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

Sponsored Search: To Pay or Not to Pay

May 3rd, 2008

Clients frequently ask me whether or not they should engage in a sponsored search advertising campaign. My answer is generally a resounding “maybe”.

In the early days of sponsored search, also known as keyword bidding or pay-per-click advertising, the competition was sparse and the rewards were phenomenal. In the beginning, Overture was about the only game in town, and minimum bids were 1 cent. I can recall starting a new keyword bidding campaign on Overture and seeing online sales triple almost overnight. Well, those days are over. Overture was bought by Yahoo!, and is now known as Yahoo Sponsored Search, and many other players got into the act, most noticeably Google, with its AdWords program. Minimum bids increased from 1 cent to 2 cents to 5 cents to 10 cents faster than the Postal Service increases the price of postage stamps, and tons of businesses joined the programs. Thinking that this was some sort of marketing Holy Grail, competition caused prices to skyrocket for any sort of quality ad placement, and the impact of any individual advertising campaign became highly diluted. With all this in mind, should you or should you not get on board?

First of all, if you are considering a sponsored search program, I would suggest concentrating on the key players: Yahoo, Google, perhaps, and, if you really insist, Microsoft Network. Keep in mind that sponsored search campaigns with either Yahoo! or Google will appear on a broad network of sites, not simply the two flagship sites. The partnering arrangements are continually evolving; however, your Google AdWords ads will also appear on sites such as AOL and

My next piece of advice is to try to first concentrate on improving your organic (conventional) search results through a search engine optimization campaign before spending your dollars on sponsored search. With all else being equal, most people when conducting a search will first click on organic search results which appear near the top of the first page before they will consider clicking on a sponsored search link. The perception is, quite accurately, that the results in the organic search listings are more likely to match their query, rather than representing the interests of companies which are trying to sell them something. On the same token, if you are already appearing at the top of the organic search results for any particular search term, do not bid against yourself through sponsored search. Remember, it costs you nothing for somebody to click on your organic search link, but it will cost you for that same person to click on your sponsored search link which might take them to the same page of content. Invest your advertising dollars more wisely than that.

If you cannot seem to gain a strong position in the organic search results for any particular search term (and you have already done your SEO homework and constructed your site properly), chances are that your business is in a field which is crowded with competitors. If that is the case, chances are also that the minimum bids for any kind of decent sponsored search positioning will have been driven up by competing bids. (I have seen bids in very competitive fields as high as $10.00 or more per click. Would I get involved in that playing field? No thank you!)

If the field is crowded, the trick is to concentrate on refining your bids by making your selected search terms much more specific in nature. For example, let’s say that you run a small business which makes handmade alpaca sweaters. You do not want to bid on the term “clothing”, you probably also do not want to bid on the term “sweaters”, but should more likely bid on the terms “alpaca sweaters”, “handmade sweaters”, or, if necessary, “handmade alpaca sweaters”. You see, by bidding on the terms “clothing”, you would be wasting money paying for clicks from people who may be interested in buying clothing online but who have no interest in buying sweaters. By making more specific keywords choices, you will get fewer clicks (which is good, when you are paying for each click), but your clicks will cost less (because of less competition for the more specific terms). Most importantly, because of the specificity, the traffic which you will gain is far more likely to be converted into sales. Always keep in mind that the quality of clicks is far more important than the quantity of clicks.

Are there times when you should engage in a pay-per-click program to promote a site even though you have not allowed sufficient time for SEO to gain the organic search positioning that it may ultimately deserve? Absolutely! Particularly if your product or service is time-critical, you may not be able to afford losing sales while your site is waiting to escape the so-called “Google sandbox” effect. If your product or service is highly seasonal, or if you have a new product which must capitalize on sales during an annual holiday such as Christmas, Valentines Day, or the Fourth of July, go for it!

For most businesses, simple website traffic is of little relevance. The important factor is sales, and sales are generated by traffic multiplied by your conversion ratio. Recent studies have shown the most productive visitors are the ones who reach your site directly, either through type-ins or bookmarks. This makes sense because it has always been a primary rule of marketing that it is easier to sell to an existing customer than anyone else. This rule carries through to people who have previously visited your website but not have necessarily made a purchase. Similar research has shown that, when simply comparing traffic which is generated from either organic search results or a pay-per-click ad, the ads outperform the organic search results by every measurement other than the number of page views. These factors include both the visitor:sales ratios and the average dollar amount per sale. This makes sense since most people clicking on ads either expect or are seeking some sort of commercial sales arrangement. The number of page views is reduced because pay-per-click ads usually bring visitors to a specific landing page for a featured item. This, of course, goes hand-in-hand with the rule that website traffic conversion is directly related to the number of clicks required for a prospective customer to find what he or she is looking for on your site. Most people know the rule that says, “If it takes more than three clicks, you’ve lost them.” Keeping that in mind, there is nothing more effective than a single click directly to the desired product.

There are many other factors which come into play when it comes to sponsored search advertising campaigns, including budgets, ad content, tracking, content matching, and far more. If there is adequate interest, I would be happy to expand upon any of those topics in future posts … or respond to particular comments to this post. In the meantime, I am hoping to have covered some of the basics for small business owners who are in the early stages of either considering or getting involved with their initial sponsored search advertising campaigns.

This post was written by Peter Pelland