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If Google Doesn’t Know About You… Do You Really Exist?

2012/02/10

An astounding 97% of consumers search online when looking for a local business*. That means just about everybody goes to Google (except for those that use Blekko.com, a search engine most people never heard of) when they want to find a local Italian restaurant, hair stylist or a place to buy paint. It’s likely that, after hearing this statistic, more than 97% of business owners would hesitate to categorize their store or restaurant as one of the town’s “best kept secrets.”

Google was originally designed to organize the world’s information and make it easy to find digital results found on all sorts of websites. Internet sites appearing in the top 10 search results get more web traffic which generally translates to more business. In their efforts to have more influence in the physical world, Google created Google Places, their local platform mixed in with Google Maps, which displays results for brick-and-mortar business locations above the traditional ranking of website results. It’s safe to extrapolate that a brick-and-mortar location listed high in the Google Places results will get more exposure which will help generate more physical traffic in the store. To see a sample of Google Places, try searching for “Restaurants in Dallas, TX” (or other business types or locations.)

It’s very easy to create a listing on Google Places and it’s something every retail store or restaurant should do. The listings are viewable to any users that click on them and can share valued information with potential customers including address, hours, business type (ex: night club or hardware store), cuisine type, payments types accepted, e-mail address and more. The details and descriptions in Google Places should be written in a user-friendly fashion, including many pictures, as the listing is often the first impression for a potential customer and can be decisive in their decision to patronize the business. This content is indexed; higher quality content will help result in a better Google Places ranking. Creating a listing on Google Places involves registering the business on their web page, filling in as much high quality content as possible and “verifying” the listing via phone or a postcard in the mail.

Establishing a Google Place will help, but there is more a business can do to improve their ranking. As with many aspects of search, the Google Places ranking can be influenced by a social factor — customer reviews. Consumers can review a business through its Google Place; higher star rankings (on a 5-star scale), number of reviews (through both Google Places and third party sites), frequency of reviews and keywords in their description are a huge help. For example, a customer review that says “Best Italian food in Dallas” is more effective than “Great food”. Long reviews including locations, detail and content will be a huge help to boost ratings.

Point of sale VARs should consider making this their domain — as easy as it is to setup a Google Place for their store, many retailers prefer to outsource their technology. It’s fairly easy to master Google Places. As a reseller, you can consider offering to setup a Google Place for a modest fee, and perhaps even expand the service to monthly analytics and coaching. Not only will this drive extra revenue, it will also position you as even more important and relevant in the eyes of your customers.

By the way, Microsoft Bing and Yahoo Search also have their own versions of local search, but they don’t really matter since 97% of people use Google. (Kidding! You should set those up too!)

For more information on Google Places, Google ‘Google Places’. Let’s make this interactive. We’d like to hear about your successes and your failures. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, leave a comment below or reach out to our “Socially Speaking” author on Twitter using #SociallySpeaking so others can follow the dialogue, or email us at Publications@GoRSPA.org.

Source of Statistic: * Google

By Guest Blogger: David Gosman (@Golem5), CEO of pcAmerica (@pcAmerica)

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