Google Places Pages listings have in most cases become the top listings on Google for local searches that include a city or town’s name in the search query.
This change in the way local search results are displayed is one of the biggest changes in Google’s ranking algorithm in several years. The result has been to fill Page One with Google Places listings pushing most of the organic results lower – suddenly making Google Places rankings far more important than ever before.
If you enter a search with a city and region – like “City CA Realtors” – the search results now carry a number of Google Places listings with a red bubble or pin with a letter in it beside the rankings, interspersed with the organic search results. These are also displayed on the page with Google Maps showing the location of the businesses with the same letters and red pins on the map.
Google says approximately twenty percent of searches are local searches. If you’re a business owner it’s now very important for you to claim your Google Places listing and optimize it for local search. Google is giving you a free webpage to promote yourself with this new algorithm.
Right now, most of these Google Places listings are unclaimed. The ranking algorithms for unclaimed Google Places listings in many ways tends to parallel organic search results with the ranking factors of the business’s website appearing in these listings. The onsite optimization of your website pointed to on your Google Places page is very important.
Other elements of this new algorithm however, give special weight not only to the number of reviews Google users have given the business, but also to the number and depth of reviews appearing on other local search sites like citysearch.com, insiderpages.com, judysbook.com ect. The proximity of your business to the center of the city searched also carries extra weight in the Google Places algorithm.
Google gives greater weight to owner claimed and verified information – together with the depth and detail these listings are developed – which is why these Google Places pages are so important for business owners to claim and optimize for local search.
This new algorithm enables business owners who understand the importance of getting reviews and the other ways of search engine optimizing for Google Places to now appear higher on Page One than older more established sites that may have more links pointing to them and higher Page Rank – but have now gotten pushed further down in the rankings to Page Two.
It’s also vital for business owners to grasp that Google Places visitors can have a higher converting rate than more generic organic searches covering wider areas. Google provides you a lot of valuable local market tracking information of how people are finding you and visiting your Google Places once you claim and verify ownership.
How Do I Get My Business Listed In Google Places?
The most important first step is to claim ownership of your business’s Google Places listing.
Its easy to check if your business is already listed by going to http://maps.google.com and entering your business name. If you don’t find it you may want to double check by entering your physical address and phone number.
If you find that your business has been listed, you want to click the “More info” or “Places” link beside the listing and look everything over and see if there are any corrections that need to be made in the information Google has gathered about your business.
On your business’s Google Places page note the link top right center that says “Edit this place” followed by either a “Business owner?” link or an “Owner-verified listing” which means whether the listing has been claimed or not. If the link says “Business owner,” click the link to claim it.
If you find your business has been claimed showing an “Owner-verified listing” link, first ask around your organization to see if anyone has claimed it. If no one has, then check the listing closely as someone may have done so and changed the address and phone number information to point to them. Click “Edit this place” where you can report a problem.
Google Places support page were you can find answers to a lot of questions is: http://www.google.com/support/places/ .
If you don’t find your listing when you look for it at http://maps.google.com , then you will need to add it to Google directly at http://google.com/places where you will be met by a login screen to set up an account.
When you click the “List your business” link you will be asked for your phone number which Google uses to check to see if there are any related listings. If it offers you a listing, simply click “Edit this listing”. Otherwise click the “Add a new listing” button. Next you will be on a page that allows you to enter information like business name, address, phone numbers, business category and a 200 character description.
It also enables you to upload images, videos and code that helps people find you for local searches with mobile phones. The amount of information provided in this Google Places listing is very important. Google likes content rich listings!
Some of the information requested is easy to provide. Some will take more time to prepare and upload. Be sure to pay attention to Google Places Quality Guidelines when filling in these categories.
Company/Organization – Depict your business exactly as it appears in the offline world. Do not add any extraneous words in the business name to try to manipulate results
Business Location – Use a precise, accurate address. Don’t use cross streets or general references.
Google says, “Do not create more than one listing for each business location, either in a single account or multiple accounts. Businesses with multiple specializations, such as law firms and doctors, should not create multiple listings to cover all of their specialties. You may create one listing per practitioner, and one listing for the office.”
Later, after verifying ownership of the listing, Google will allow you to list your business’s service areas rather than a specific location if you serve your customers at their locations. Google understands that not all local businesses serve their customers from a bricks-and-mortar location, and that many businesses operate from a home address and would prefer not to be published. Other local business are mobile and have no specific physical location.
Google says, “Businesses that operate in a service area, as opposed to a single location, should not create a listing for every city they service.”
Phone Number – Be sure to include a local area code and prefix number. Not a toll free number.
Email address – Give people a way of contacting you.
Website Address – The website should be your primary website and the optimization of the website pointed to in Google Places has quite an impact on Google Places letter rankings. Google also appears to be trying to filter large national websites local city pages – probably in an attempt to keep Google Places the most local results.
Business Category – These categories should not contain location based keywords here – like a city name mentioned in the business category – or it is considered spam.
Description – Use this section to provide up to a 200 character description of your business and what makes it unique.
Images – You can add up to ten images to your Google Places page in the standard image file formats. Each image must be smaller than 1 MB and 1024 x 1024 pixels. Squarer formated photos tend to display better as wider rectangular formated photos often cause problems looking squeezed and compressed when displayed.
Google is offering to send photographers to businesses in certain select cities for free photo shoots of your business’s interior. See if your area is eligible for a Free Google Maps Photo Session and let Google know you’re interested.
Videos – You are allowed up to five videos in your listing. First upload your video to YouTube which will generate the URL, then enter the URL into the appropriate field. The video may take six weeks to appear.
Additional Details – List details that apply to our business. What makes your specific services unique? The idea is to add content to the listing and get more unique content into your listing than the competition. Depth of content here again is very important.
Verification – After completing the steps on this page or as much of the required fields and details as you can at this time you will be asked to verify ownership in one of three ways. A simple phone call is fastest and easiest for most. A text message verification option is also available, along with snail mail postcard. Once you have entered your information and verified your site ownership, it can take forty eight hours for the content to appear.
How Do I Get Top Ranking In Google Places With Local Search Engine Optimization?
The Google Places algorithm is more heavily weighted towards reviews – not only from Google users which people can enter on your Google Places page – but Google also gathers reviews from other websites and directories.
These include but are not limited to:
As of end of July 2011 however, Google stopped displaying reviews in search results. Only the total of reviews from these sources as data points.
Be sure to follow Google’s Guidelines for reviews:
Google does remove reviews when it feels it is being gamed – for example by unethical local search companies that write and file bogus reviews. You can wake up one morning with all of the reviews and your Google Places listing gone if you try that!
Try to get legitimate reviews from as many happy customers as you can. To find out how your competition is getting these types of citations you can go to:
Optimization of Your Website’s Title, Body Text and Keyword Densities
The optimization of the website pointed to in your Google Pages listing is very important. To see how much, take a look at your current rankings in Google Places for various keywords, or study the competition outranking you. For example, if you see you have a big difference in your rankings for a singular or a plural search of your business – like “Santa Cruz CA Realtor” singular or ” Santa Cruz CA Realtors” plural, take a look at your website the Google Places page is listing and see if you have omitted to put the singular and plural versions on the website.
Other keywords that are closely related, for example if you deal with automobile repairs be sure to put both versions of the keywords “car” as well as “auto” on your website. If you only use one version of these words you would think Google would understand are closely related searches through latent semantic indexing, you may see a ten position difference in your Google Places listings between searches that include “car” or “Auto” if only one is used.
Make sure your address is visible to spiders on your website – not a screen image spiders can’t see – and that it is microformated to make sure Google reads it as a local address. Microformats are a way Google recommends of identifying pieces of data like addresses and phone numbers for easy retrieval and use.
You can have this type of formating known as hCard format generated for you by going to:
and inputing the relevant data for formating.
Proper onsite search engine optimization of the website pointed to on your Google Places page is very important for the page to reach its full ranking potential.
Depth of Content Filling Out Your Google Places Page
Google likes content rich sites – and that includes filling out your Google Places page. Many see immediate ranking increases claiming their content because Google says it trusts owner-verified information more, and from filling in their content to the maximum allowable ten images and five videos displayed on the page.
Get Keyword Targeted Links to Your Google Places Page
As with any type of optimization regarding Google, links count for rankings and Google Places is no exception. Link your own website to your Google Places page. Ideally, have your link text be keyword targeted to the search you want to perform best for, or include the word “Directions” in the link text to make it read properly to humans to click on to get the map and driving directions to your business that appear on your Google Places page. For example, see how this link text is targeted to Directions. Click it and also see how text has been converted to image uploads to convey #1 Google rankings which are what give an SEO credibility.
Proximity to City Center
The Google Maps algorithm, which Google Places is a subset of, has given extra ranking weight to listings that appear closest to the city center. This most recent update appears to many to have backed off on the importance of this element of the algorithm, or perhaps has been diminished by the inclusion of many more ranking elements in this new update.
At this time one of the best technical analysis of this new algorithm may be viewed here.