Is Google Places an Effective Platform for Marketing a Local Business?

Google has dominated the global search engine market for years, but its progress in the local search arena has been less obvious. In 2010, it overcame an unsuccessful attempt to buy out Groupon, the local daily deal service, and went on to develop its own simple local business marketing platform that includes several separate features. Used alone, Google Places for Business, a local business directory service like an online phone book, is not a standout compared to its major competitors. So what makes it the most effective online option for putting your company's address and brand in front of local customers?

Google Places vs. The Competition

Google Places for Business is notably similar to its main competitor Bing Places for Business. It allows a business to register and appear in a local online search. Two key differences set them apart.

1. A Google Places listing will appear in the Google search engine, which holds 67 percent of the search market share. Bing Places appears in Bing. Combined with Yahoo, Bing Places reaches 33 percent. Since placing your businesses name in front of more clients is clearly the purpose behind marketing, if you were to select only one service, Google Places is the better option.

2. Google Places includes Google Maps, and shares a platform with Google AdWords and Offers. Together, these features elevate Google to the top position.

Registering

Registering for Google Places involves submitting the following details:

  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Hours
  • Business product or service details
  • Photos (a 360 panoramic tour option is available, but a Google photographer is hired to take the photos)
  • Business category
  • Google Maps pinned location
  • User review and business review response
  • Shared platform with AdWords and Offers

Search Results

Ideally, after the registration process, your business details will appear on the page one results of a Google search for the category and location relevant to your business. In a search for a "wine shop in Columbus, Ohio," for example, the results will show "The Wine Bistro, 1750 Lane Ave" with a photo of the business and a customer review rating on a horizontal, scrolling display carousal at the top of the page, along with a dozen or so other listings.

Display

The display carousal is a new feature that Google rolled out recently for particular business categories, but is expanding. Other categories would generally appear as a text and hyperlink list with a pinned Google Maps location. The display carousal, in addition to being more visually appealing and space efficient, allows the user to sort the listings by customer review ranking and the business's photo or logo appears with the address.

Cost and Process Details

Registering for Google Places is free and easy. Aside from the mildly inconvenient step of waiting for a verification PIN, for about a week, to arrive in the mail to access the service's review, AdWords and Offers portals, the process is immediate.

Bing and Other Local Listing Services

The Bing Places for Business is, in all ways, similar to Google Places except that it doesn't include additional marketing services, such as Google AdWords and Google Maps, and its search engine experiences less traffic.

However, it is worth taking the time to register for the Bing Places service since there is no cost, and it reaches a different market. Yelp is another common local business directory. Yahoo's local business marketing service is also an option, but on Yahoo the premium services that Google and Bing Places offer, such as making photos available to users, requires paying a fee.

SEO

As with a website ranking in Google, there is no guarantee that registering with Google Places alone will result in your business appearing on page one of the search results.

SEO strategies apply to Google Places, such as:

  • ensure you complete all of the profile information fields
  • use the precise business name and address
  • use the category terms and descriptions that optimally reflect the business product or service
  • encourage customer reviews
  • respond to customer reviews
  • register with other local directory services, such as Facebook Local Business
  • hire an internet marketing company like RevLocal to distribute your information to local business and marketing channels that will drive local customers

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