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.
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: http://www.google.com/local/add/. 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