Helpful Google Tools: Google Places

When I talk with companies about helping them improve the visibility of their website and I mention Google Places and what it is, the effect is like presenting a giant lollipop to a child; their eyes open wide and they get this grin on their face.

Google Places for Business is a free (yes, free) listing service provided by Google and many companies don’t know it exists. Not only is it free (did I mention that it’s free?), it is also very quick and easy to set up.

1. Go to http://www.google.com/places

2. Click on the blue button on the right called “Get Started”

3. Sign in with your Google account (and if you don’t have one, create one for your business – it’s also easy and free).

4. Click the dark blue text on the right called “List your business”

5. Type in your business phone number in the format (xxx) xxx-xxxx and click “Find business information”

6. If there is no match for the phone number, you’ll be given an empty form to fill out. Fill out as much as possible or as is relevant to your business. If it does find a match, click on the “edit” link and look at the existing listing, and make sure it’s accurate and as completely filled out as possible.

7. One of the important parts of the listing is the “Category” section. Google let’s you define up to 5 categories (and one of them must be one of their suggested categories that appears in the drop down when you start typing). So, for example, if I type in “internet” into the box, one of the suggested categories is “Internet Marketing Service”. So I pick that one. The other 4 categories I can type in something unique or I can select a “pre-filled” match.

8. Also, make sure you fill out the description field. 200 characters. Make it good and include important keywords that you can that describe your company, product lines or services. Save this 200 character description – you can leverage it at the Open Directory, the Yahoo Directory, and for your META description tag on your web pages.

9. Submit your listing and Google will give you 2 options to validate the listing. They will call you (almost immediately) at the phone number for which you set up the listing OR they can mail you a postcard to the business address you specified in the form. The phone call or the postcard will contain a PIN that you will need to complete your listing.

10. Voila! It’s done. Be there or be invisible. Your choice! And psssst – It’s FREE! What’s better than free marketing?

Having a Google Places listing places your company information near the top of the search results with a little reddish colored balloon and a Google Maps location box when someone searches for any of the categories you specified in your listing combined with your city, state or region. This is a great tool for smaller companies who depend quite a bit on local searches.

Once the listing is complete, you have the ability to edit it any time you need to (just log in with your Google account and go to http://www.google.com/places). Just keep in mind that any time you change your listing, you have to validate it again with Google, so be on the lookout for the new PIN each time you submit changes.

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