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Google Places Listings More Important Than Ever

by Scott McAndrew / November 10, 2010

Note: This blog entry is available in English only.

I’ve helped several small and large businesses that deliver a product or service locally create Google Places (local business) listings that have subsequently provided a measurable impact on their business. I’ve championed the importance of Google’s local listing in the past, but now more than ever, it’s time to either get or optimize your (free) Google Places listing.

Why get a Google Places listing now?

In the past week, several changes have been rolled out on the search giant that put an exclamation point behind how serious Google is about their users quickly finding local business results.

What’s rolling out now is called Google Places search. Places is a search type of its own, found in the left-hand column along with other common search categories, taking place in 4th spot for the time being. The current order is Everything (a general Google search), Images, Videos, then Places. Local results served up by Google Places, however, aren’t only presented if a user clicks on Places and then performs their search. As they did before, Local results are visible when a user makes a generalized search which Google deems to be location-specific (videos below show the behavior if its new to you).

What’s different about the new Google Pages listings?

What’s different is how Google presents the results. Places listings have far more prominence than they used to, dominating the results page. Places listings in the SERPs also provide more information than before, including an image if images were provided with the listing. Another way to understand the impact of this change is to consider your search engine optimization efforts. If you used to be on page one of Google for a search term that is local in nature, your business might be relegated to page two with this change.

Is that map moving?

The map is being handled differently, too. First, it’s moved to the right-hand column above the AdWords PPC ads. And, one of the most surprising changes, is that when the user scrolls down the page, the map scrolls right along with them, covering up those AdWords ads so valuable to Google. While this behavior has been hit-and-miss in the past week, the majority of searches I’ve tried allow the map to move with the page, covering the ads.

When I’m analyzing what Google is doing, I often think about it in terms of the impact on their business. Google makes the lion’s share of its money from AdWords ads. For Google to allow those ads to be covered, assuming that functionality sticks, says a lot about how important local business listings are to the search provider.

Google Places search examples

The two videos below show how Places listings are being displayed (as well as the map’s ability to move with the page).

Google search for ‘wedding flowers Phoenix’ – Note the prominence of the listings as well as how the map stays in-place as the user scrolls the page.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApOd1UHbQnw&feature=player_embedded

Google search for ‘moving truck rental’ – Note how images, if provided, draw more attention to the business listings.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfIj72IUT9w&feature=player_embedded

In case it isn’t clear…

The verdict? If you have a local business, but haven’t gotten a Places listing yet, go get one. They’re free, and the effort it takes to create a listing is minimal. Whether you have a listing or are creating a new one, there’s a few characteristics that help a Places listing achieve better page placement (noted below).

Google Places: Tips to Optimize Your Local Business Listing

Create a Places listing for each physical location that services a given area.

-Complete as much information as you can in your listing.
-Make sure your business name, address and telephone are listed the same as you have it listed on other local listing sites. When Google finds other instances of your business, it’s looking for consistency.
-If you have a toll-free and a local phone number, go with the local number.
-Ensure you’ve listed your business in as many categories as are applicable.
-Don’t append keyword phrases to your business name hoping to fool Google. You’ll eventually be banned.
-Do use keywords you think users might use when describing your business and offering.
-Add photos and videos as appropriate. Note that photos are now being displayed with your listing and can help you stand out from the crowd.
-Reviews of your business do influence your page placement. Once your listing is up and running find an appropriate way to ask your customers to provide a review after doing business with you.

Other great articles about the recent changes:

New Place Search Shows Google’s Commitment to Local
5 Quick Impacts of Google’s New Local Search Results
Google updates local search results

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