introduced to Google Maps in September 2009. The intent of Place Pages was to have a Web page containing all the relevant information you might need to know about any place in the world. Since your business is a place, it makes sense for it to have a Place Page.
Why Google Made the Change
Your business listing in the Local Business Center was really already a Place Page. It just had a different name. That name made sense when the business listings were first introduced, because they functioned much like online yellow pages. Today the Web is much more interactive, and since the Local Business Center listings and Place Pages offered the same types of information, it made more sense to integrate them all into Google Places.
Along with the name change, Google added some new features.
- Service Areas: Businesses that visit the customer, like plumbers or landscapers, can define their service area. Businesses without a physical location — home-based businesses, for example — can hide their address.
- Local Listing Tags: For $25/month, a business can highlight its local search result with a yellow tag, greatly increasing visibility. The tag also comes with a customizable line of text you can use however you’d like.
- Free Photo Shoot: Google takes pictures of the inside of your business and adds those to your page.
- Custom QR Codes: These codes link to the mobile version of your business’s Place Page. Some smartphones can scan them, so by putting yours on your marketing materials, you allow users with those phones to easily visit your page.
- Real-time Updates: Post timely information that your customers need now.
- New Dashboard: Track visitors to your Place Page much like you use Analytics to track visitors to your Web site. See number of visits, where visitors came from and what keywords they used to find you.
Why You Should be on Google Places
If you didn’t have a Google Business Center listing, now is the time to create your Places listing.
Google is still the search leader, with about 65 percent of the US market share, so your business needs as many opportunities as possible to show up in a Google search. Your Web site may rank high in organic search, but your Place Page will appear in the local results, but only if you’ve created one. Since local listings appear before the organic results, searchers who find what they need there may never get to the organic results.
The new features in Google Places make it easier than ever to stand out from your competition, and getting in early will give you an edge. Integrate your online and offline efforts by adding QR codes to everything from direct mail pieces to business cards. Then add a tag to your local listing, and you’ve provided your audience with multiple virtual neon signs pointing right at your business.
About the Author
Melissa J Luther, owner and founder of LookSee Information Solutions, LLC, helps small businesses create and maintain a strong Internet presence. She takes a multi-channel approach, with a well-optimized Web site as the center of an Internet presence that includes content creation, PPC advertising, linking and social media as appropriate.