Now that it’s thought that 97% of consumers search for local businesses online, the key to making the best of Google Places is ‘being there when they’re looking’.
Google Places for Business is another tool that every business should have, complimentary to LinkedIn, according to many business advisers.It’s becoming a self-fulfilling prophetic instruction.
It’s all about getting and using recommendations, testimonials and reviews. About photos and videos. About networked promotion.
1. Making your Places page 100% Complete
When you apply for the free platform, in Google terms you are only ‘complete’ when all fields are filled in. There are required fields, such as your name, address, phone and email address and business details. That is worth up to 53% of Google completeness.
Your existing website may be worth 10%, service and product descriptions, email facility, hours of availability, full contact details, comprehensive integral payment capabilities, a number of videos and photos and more descriptions account for the rest.
A single video can have a negative effect for Google, four will be helpful for you.
2. Customer reviews
If you have four reviews, Google awards no stars, so 5 or more should be an essential starting point. The golden stars show beneath your search results, and link to how people rate you on things like price, shipping and customer service.
These are real recommendations that add value to your site. Equally any criticisms are published but they are helpful in improving your service, but in terms of Google, the higher your customer-review rating, the better.
3. Add posts with links
A strategically placed post with a direct link to some interesting little corner of your site encourages site browsing. The link could be to a gallery of photos/images, a special offer or a sign up to future newsletters.
This is a simple but effective way of helping visitors on into other sections finding unusual, fascinating or well presented must-haves.
4. Reply to comments
The advice is to reply to literally all customer reviews, although if you get a lot and you’re busy, it’s tempting to skip. People who post favourably always appreciate a quick thanks from you, and the critics usually appreciate a response that either acknowledges your failings or promises to look into them.
5. Get ‘Best Ever’ Reviews
Encourage your best and well-satisfied customers to leave you ‘best ever’ reviews. They can be left at places.google.com/rate by searching for your business name. A little bit of work for a customer, but worth an automatic 5-star rating to you.
The ‘Best Ever’ reviews show next to the stars on Google’s responses to searches and can be placed within the body of the review, thus further reinforcing in the mind of the reader that yours is a quality, verified service.
6. Your customer reviews on third-party sites
It makes sense to spread the good news of your customer reviews to other sites besides your own. Target around three or four sites, perhaps industry related, wiki-style sites where opinions count. People read a good review, they are likely to check for themselves.
7. Double reviews and stars
You simply put at least one customer testimonial you are proud of onto your site by (X)HTML using hReview, a microformat, which alerts Google to the presence of some reviews worth looking at. This doubles the set of stars decorating your search results and therefore makes clicking through more likely.
Or you can add Rich Snippets reviews. The snippet is the convenient fragment of site content that Google shows in its search answers and they apply algorithms to ‘highlight structured data embedded in web pages’. They are currently supporting data about reviews and people.
8. Interesting ‘offers’
An offer on your site could be in the form of a coupon or simply a discount code. To qualify, people have to buy or ask for further information, and so give their own data in return.
In theory there’s no limit on how many offer you make customers on your site within Google guidelines, although too many look desperate. Make sure they are good offers so customers return and are affordable and sustainable.
9. QR code
As smartphones multiply, QR codes are taking off and they are the ‘next big thing’, or maybe, the ‘last big thing’. Users love scanning them, and they can usefully take the site visitor to another section, a special and unique offer or even to another site altogether.
The QR looks contemporary and increases user engagement and interaction, which is what you want to maintain traffic.
Insert photos wherever you can. Your ‘best offer’ is best explained by a good image and caption but few words. You can put 10 photos on your Places page, but if third-party sites have them, Google will often put them on too, in addition to your ten. You can use and reuse photos across different sites.
You might maintain a gallery page on your website which is also potential extra resource for Google to grab.
Your best customers can also upload pictures to your page as ‘From a Google user’, which adds a deal of credibility to you and allows even more photos on Places.
Some experts advise using Geosetter to geo-tag images with your exact business location if that matters and ‘keywords to the meta data’.
So, bearing all that in mind and knowing what everyone now knows about the rise of Google and its power, happy business development!