A few years ago Google developed something called ‘Google Local’, a subset of its listings that are devoted to local businesses. The local business owner could then verify their ‘local listing’ and enhance it with their logo, photos, comments, opening hours, etc, and the public could make comments (‘reviews’) and these would appear alongside.
Most of you would be used to seeing these local business results turning up at the top of the standard organic results on Google, such that when you search “Subiaco dentist” or “Nedlands chiropractor” or “Fremantle real estate agent” these results appear on a little map at the top of the listings. It is free to grab your space, and only the first 7 results are shown. Although SEO and other work can break you into the top 7, it is far easier to get there by ‘owner verifying’ your listing before another 7 do it before you. The results also appear on Google Maps, and I remember using this info and the reviews to pick my hotel in New York when I visited earlier this year. A great result as it turned out, the latest reviews proved to be spot on.
Very few business operators seem to know about this. Most local business results are there because Google has found them not because the owner has verified them (for instructions on how to verify, please see below.)
Well, Google is about to “up the pace“, and I have it on good authority (Clay Cook, Founder and CEO of ineedhits.com) that these listings are about to be included within the normal search results sending a larger map to the right of the results page, thus bringing Google Local (or ‘Google Places’ as it seems to have been renamed) and organic results together (see image above for ‘real estate agent Cottesloe’). So now is the time to grab your ‘Place’ – be you a real estate agency office or any type of business really. It is about to become very important, as Google has already started rolling out this change worldwide. Considering that the majority of Internet activity starts with a search, and 87% of this is on Google, then grabbing your ‘place’ is crucial.
Currently it looks like only affecting “real estate agent SUBURB” type local queries – but it may expand in future to include more terms such as “real estate SUBURB“. This will superimpose over the SEO results you have been striving for on these exact terms. For some queries the Google Place results appear above the organic results (see ‘toys’ example below). Also note how the query was not just “Toy Store Cottesloe”… but “toys Cottesloe”.
OK, so how do you grab your ‘Place’ ?
1. http://places.google.com/ sign in with a gmail account and add the listing you want with appropriate keywords.
2. A confirmation process occurs and Google rings you (yes, they do) on the phone number you entered giving you your code.
3. Make sure someone gets that Google phone call (it happens immediately!) and then write down the code and enter it.
4. Complete your ‘Google Places’ listing and update it regularly. (Post it to Facebook, ask clients to add their comments and testimonials.)
5. Alternatively, consult a search engine marketing company – many seem to be offering to do this for you for $600-$1000.
Acknowledgement: thanks to Clay Cook from ineedhits.com