Pelland Blog

Google Places for Business: Make the Most of Your Listing

October 16th, 2013

You may have noticed that the search results on Google have continued to evolve over time. While many people labor endlessly over their position in organic search results, they miss other opportunities to maximize their overall exposure. One of the most important tools, often overlooked, is Google Places for Business.

When you perform a Google Search, results appear in a variety of manners. As an example, I just performed a search for “campgrounds near Gatlinburg, TN”. The organic search results (which are localized for my search location and which may appear differently in your search) start with the campground page at the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau website, followed by the Great Smoky Mountain Jellystone Camp-Resort, Smoky Bear Campground, Good Sam Club listings for the area, and the Pigeon Forge / Gatlinburg KOA. Above these organic search results (which are SEO-based) appear three Sponsored Search results (paid search engine placement) for the Adventure Bound property in Gatlinburg, Riveredge RV Park, and Bear Cove RV Village.

To the right of the organic and sponsored search results is a small Google Map, with markers showing all of the campgrounds that match the search terms that I have entered. Above all of this, there is a black strip that contains 20 search results listings that include a thumbnail photo, review ranking, page title, and street address. These listings correspond to the markers on the small Google Map. If you zoom into the map, showing a more localized area, the number of thumbnails will adjust to match the markers that remain in view.

By default, the thumbnails start with Twin Creek RV Resort, Elkmont Campground, Camping In the Smokies, Greenbrier Island Campground, Camp LeConte Luxury Outdoor Resort, and Riveredge RV Park – from left to right. Users can also filter the search results by user rating, limiting the results to parks with 2-star, 3-star, or 4-star and higher user ratings. You may be wondering where these listings originate. If you click on a listing, the bottom of the detailed listing will ask, “Are you the business owner?” If you click on that link, it will take you to the Google Places portal, where you may then “claim” your business where these listing reside.

Get Listed

If you cannot locate your business in that type of search for campgrounds in your local area, you can also get started by going to the Google Places entry page: If you do not have a Google Account, you will be prompted to create one (a quick and easy, free process). Google gathers data about businesses from a variety of sources, but the most accurate source will be the information that you – as the business owner – will provide. Check the accuracy of your address, phone number, website URL, and the location of your marker on Google Maps. By default, your listing may include photos that your guests may have taken or that reviewers may have submitted. (If there are no photos available, Google will substitute a view of your marker on Google Maps, and that doesn’t do you much good.) The photos that appear will not always be the most flattering or best quality, but you will be able to upload up to 10 photos and 5 videos to enhance your listing. Choose those wisely, ensuring that they enhance rather than detract from the quality of your listing. You may also include payment types, showing which credit cards or other forms of payment are accepted by your business.

Having an incomplete listing will not impact whether or not your business appears in the local search results; however, a more complete listing will make it more likely that a viewer will click through to learn more. When everything has been updated to your satisfaction, click the submit link, choose to validate your listing by phone, enter the PIN number that will immediately arrive by phone, then click “finish”. The changes may take up to a week to take effect. If major changes are requested, your updates will be pending editorial review, a process that may take up to 4 weeks.

Once your listing information has been updated, you can then check your listing, as it appears on both Google Search and Google Maps. You might search for your business name, or you might perform a more generic search, such as my “campgrounds near Gatlinburg, TN”. In the latter instance, you may wonder about your ranking position in the search results. According to Google, rankings are based upon three factors: relevance, distance, and prominence. For that reason, your business will not necessarily appear first in the list. The important thing is that your business appears in the list.

There are a number of ways that people may search for – and find – your business online. This article covers only one of the ways to help your business to stand out on Google. Take advantage of every tool available in order to maximize your competitive edge!

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Using Google Interactive Maps On Your Website

February 24th, 2010

Some of us are old enough to remember the days when the biggest map publishers were the oil companies, from Esso to Chevron to Atlantic to Shell. Times have changed. Gasoline now contains ethanol instead of lead, and those maps are only found in the “Collectibles” category on eBay. Some of the biggest map publishers are now MapQuest, Yahoo, and Google. Until very recently, when you needed a map to appear on your website, the challenges could be significant. Maps were time-consuming and costly to produce, and static maps had to be accompanied by a laundry list of travel directions from various points of origin.

The biggest problem with the first generation of online mapping (most notably MapQuest) was that the locations were often incorrect, particularly if your business was in a remote location or did not have a precise street address. It is no surprise that many websites still warn visitors not to use online mapping services for travel directions. With the advent of both nationwide 911 standards and GPS coordinates, many of those early issues have either been addressed or are easy to correct. In some instances, online mapping software might still be inappropriate for your particular business. For example, if you run a campground and the service insists upon sending travelers over routes that include covered bridges or steep grades that are either impossible to cross or dangerous to navigate with a large RV, online mapping may not be right for you. In fact, the same problems might occur when drivers use their vehicles’ GPS navigation systems. These are exceptions that will probably still mandate the use of carefully written travel directions and custom-built static maps.

For the rest of us, Google has provided a solution in the form of Google Maps. Google Maps are fully customizable to fit any page layout, and users can pan, zoom in or out, and generate travel directions directly from any point of origin to your door. Better yet, Google will allow you to make changes to your Google Maps listing, including the addition of your Web address, keywords, a 200 word description … even up to 10 photos from your website. Best of all, they make the process simple. Here are step-by-step instructions:

First, go to the Google Maps website: (You can also simply go to Google, do a search, then choose the “Maps” option at the top of the page.) Either way, enter the name of your business in the search box. Hopefully, it will appear as the sole entry in the search results. In rare instances, Google Maps may not be aware of your business, in which case you might try entering your exact street address. (If more than one listing appears for your business, you can request removal of any duplicates.) Click on the resulting link to go to your map, then click on the “edit” and “claim your business” links in the information balloon which overlays your map. Choose the “edit my business information” option, then click “continue”. (Alternately, you can click on the “more info” link next to your business in the Search Results frame on the left, then choose the “Add or edit your business” link.) On this next page, you can correct your marker location or any of your listing information. You will be able to add your Web address, e-mail address, alternate phone numbers, and more … including a 200 character description of your business. On subsequent pages, you can add your business hours, types of payment that you accept, up to 10 photos, even a link to a YouTube video or an online coupon … all for free! (Later, you can also ask satisfied customers to go to this page, click on the “write a review” link, and write favorable reviews that will help to persuade new customers to come your way.) Once you are done making your additions and corrections, ask for a telephone validation, choose the “call me now” option, and the process will be complete as soon as you type the assigned 4-digit PIN number into your telephone keypad when the automated phone call arrives seconds later. Most changes will appear within only minutes or hours, although significant corrections to the location of your business (the marker on the map) will be confirmed by a human editor and take longer to implement.

Now that you have enhanced your listing (and made any necessary corrections), you are ready to add this map functionality to your website. This process is slightly more complex. If you are uncomfortable with HTML or do not directly maintain your website yourself, replacing the existing map on your website with this code should be easy enough for your webmaster to implement in less than ten minutes. Go back to your Google Maps listing, then choose the “Link to this page” option in the upper right of the page, then choose the “Customize and preview embedded map” option. Choose the “Custom Map Size” option, and enter the width and height (in pixels) that will best fit your page layout. (If this seems too complex to you, you can always choose one of the “Small”, “Medium”, or “Large” preset options.) Copy and paste the resulting HTML into the location on your website’s travel directions page where you would like the map to appear. (If you would like to make the map look a bit cleaner on your page, I would suggest deleting the HTML after the </iframe> closing tag.) That’s all there is to it!

Compare this professional, highly interactive map that now appears on your website with the hand-drawn, confusing map that you might have been using before (and that your competitors may still be using on their websites). Now go back to your Google Maps listing, click on the “more info” link, and see the enhancements that you’ve made, fully aware the similar enhancements probably do not appear alongside of your competitors’ listings because they will not have taken the time to follow these simple steps. The entire process will take very little time, probably less than 20 minutes. As a bonus, keep in mind that your Google Maps results page will also represent one more inbound link to your website, enhancing your site’s search engine ranking!

This article was originally written in August 2008 for Northeast In-Sites, the newsletter of the Northeast Campground Association. It was later reprinted in Woodall’s Campground Management.

This post was written by Peter Pelland