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If you are a small business owner, this is probably worth a read. It could lead to increased traffic to your website, more phone calls to your business and a juicier bottom line at the end of each month. I’m talking about Google places. Understanding what it is, how it works and most importantly how to conquer it. The following is a guide explaining the local search function and how it can help your business land new customers.

What is Google Places?

Google Places is a directory of local businesses that Google has indexed to help searchers find when they include a Geo-Specific location in their search. You might have noticed that if you include a city name in a search, you will likely find search results that looks something like this:

ranking higher on google places in toronto

As you can see, there are a number of local “Toronto Restaurants” listed with letter next to them. Those letters are also indexed on a Google Map to the right of the Google Places results. This way, people looking for a restaurant in their area can instantly zoom in and find some good local eats. The same principle goes for any business. Whether you sell pizza or vacuum cleaners, Google will index your business like this for local search.

Why does it matter?

Google has stated that 1 in 5 of every search conducted is related to a location. Google has billions of searches daily, so that means hundreds of millions of those searches are for local businesses (just like yours!). The point is that people are searching for what you are selling. The questions is: what are they finding? If the answer is your competition, then you understand the importance of achieving a good ranking.

How Does it Work?

Before we get into specifics, it’s important to understand the goal of Google. Basically, Google wants those doing searches to find the most relevant items of what they were looking for. The more information a website includes about itself (via titles, meta tags etc…) the more Google has to go on in connecting those who are looking for that information.

Google places takes the amount of information about a local business to the next level. It includes the basic stuff like address, phone number, email address and website, but also collects more in-depth information like hours of operation, reviews, payment methods, pictures, videos and more. Basically the more information that is included on a Google Places page, the more likely it is to be ranked higher on a Google Search.

Where do I start?

How about from the beginning? The best place to start is by signing up for your own Google places account. I don’t have the address on the top of my head, but just Google “Google Places”.  Before you start, read the rules and watch the tutorial video. Knowledge is power right?

The next step is to fill in your information. There are a lot of fields to fill in, but don’t sweat it: your time spent now could be worth many new customers down the road. Be sure to fill in as much information as possible. It’s your job as the business owner to really know your business so show em what you know.

Before your Google Places account goes live, they will need to confirm that you are in fact the business owner, and will do so by either sending you a code via text message or regular old snail mail. They want to make sure that your listing is legit…Google is not big on Spam.

Okay, so how do I rank higher?

This is the million dollar question. Although no one but Google knows exactly how their search algorithm works, there are some pretty well documented (and tested) best practices at play. If you have filled out your profile all the way, you have already done some of the work. The more information you supply, the more legit your business seems. However, to really climb those rankings you will need to get involved with some basic (and some not so basic) SEO or Search Engine Optimization.

I wont give away too many tricks here (as local and video SEO are services we provide our clients) but basically the most important piece of information Google has about your business is how many other sites/people are mentioning it, or linking directly to it. If there are lots of customer reviews for your business, Google knows that A) people have actually been to you and B) They cared enough to go online and leave your thoughts. The more outside info Google can index about your business, the more likely it is that you will rank high.

It sounds complicated

Well, yes and no. SEO is certainly a complex concept and there are literally thousands of variables involved in perfectly optimizing web content for search. However, as mentioned before, the more people talking about your business, the better you will rank. Ranking high on Google Places has gotten incredibly competitive so the best advice I could give is: HIRE PROFESSIONALS! They will know the tricks of the trade to help you climb the rankings and get noticed by new customers. Some companies (like mine: The Signature Video Group) will even offer results based pricing, only charging full price when they actually get you ranked.

Ranking high in search engines when people are looking for what you’re selling is a no brainer. Sure SEO can be expensive, but when you’re getting fresh traffic (and your competition isn’t) it is often well worth the investment. If you’re willing to spend a bit of money, a great solution is to advertise on Google. Get started by building your own Google Places page and see where it takes you. If eventually you think it would be worthwhile to hire a pro, I know a guy 😉

Till next time,

Chris Stasiuk



Chris Stasiuk

Author Chris Stasiuk

Chris is commercial director and founder of SVG, a Toronto based video content agency.

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