It's a no brainer that customers search online for local businesses, and if you're not easily found you're missing out on customers. If you're a local business, you can get a head start on your local SEO efforts by creating a Google Places page in 10 easy steps.
Google Places is a directory of business listings collected by Google, sort of like a phonebook. Google uses this information to display the most relevant local results to users looking for local businesses. It's used in their organic search results, as well as in maps searches from mobile phones and tablets.
There are some initial requirements to create a places page, you’ll need:
- A Google Account
- A business name and phone number
- A physical address where you can receive mail; A PO Box won't cut it for verification.
Step 1: Go to Google Places
Go ahead and log in with your Google account, or create one here.
Step 2: Start a Listing
Google will first attempt to verify that your business does not already have a listing in Google Places. Go ahead and enter your country and business phone number. If it finds a listing with your phone number it will guide you through the Google Places Listing claiming process; if it doesn’t it will take you to the next step.
Step 3: Enter Your Business Info
Here you'll enter your company's name, location, phone numbers, and other contact information. You will also need to enter a description and pick what categories your business belongs to. Be sure to keep this description brief and useful to customers. Anything spammy could keep your listing from being posted, and even if it does pass it could push customers away. Next you'll choose up to 5 categories. Again, you'll want to select the most relevant categories that describe your business.
Step 4: Select Service Areas
This next step is a pretty crucial one. Here you get to tell Google which areas you service. This will affect whether your listing shows up when people search from different areas. You have the option of selecting whether your customers come to your business location, like a retail store, or if you go to them, like a carpet cleaning or pest control company. If you select that you travel to your customers’ locations, Google then gives you the option to hide your physical address from customers. This is important for privacy concerns, like if you run your small business from your home, or any situation where a customer wouldn't find services by going to your direct location.
In this same drop down you'll also need to provide how wide of an area you service. They give you a couple options:
- Option 1: You can say a general area, such as "50 miles around Chicago, Illinois"
- Option 2: You can add specific cities you service if in case a city that is technically within 50 miles isn't one you service
Step 5: Select your Hours of Operation
Here is where you’ll put your hours of operation. This is great as customers will see this when searching for you and know when they can contact you or show up at your business. Google allows you to leave this blank if you prefer not to mention your hours or if you’re open 24 hours a day. You can even state 2 different times for each day if you close for lunch.
Step 6: Select Payment Options
Next you’ll select the ways customers can pay for services. This helps customers have more information about how they can interact with your business. You can select payment options ranging from credit cards to Google Checkout or PayPal.
Step 7: Upload Some Photos
Next you'll want to upload some photos of your business. I recommend your logo first, and then some great pictures of the interior and exterior of your location. Customers feel more comfortable with a company after they get to know it, and pictures are a great way to make that introduction. Avoid using images that have messages, or are mostly text as these don’t' comply with Google's Photo Submission Guidelines.
Step 8: Attach YouTube Videos
Have a great ad or testimonial? Host them on YouTube and attach them here. There’s a limit of 5 videos, so make them count!
Step 9: Add Additional Details
This section is pretty customizable. Here you can tell customers about other benefits or needed information about your business. You can also mention things like where parking is, and extra commodities among other things.
Step 10: Double Check and Verify
Once you’re done you'll hit "Next" and be taken to the verification page. Google's main form of validation is through the mail. This is why you have to have a physical business address that you can receive mail at. Once you click "Finish" they'll send a postcard to your business address for verification. This postcard takes about 2-3 weeks to arrive and contains a pin you'll need to enter in your account before your listing can be posted. Once you have verified your listing it should appear on Google within the next few days.
Make sure to double check all of your business information is correct and exactly how you want it. You can change this later, but it's definitely easier to just have it right from the beginning.
If you run into trouble with verifying your listing, it's rejected, or needs further action you can go to Google's support page here: http://support.google.com/places/bin/static.py?hl=en&ts=1399021&page=ts.cs.
Congratulations on taking a major step in local SEO! Now your customers will have another way of finding you online and your one step closer to building your authority online.