We had a situation in which one of our newest clients’ concerns was how poorly they were ranking in search for their business segment locally. Think “Michigan widget company”. They weren’t ranking very well for it, and that bothered us. Since they were concerned with geo-specific search results, I decided to start at the beginning: Google Places.
I pulled up the client’s listing on Google Maps and then their Places page. Lo and behold; they weren’t even listed as a Widget company. They were listed as a doohickey company. That’s probably a large part of the problem; now we had a strategy to begin optimizing geo-local search results for the client.
Take a look at your Google Places page. If you don’t know how to find it, just search for your business address on Google Maps. Click on the pin for your location, and then on your name. This will take you to your Places page:
What you see on the Places page is what Google sees your business as. Is your information correct? Are you categorized correctly? Does the Places page link to your website?
Look up in the right corner, above the map. If you see something incorrect, you can propose an edit to Google. However, to go one better and actually take control of the information on this page, you need to claim the listing. Next to the words “Edit this place” you’ll see “Business Owner?” (which is a really vague and poor interface choice, but hey, Google has never been known for their user experience wizardry). Click that to begin the claim process, which involves getting a postcard in the mail with a code number on it. The process isn’t difficult, but it does take some time.
It’s very important that you claim your business page so that you can control the accuracy of information on your places page. Google is and always has been first and foremost an information provider: The more (and more accurate) data you can give them, the better it is for you. Make sure you add photos, videos, and as much relevant information as possible, including your hours (if you’re a restaurant owner, PLEASE put your hours in… it seems like so many restaurants don’t list their hours!)
All of this information is going to do one thing: Help people find your business. Google may seem to be a know-it-all, but they only have the data that they can find. It’s not always accurate. You know your business better than they ever will. Make sure you help them help you.