If youre a business providing services to your local area but havent yet claimed your Google Places listing youre in good company: an estimated 90% of local businesses haven't taken this important step. Those businesses run the risk of someone else claiming their listing, potential customers being presented with inaccurate information and missing out on valuable traffic and leads.

With a massive 97% of consumers using the internet to search for local suppliers of goods and services business owners cannot afford to ignore Google Places.

And its not enough to just claim and verify your listing. Google gives much greater prominence to the 7 highest ranked businesses in any given area, the so-called Magnificent 7.


These sites receive a disproportionate amount of the traffic, typically 40% for the top listing and 15% for the second placed listing. Very few visitors will search beyond the first page, so if your business isnt in the top 7, youre nowhere.

Claiming your Google Places listing is a very straightforward process but getting your listing into the top 7 is a bit more challenging, so how do you go about it?

Google Places Ranking By Prevalence

Essentially, there are three key factors that determine how Google Places listings are ranked: distance, relevance and prevalence.

In this post I focus on prevalence.

What do I mean by prevalence? Well, when determining your ranking Google will look at how many times your business shows up on the web in local directories, review sites, video sharing platforms, social media sites etc.

So the starting point for optimizing your listing is ensure that you have a presence in as many of these as possible.

Its important to ensure that all the information included on these sites is consistent " in particular, your business name, address, phone number, website URL, and email address.

An easy way to do this is to use the Universal Business Listings service which allows you to create identical listings on dozens of sites.

If you dont want to pay the $75 subscription fee (45 in the UK) for the UBL service an alternative is to reverse engineer your competitors listings to get ideas for places you should be listed and then to create your profiles manually. Whichever method you use, make sure you are consistent in your use of business categories and keywords as this will help with relevance.

As always, external links are crucial for SEO. Once you have established your presence on all those local sites the next thing you need to do is drive links to your listings. Ideally, you should aim to create 20 to 50 links to each listing or citation. Posterous.com and Ping.fm are useful tools for doing this with minimal effort. fiverr.com is also a cost effective alternative. Video sharing platforms and social bookmarking sites are also a good way of building links. One simple tip if you are using video: include your geographical location and keyword in the title; add your business name, address, phone number and website URL in the video description.
Another tip for getting more external links is to upload your photos to an external photo sharing platform (e.g. Flickr), tag them with your geographical location and keywords and then add them to your Google Places listing using the add from the web option rather than directly from your computer.

Next you will want to get as many reviews of your business as possible. To get a star rating on your Google Places listing you will need a minimum of 5 reviews but depending on the strength of local competition in your niche you may need a lot more. For maximum SEO juice make sure that you create your listings, build your links and get your reviews in place before verifying your Google Places listing.

If you have a website you can further help your Google Places' ranking by ensuring that you have as many links as possible from important local sites such as the Better Business Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club and, in the UK, the Federation of Small Businesses. You may have to pay for some of these but the investment will be well worthwhile. Again, make sure that your key business information, categories and keywords are 100% consistent with your Google Places listing for maximum SEO benefit. Dont forget to include your business name, address and phone number in alt tags for all photos on your website and ensure that you have built a good number of internal links to your root domain. Including a feed from your Twitter, Facebook and Youtube profiles will give your website ranking and Google Places listing an added SEO boost.

Have you claimed your Google Places listing and if so, do you have any other tips or tricks for getting your listing to the top of local search results?

Jan Willis

Jan is a digital marketing coach and founding Director of WOW Consulting, anEssex online marketing and website design company. Jan's speciality is demystifying digital marketing and show small businesses how to integrate web, mobile and social media into their marketing strategies to create sustainable competitive advantage and profitable growth.

Essex online marketing and website design>

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10 Responses to “3 Step Google Places Optimization Through Prevalence”

  1. David Mihm says:

    Hi Jan,

    I am curious to know the source of the estimate of 90% unclaimed businesses …? In the US we can extrapolate from Marissa Mayer's SxSW talk this year that there are 3MM claimed Place Pages in the US…estimates range anywhere from 14MM US Businesses to 20MM…meaning the # of claimed pages is actually closer to 20-30%.

    If you have an actual stat I would love to know where it came from since I frequently get asked that question.


    • Jan Willis says:

      I have seen various statistics bandied around but the 90% figure is based on my own research. For example, I recently carried out an optimisation project for a client and manually checked all the Google Places listings for painters and decorators in his local area. 90% of the listings had not been claimed. This is a pattern I have seen across a number of business categories. It may be that the US is further ahead of the curve than the UK and certainly we are seeing a a trend here with more businesses coming forward to claim their listings so my expectation is that this figure will steadily fall but whichever you look at it, that's still an awful lot of unclaimed listings.

  2. Any ideas what to do if your business address is in one area and most of the work you do is in another area? Other than relocate, or start targeting people locally? It's a good post and I had no idea that there is a pecking order based on where else you show up for local search.

    • Ruud Hein says:

      Of the top of my head:

      – for physical products you can consider Google Local Shopping
      – for regional targeting, consider regional tags
      – get a second telephone line with the area code of the other region you're active in,
      – get a PO Box address in the other location and list it as one of your locations, both on your website and in directories
      – build landing pages specific to each location you work for

      If someone else has a good idea to add, I'm all ears!

  3. Wayne Barker says:

    Hi Jan,

    In response to reply to David, I would say that the UK is a little behind the US with regards to claimig – but it depends on the industry….some are far more savvy than others. In my experienc P and Ds dont really know much about the internet never mind that they need to claim their Places listing (no offence to the decorators!)

    For Dan,

    I agree with Ruud, get some more landing pages built. Depending on the competiveness of your industry will determine how much work you need to put in. Local telephone numbers and seperate businesses adresses are good as well.


    • Jan Willis says:

      The whole distance thing is a bit of a problem with Google Places, which seems to have a rather simplistic definition of how local businesses operate and is one reason why some resort to multiple listings using fictitious addresses.

      If you operate out of a local office with a physical address you can specify this in your listing as a service location. Instead of specifying a radius of operation from your main business address you can state the specific areas you operate in. As Ruud and Wayne have pointed out, having separate landing pages and business addresses and local phone numbers that are listed in all the directories will help – prevalence trumps distance in the Google Places algorithm.

      Wayne – you are quite right, painters and decorators are probably further behind the curve than many local businesses but there are a lot of them and I have found similar patterns for many other business categories, particularly trades like plumbers, electricians etc. which tend to be one man (or woman!) bands. It goes without saying that if you are operating in one of these business categories you can get a significant edge on the competition if you are one of the few to claim your listing.

  4. […] 3 Step Google Places Optimization Through Prevalence […]

  5. Nyagoslav says:

    A great article, but I have a few points to make.

    1) Universal Business Listings (UBL) is not a very good service. Honestly speaking – it stinks. I have used it on a few occasions but their support is not good and the work is rather slow. The whole process is much lengthier than is needed. For reverse engineering of the competitors activities the best is the Whitespark Local Citation Finder tool (they have a free version).

    2) Getting links to the Google Places listing is proven not to work. Getting links to the listings on third-party directories could work as much as indexing them and associating them faster with the listing goes. I'd not suggest more than a few links to each of the directory listings.

    3) Geo-tagged photos on Flickr and Panoramio work great, but also adding photos on sites like Citysearch and Yahoo have proven to be of great help. Overall, completing 100% the listings on ALL business directories works great (especially on such directories that measure completeness – Manta can be a good example).

    4) I'm not quite sure why one should first get all the work done and then claim their listing. You mention in the beginning of the article that not claiming a listing is a mistake, right? Then I seem to be missing the point here.

    Overall, the article is covering the most important points of Google Places optimization. Good job!


  6. jake says:

    Hi Jan,

    we have had a number of seo's approach us offering to secure our google places listing for a fee and when talking to them it seems that they can buy one of the 7 spots on google places. is this the case and is this what is ment by claiming your listing. we have little knowlege about web optimisation. All of the other methods in your tips above have got us to 2nd on the places page with only a holding page for our website. thanks

    • Jan Willis says:

      Hi Jake

      No, you can't buy one of the top 7 spots on Google Places so I would treat these claims with a healthy degree of scepticism.

      In the vast majority of cases you don't have to be an SEO expert or pay for expensive SEO services to get a top 7 listing on Google Places. As you've demonstrated, just following the simple steps set out in this post will do the trick! The only exceptions to this are if you are in a highly competitive niche or if you are trying to get your business to rank for multiple geographical areas when more sophisticated tactics may be called for.

      Claiming your Google Places listing is a straightforward process and completely free. All you have to do is click on the link at the top of the Google Places page where it says Edit This Place – Business Owner? and enter your details. Google will then send a postcard to the business address with a PIN to verify your ownership. Once you have verified your ownership you can then edit and optimise your listing.