Google Places #1: How To Get A Red Balloon In 10 Steps

by Caitlin Melvin August 18th, 2011 


Google Places page. Formally known as Google Maps. This little profile can do wonders for you on many different levels in the internet marketing world. As an account coordinator at Search Engine People, part of my job is to make sure our clients have a fully optimized profile.

"Optimize Prime"

...did anyone get that?

In lieu of all the uploading of photos, input of information, and sending off recommendations, I have decided to write a series of blog posts on Google Places.

I will start with the optimization of Google Places. Follow this recipe and you will have a fully optimized profile that is 100% complete. Now that's fresh! It's extremely important to have a Google Places page that has been fully optimized so that it is 100% complete, because right now, it appears Google is giving priority to local listings that have Google Places page that is 100% complete. (See screenshot below.) The listings you see that are ranking have complete Places pages.

The Red Balloon

Who Wouldn't Want A Red Balloon? do you get there? I'll be honest, it's not guaranteed, but you should make sure you have a chance. Begin by claiming your page, or establishing one if you don't already have one. Then, follow these simple steps to ensure your page is complete:

Step One:

Your business or company name. Make sure your company / organization's name is listed exactly as it appears in the offline world. Do not include additional keywords such as the city because this violates the guidelines. And you don't want to violate the guidelines. We're talking black-hat Google Places tactics here...yes, that does exist...kind of.

Step Two:

Add your phone number. Make sure it is the phone number you want potential clients/ customers to reach you at. If I'm driving and I need to contact you, Google Places is the first place I look for contact information on my mobile device (yes, I pull over to the side of the road first...). Also, add any toll free and fax numbers you have as well. The more contact information - the easier you can be reached.

Step 3:

Your email address. Unless your personal email address is the main point of contact, add a preferred business email. example: (that doesn't actually I wouldn't try emailing me at that address)

Step 4:

Add your website. Include http:// as well when you add your website.

Step 5:

Categories. Include all the categories that are relevant to your business. The more the merrier. But please, ensure they are relevant to your business. Do a thorough search through the categories Google offers, as there may be more than one that are relevant.

Step 6:

Hours of Operation. Ensure that you display the hours your company / organization is open for business. No one can drop by if they don't know when you're open. Alternatively, if your business does not allow people from the public to come to the location, there is an option you can select to show the public that you service customers at their locations, and you can also hide your address. That's Google looking out for you 😉 should also list the areas you service regardless of whether or not customers come to you, or you go to them. Keep that in mind.

Step 7:

Payment methods. Do you accept Mastercard, but not American Express? That's something you may want people to know before they come to your business. Select the payment options your business accepts.

Step 8:

(Are you still with me?)

There is a section that allows you to display additional information about your business. Do you have a plumber on call at all hours? Is your business wheelchair accessible? Do you have parking? Little things like that are something you may want to display on your Places page.

Step 9:

Photos. I've written a blog post on the importance of photos in social media. Photos are also super important for your Places page. You can add up to 10, so add 10 to ensure the Places page is fully optimized. Plus, people love looking at photos, let's be honest here. And if you have a company video, upload it to Youtube, and copy the URL into the video option. It's not necessary, but it is great to have.

Step 10:

Reviews. I think we all know the importance of having a good review about your business online. Google Places allows people to write a review of your business on your Places page. Ask loyal or happy customers to write a positive review about your business, or the experience they had. But also note, that Google will also pull reviews from websites such as Yelp.

There are a few other items that you can use on Google Places to optimize your Places page, including the Live Posts section, and Offers. But that's for another day my friends. Happy optimizing!

I would like to thank my super smart colleague Martha, who implemented this strategy and has taught me everything I know about Google Places. :)

Caitlin Melvin

Caitlin works at Search Engine People. She loves internet marketing, and has a passion for social media. Caitlin is a former competitive cheerleader, a crazy cat lady, and a work-a-holic.

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13 Responses to “Google Places #1: How To Get A Red Balloon In 10 Steps”

  1. Linda Buquet says:

    Good overview Caitlin!

    Wanted to add some important info about #2.

    "Make sure it is the phone number you want potential clients/ customers to reach you at."

    People could take that wrong and hurt their rankings I'm afraid. If people take that literally they may add their cell or Gvoice #.

    You must use your MAIN local #. The one that's likely in the phone book if you are an established business. This number is linked to all your Google trust points across the web and has very important impact on your ranking.

    Also best practice for Google Places is NOT to add any other number in Places. No cell, 800#, alt # or fax. Places is easily confused and phone # is the most important piece of your core data.

    Address was not mentioned, but it's part of the core data that affects your ranking as well and Google can only match up your trust points if everything is an EXACT match. So be sure you list it in the format that's most often mentioned on the Internet. N. abbreviated but Suite spelled out or whatever the case may be. Get this wrong and you'll lose trust points too.

    FYI "Google Trust Points" is a Lindaism :-) that includes citations, reviews and everything else G evaluates to determine a business is legit.
    Bottom line his he who has the most trust points in a market wins BUT they only count if they are an EXACT match. (That's now only true with 1 of the algos, there are 2 algos and the other one does not depend on trust points.)

    My 2 cents…


  2. Susan Walsh says:

    Caitlin, excellent blog post – I look forward to more.

    Since Categories help with ranking, I refer to Google's Quality Guidelines. They are guite clear on what can and can't be used.

    Categories: Provide at least one category from the suggestions provided in the form as you type. Aim for categories that are specific, but brief.
    •Categories should say what your business is (e.g. Hospital), not on what it does (e.g. Vaccinations) or things it sells (e.g. Sony products or printer paper). This information can be added in your description or as custom attributes.
    •Categories should not contain location-based information (for example, Dog Walker Los Angeles is not permitted).
    •Only one category is permitted per entry field. Do not “stuff” entry fields with multiple categories.

    The Quality Guidelines are more than helpful, at least for me.


  3. Nyagoslav says:

    I particularly like the header image!!! That's a total killer.

    Regarding what Linda said, I'd like to add that actually to get the red balloon, but not a red circle you will need to list the address the format Google recommends, or you might have serious troubles. The problem is that Google often times does not recognize the address and that potentially causes troubles with the rankings. Furthermore, if you hide your address that could also cause decrease in organic rankings later on.

    Regarding the points in the post, unfortunately Google is recently publishing very small part of the information you mentioned. Additional details are gone for more than a month now, the description was missing for about 3-4 weeks, the hours of operation tend to disappear every now and then, and currently it seems that there are troubles with the website's URL…

    Sigh? :)

    My 2 stotinkas (the Bulgarian equivalent of cent)


  4. Thanks for these tips and I'll be following your subsequent posts.

    I've been trying to get my business on the top 7 for Google Places for months now… I know how important it is for a local business to get listed there… I still haven't got there.

    I run my business out of my home and I've been told that Google won't normally list a business that's located at a home residence on Google Places first page. Is this true? If so, is there any way to get around this or will I actually have to go lease an actual business site?


  5. […] of time and is pretty easy. Here is a step-by-step guide to creating your Google Places Account. Click for instructions. Google Places is […]

  6. Dennis Murphy says:

    Just getting started. Looking at what, how etc of website.

    Question re: Places

    I click most red balloons and it takes me to the businesses Places page.

    But in some cases, clicking the red balloon takes me directly to their website. How does that happen? thank you.

  7. […] Optimizing Your Google Places Listing in 10 Steps […]

  8. Gina says:

    I have a blue balloon on my business, not a red one. When I put in Murphy Beds TX my Murphy Bed store doesn't pop up. Do I have to pay to have it red?

  9. Kimberlie Gochie says:

    Well said, SS. SEO isn't about ethics, it's about business. I too have white, gray and black hat sites that all do well do I feel bad for Google when I kick a BH site to the top? Not a bit! I've been at the web since the dot com bust of the nineties where what is considered black hat now was just smart marketing back then. One of things I have learned is that the goal for the site determines the type of SEO/SEM you perform to get it there- for example- a real estate site must always use white hat SEO because it has to do well for a long period of time, where an event site that needs to rank quickly and can disappear after the event is over, could use some gray-black hat techniques. Basically- what I am saying is EVERY SEO should know all the tools available not just the ones that are pure as the drive snow. Anyone that only wants their SEO to be white, is completely ignorant. How could any of us truly advise you on how to reach your goals if we only knew 1/3 of the story? So, my white, gray and black hats are off to Shady for talking about the "ethics" of the industry.

  10. Cathy Dunham says:

    I agree and disagree with Kimberlie Gochie regarding black hat.

    To me, black hat is actually an ethical thing. It boils down to being a personal choice for each SEO. I happen to prefer spending my energy (and client's $) on tactics that are solid and have long-term benefits. If an SEO uses black hat techniques for a client's site that later gets blacklisted, who is going to pay for fixing the mess? SEO or client? LOL.

    I do agree that all SEOs should know all 3 shades of SEO:

    #1 – Know the Black Tactics so you know what not to do and what you're up against (especially when a competitor is using it). Occasionally there are countermeasures to take – and Google has been (finally) stepping up to the plate and resolving much of that for us. Woohoo for G!

    #2 – Know the Grey Tactics. Some Greys, especially new creative ones, are usually not penalized (yet). But if doing it will benefit or help clarify things for my client's customers, I'm apt to implement – and just keep an eye out for it. From my experience, some grey tactics were really good ideas; but then some black hatters found ways to exploit it, ruining the "benefits" for everyone. If you had employed it with good intentions, sometimes you got bitten when Google countered with an algorithm update. (You know the saying, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature, …or Google!")

    #3 – Know, understand and embrace the White Hat Tactics… That's for me and I'm all over it. It's a long list of things to do, but it keeps evolving and getting re-prioritized. My list has over 200 items that I've been compiling since I started in 2003. And it's squeaky clean. To implement most or all does take time and money. My Gold Clients get them all – slowly implemented to keep their traffic and conversion bars climbing. Gold clients are happy clients! Happy clients = golden me!

    Now, Kimberlie did raise an excellent, tempting application that jolted even me into reconsidering the "temporary impact" benefits of black hat: the one-time event site. But, then I slapped myself, because that's got social media optimization and content blogging strategies written all over it. Duh!

    Businesses and SEOs comprise all kinds of people, ideas, ethics, effort, goals, etc. – definitely keeping life interesting. And surely there are many black hatters out there with thrilled clients. I'm truly happy for their mutual joyful bonding. Just not my cup a tea…

    I'm a white-hat nerd who embraces Karma. Namaste.

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