Google Places – A Must For Small Business

Are you a business owner looking for more face-to-face contact with customers? New changes to Google could provide you with that opportunity but you will need to do some work.It surprises me how many small businesses fail to take advantage of this free service. Google owns 70% of all search engine traffic and all you need to do to take advantage of this traffic is to claim your directory listing. If you don’t, Google will create a “place” page based on information it finds within its database of information. By creating your own page, you have control over what is said about your business.Google’s objective is to become more of a directory of information. Changes to Google places are being rolled out gradually and here are just a few of the changes you will see:Places is a new way to search. You may have noticed a new set of options on the left side of the screen after you enter your search specifications. Selecting a location is one of your options. When your customers select your city and your product – will they find you?Google Maps is now Google Places. When anyone searches for a product or service, Google will return the top seven local search results on the right side of the page inside a map. This means that including a location in your keywords is more important than ever. Information such as address, phone number and description will be included in the organic listing on the front page. If you have not claimed your listing on Google, it is unlikely you will be displayed in the top seven listings.The order of placement has changed. In the past, paid listings would be listed at the top with organic listings below. Search Engine Optimization techniques were used to claim a listing on page one. If the location was added to the search, then Google maps was the first option under the paid listings. Once again the rules have changed. The new order is paid listings, then the top local listings (even if a location was not specified) and then organic listings.Search rankings have changed. Because of the change in the focus to local listings, old search engine optimization techniques no longer apply. Although Google does not reveal how it selects the top seven results, certain rules seem to apply. Reviews have become an important factor in placement. The next time your customer thanks you for a job well done, ask them to go into Google and write a review. Be sure and write reviews for businesses that you work with and ask them to do the same for you. In addition to reviews, local links back to your website will be a big asset to getting a top listing. Make sure that you have a link from your local Chamber of Commerce, the Better Business Bureau, and other local organizations in which you participate. Look for local websites that provide information about local attractions and make sure you are listed.There is a new star system. The first thing next to the company name is now a series of stars. These are used by people logged into Google to rate the company. If you are looking at the search results, who would you call? The answer is probably the business with the most stars. Because the contact information is right there, people are most likely to select the best rated company.Some directory websites may rank higher than others. Although it can’t be verified, it appears that a review from Yelp ranks higher than a review from City Search. This makes it important to have a listing on sites such as Yelp and Encourage those you do business with to take the time to do an honest review on these directories.Today it is becoming more important what people have to say about you than what you are saying about yourself. Having good content on your website is still very important, however, making sure that your customers, referral sources and vendors are providing good reviews is becoming equally important.

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