Did you know that well over half of small and local businesses have not taken advantage of their free Google Places listing? That’s a staggering amount of free exposure lost.
If you haven’t already claimed your business, do a simple search in Google for your business name. If you come up, then you should see a “claim this business” link within your business box. Go through the process to claim it. You will need a Google account if you haven’t already got one.
If you have already claimed it and it’s in your control, then great. But that’s not the end of the story. Not by a long shot.
Getting into what’s known as the “3 pack” is golden because it means that when people search for your type of business, if you are one of the three that come up in that box, there is a fantastic chance that you will be the business people go to.
There are some essential factors that you need to have in place to ensure good standing with your Google Places listing. If you have minimal competition in your area then it’s not so critical, but if you are in a high competition area then you will struggle to get anywhere without some work and effort.
Firstly, understand that your Google Places listing has nothing (or very little) to do with your business website. You may have seen listings with no website link. This is because the Google Places is based on your Google profile, so it is this that you are going to concentrate on in this aspect, not your website.
So how do you get up in the rankings?
It takes some effort, it takes time, and it may take some money if you haven’t the time to do this yourself and need to get someone else to do this for you. But essentially, the big three things you need to do and maintain are:
You need to set up your Google Places profile properly. This means entering your contact information, address, link to your website, operating hours and so on. It also means uploading your logo, exterior of your business (if applicable), interior, photos of your staff, business in operation and anything else of relevance. Anything to show your potential customers what you are about and that you have a professional approach. Impressions count.
This is absolutely essential to have many 5 star review ratings. Think about it, you’ve got to the 3 pack, but there’s two other businesses in there. They each have twenty 5 star reviews. You have none. Who are they going to go with? Yep, your competition. So you need to build up reviews in order to gain trust of your prospective customers. So when you have had a great transaction with someone, ask them to leave a google review. They could even do it on their phone in front of you.
A note at this point, ensure that they are not on your own wi-fi connection and that they leave a review on their own cell phone network. If they do it on your wi-fi, Google will see this and think you’re gaming the system. Also, do not get too many reviews at once. Figure on 3 or 4 a week if you can, anymore than this and Google gets suspicious again.
You’ve probably Googled many local businesses and seen them come up in places like Yelp, YP, Foursquare etc. These are what’s known as directory sites. You need to be on these too. There’s lots of them (hundreds in fact), but you should be on the major ones at least. You need to set up accounts on as many of these directories as you can and you must enter the exact same information that is on your website for your address, business name, phone number, hours of operation and so on. It must all be identical. And if you change anything in the future, you must update this information in all the directories too. It is essential that Google sees your online presence as being consistent and accurate throughout the entire internet.
Sounds tough, eh? Well, RAST Web Design has managed to negotiate a special rate for a system which allows businesses to enter their information once and automatically create accounts and synchronize their information throughout 42 top directories and also allows future changes that will also be synchronized. It’s a yearly fee, but well worth its value. Contact me 609 774 3865 for more information.
So, you’re getting great reviews, you’re listed on many directories, surely that’s it? Nope. Google also wants to see you interact via your profile. So when you do get a review, go into your account and respond to it. Frequently update your images. Be visibly present on your profile. This will help boost your presence because once again, Google sees you active.
If you do nothing else, these factors form the basis of helping you get in that box. But that should always be your aim, because once there, you will reap what you have sown. There is so much more that can be done, but these aspects form your foundation.