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?