The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Setting Up Your Google Maps Listing, Make Sure Your Business Shows Up In Google Local Search


Google Local Business Center, Google Maps ListingI don’t know about you, but I often find myself helping people with web marketing when I least expect it. This past Sunday was a good example. We went to buy my daughter a new mattress at a store located a few miles from our house. During the process of collecting my contact information, the salesperson (an older gentlemen), explained that they really want to advertise more in local neighborhoods, especially in a down economy. At this point, my wife knew a mini consulting session was going to take place. :-) So I told him what I do for a living and quickly explained some ideas for local marketing. One of the items that really piqued his curiosity was a Google Maps listing (using Google Local Business Center). Based on how excited he was to set that up and how many small business owners are confused with what a local listing actually is, I thought it would be a valuable blog post to tackle. And, here it is!

Note: If you're a small business looking to learn more about Local Search and SEO, then you should check out my online marketing ebook, Taking Control of Your Online Marketing: Small Business Edition. The book includes chapters on Local Search Strategy, SEO, and The Long Tail of Search. It's a great place to start.

What is a Google Local Business Listing (or Google Maps Listing)?
When you search for a local business, Google may return a one box result listing up 10 local businesses along with a map. The title of that one box will read, “Local business results for {your search term} near {the location you entered}.” Please see the screenshot below based on a search for movers in Princeton, NJ. The 10 businesses you see listed were either entered by the business owners themselves or provided from external sources like various yellow page listings. You can click through to their websites or click the link for “more” or for “reviews” to access additional information about each business. When you click through to more information, you are actually taken to the Google Maps listing. Here, you can read reviews (if there are any), view an overview of the business, print a coupon (if the business set up any), view photos and video (more on this later), and view webpages associated with the business. And of course since you are in Google Maps, you can view a detailed map of the business location and get directions (just like you normally would in Google Maps.)

Google Local One Box Results

So you probably have one big question now…how do I get one of those listings? You’ll be happy to know that it’s both easy and free. Can you beat that?

Setting Up Your Google Local Business Center Account:
First, go to the Google Local Business Center and log in with a Google account. You will obviously want to add your first listing at this point by entering all of the required information. There are 5 tabs of information that Google will collect at this point. I highly recommend being as thorough as possible…this can only help you. A preview of your listing can be seen on the right side of the page. Note, if you have multiple locations and don’t want to add each by hand, then you can use a bulk upload to add all of your locations via a spreadsheet. This is a great way to go and can save you a lot of time. Now back to adding your first listing.

The 5 tabs are:

1. Required Information
This is your basic company information, including address, phone numbers, email addresses, website URL, and company description. Make sure you provide a detailed description.

2. Category
You can enter various categories that your business falls under. It’s important to target these categories as much as possible. Try and find categories that directly fit what you do. I know that sounds obvious, but I think people can rush through this step and not accurately tell Google what they do, which can affect their relevance to targeted searches.

3. Hours and Payment
Depending on your specific business, this may or may not be important. If you run a local business that has a storefront, then you can enter your hours Mon-Sun. Then you can enter the payment types you accept at your business.

4. Photos and Video
Let’s start with photos. Google Maps enables you to upload up to 10 photos for your business. As a small business owner, this is a great way to show off your storefront, yourself, and your employees. Think about it…many people searching for local businesses might ultimately have you come out to see them (plumbers, carpenters, landscapers, etc.) This is a great way to put them at ease… You can also provide up to 5 YouTube videos for your business. This is phenomenal way to speak directly to your prospective customers, show them what you do, provide customer testimonials, etc. Again, removing doubt from the minds of your potential customers. I highly recommend using both photos and video.

5. Custom Attributes
Google enables you to add custom attributes for information that doesn’t fall into one of the other tabs. For example, you can add “Areas Served”, “In Business Since”, “Specialties”, etc. You can also create your own attributes to fit your specific business.

Entering your business information in Google Local Business Center

Provide a Coupon
You can provide coupons in your Google Maps listing that customers can print out and bring to your business. Depending on your line of business, coupons are another great way to attract more customers. Google provides a form that you can fill out with the details of your offer and the coupon will show up within your local listing under the tab for “Coupons”. Easy enough!

Providing a coupon in your Google Maps listing.

Reviews and Ratings
Google aggregates content from a number of sources and you will find reviews from several websites. My recommendation is to reach out to your customer base and ask them to review your business. Google also enables customers to review a business right from your local listing. If you click the tab for “Reviews”, you will see a link for “Write a Review”. You can provide a title, a rating, and then your review. But like I said earlier, Google will also provide reviews from a number of third party websites. For example, I’m looking at a review from CitySearch now for a local pizza restaurant in my area.

Once You Submit Your Google Maps Listing…
You will need to verify that you are the owner of the business. You can do this in 2 ways (in the US). Google can either mail out a postcard to your business address or you can verify via phone. When I signed up a few years ago, I don’t believe that phone verification was available, but I would obviously choose that due to speed… The postcard will have a PIN that you will need to enter in your account to complete the verification process. There is also an SMS verification system, but at this point, it’s for non-US businesses. Once you are verified, your listing will be submitted and it will take a few weeks to show up in Google Local results. Note, Google says it can take up to 48 hours to show up after verification, but I don’t believe that I’ve seen it happen that fast. After your listing is live, any updates to your information can take 4-6 weeks (for example, if you needed to update any of the tabs in your listing).

How are the results ranked in Google Local?
First, Google isn’t going to give you the exact formula, but the listings are ranked by a combination of relevance to the search terms entered and proximity to the location searched for. Google’s algorithm determines which businesses rank highly for local searches (in their one box results and in Google Maps), so it’s not as simple as distance from the location searched for. For example, Google may rank a business higher that’s further away from the geo searched for if it finds that it’s more relevant to the search terms. Test it out…I’m sure you’ll find some interesting results. :-)

In closing,
I highly recommend you take control of your local listing in Google Maps. It’s free, can show up for targeted local searches, and enables you to provide a wealth of information about your business to prospective customers. With the ability to add photos and video, you’ve got a virtual salesperson working 24/7. Does anyone have a Google Local success story? I’d love to hear how a Google Maps listing has worked for your business.

GG

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11 Comments:

  • At 8:38 PM, Anonymous Bibokz said…

    Tough post from you, I've also set-up google map on my travel site, this software is really awesome.

     
  • At 5:23 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Hi Bibokz.

    Did you set up a Google Maps listing or are you referring to something else? If you did set up a local listing, how has it worked for you? Thanks.

    GG

     
  • At 8:32 AM, Anonymous Mike said…

    Glenn, this is a very helpful post. This is something that I am going to do today for my clients. Thanks for going through things step by step. I think this will be a very valuable post for your readers who are smaller seo companies or freelancers who may have missed this opportunity.

     
  • At 10:16 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Hi Mike.

    I’m glad you liked the post. It's definitely overlooked by many and can be a powerful way to get in front of a targeted group of people.

    I plan to write more about Google Local results in future posts. Check back often. :)

    GG

     
  • At 1:33 PM, Anonymous James said…

    Glenn, This is a valuable tool for any business. It's amazing the results I've seen with my clients who've created the Google Local listings. This is one of those hidden free gems that Google offers that should not be passed up.

     
  • At 1:55 PM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Thanks James. I definitely agree. Setting up a Google Local Business Listing is often overlooked. Actually, many people don't know that it's free...

    I help a lot of my clients with local search, as part of their overall SEO initiatives.

    GG

     
  • At 11:24 AM, Blogger chrisannkelly said…

    Does anyone know how to get the coupon to show up on the business listing? I edited my business listing, and then created a coupon, which is active. But it does not show up on my listing. Any ideas?

     
  • At 8:58 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    @chrisannkelly, It typically takes a little time to start showing up. Are you still not seeing your coupon in your listing? If so, how long ago did you add your coupon?

    GG

     
  • At 12:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What if you have a home office and serve a large (150 mile) service area? Can you use a PO Box from various larger cities? Can you use family members' houses in the target cities? How about city hall or the address for the local Chamber of Commerce? I doubt the later, but I'm trying to get my mind around how to target various cities in a region.

    Really appreciate your information - very well writen and concise. Thank you!

     
  • At 8:00 PM, Blogger 4WeHelp said…

    We were in the infamous 10-pack and received a ton of calls and website hits. Then had Google combined our listing with another business and our business dropped hard (huge pain in the butt that still isn't fixed). We had to start over and work our way back into the 7-pack. Even though it is winter and Cincinnati movers have a lot less business during the winter, our business has stayed steady and its all because of the Google local maps showing up in searches.

     
  • At 6:48 AM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    @4WeHelp, I'm glad to hear you are back in the 7 pack. Google is continually changing their guidelines, so you may have dropped out based on some of those changes. However, it's hard for me to tell without knowing the history of your account.

    That said, I agree with you. The 7 pack (and once 10 pack) is very powerful for local businesses. Unfortunately, it can make or break some businesses...

    Thanks for stopping by.

    GG

     

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