Does the thought of optimizing your website make you wake up in a cold sweat every night? Do you hear the phrase SEO strategies for ranking number 1 in Kentucky and think to yourself, someone got it wrong, what they meant is SEC strategy falls on no. 1 ranked Kentucky (let’s go Wildcats!)? My apologies for throwing a March Madness reference in there, but it is that time of year again. Or, simply put, do you just not have the resources to keep a well maintained website according to Google’s standards?
If any of these questions resonate with you, then I would like to talk about a product Google has been pushing rather aggressively for some time now and the potential impact it may have to you, especially if SEO and website maintenance are on the same level as quantum field theory in your book. The product I am referring to is Google Places and if you have not yet claimed your Places, it’s a good thing you are reading this post.
What is Google Places?
Google Places is essentially a profile page within Google to indicate you have a physical location on their map. This is becoming more and more vital as search is focusing in on localized results, with the inclusion of a map to provide a richer search experience. If you are unfamiliar with this treatment, try searching for something on Google that would have a storefront; a dry cleaners is an example that should work everywhere. Mid-way down the page, you will see a handful of links with star ratings underneath the name and basic information. To the right of ratings, Google Places will display your contact information for users to find almost immediately.
This does not mean because you are showing up in Places results, you will not show up in the organic results; nor does it mean if you have an active paid campaign, your ad would not like in the image below.
What do I have to do to get extra links on page one of Google?
Start by claiming your business here. There are four things to keep in mind when filling out the information Google is asking for. It may seem tedious and unnecessary to fill all the sections out, but, trust me, the more information you provide the better it is for not only Google, but the end user who is ultimately looking for your service.
1. Fill everything out
Sounds like common sense, but time and time again fields are left blank that can provide important insight into the business. Keep in mind that even though they are optional fields, the more data Google can display about you, the more they trust you are an actual business a person can find in the real world.
2. Be consistent
I cannot stress this enough. If you have any kind of online presence, Google already has some data on you. The idea here is to be the same across all of those areas Google can see. For example, if you have a website that lists contact information, address, phone numbers and hours of operation, make sure everything lines up with what you are providing to Places. You don’t want Google seeing an office phone number on your website, but then getting a cell phone number on the Places page. If there are too many discrepancies, they will see this as possible fraud and will likely not display your Places profile in results.
Use keywords only in your description, not in any of the optional fields they allow you to fill out. Google is very perceptive of keyword abuse and will not hesitate to penalize people who they think are trying to game the system. When filling out your description, use the terms you would use when talking to a perspective client. Use terms you know people will like and understand, as well as make you unique.
Be sure to upload photos so people who have never been to your location before can find and recognize it. This means, take high quality images from several angles and from a moderate distance to give a familiarity to the location. Keep in mind, Google Places allows for multiple photos, so take advantage of showing people what sets you apart from the competition.
Although this can be tricky, it helps to have reviews, because they provide more context and more keywords than could ever be provided in a description field. Reviews are not vital to Places, but are perceived to help overall.
What am I going to do with all the extra traffic?
As with any product or service Google rolls out, not every person will see the same level of return. It is important to note Places is a product that makes it easier for Google to understand how you are relevant in search, but in no way does it guarantee you will always show up for searches. This is the risk with any SEO initiative, but the reward is so much greater for Google Places because all it costs is a little bit of time. To give some context, Google made around 40 changes to their algorithm in February and a large number of updates were focused on local search results. If you would like to read more, check out this help page from Google explaining some of the benefits of using Places.
Do you have Google Places already? If so, how has it affected your traffic and, if not, is this something you are interested in pursuing? Leave any questions or comments you have below or let’s talk on twitter @AmadoCan. Thank you and happy searching!