Think Google Places is just some convenient little map that pops up when you search for a product or service available in your area? Think again. It’s all that times 10. Just read Google’s press release of April 20, 2010 to see what I mean. But first, I should tell you that although only a few months old, this information is already almost obsolete as this was merely the first step in a much bigger plan.
I stress the word “almost” because understanding how Google’s latest search strategies evolved is going to paint a picture worth a million words when it comes to anticipating their next move(s).
Here’s what Google Places looked like, followed by the press release that gives you insight to how they think:
April 20, 2010
Google Goes Local with Google Places
Every day, Google connects millions of people with businesses in their local communities. We help people find these businesses when they search Google and discover Place Pages, and we help business owners manage their Place Pages on Google through a tool we call the Local Business Center.
Today, we’re renaming the Local Business Center to Google Places and adding a number of new features. In addition to these new features, Google Places will continue to offer the same tools as the Local Business Center, such as helping a company verify and supplement business information including hours of operation, photos, videos, coupons and product information; providing a way to communicate with customers; and giving businesses new insights that enable it to make smart decisions.
The new Google Places name simplifies the connection with Place Pages and reflects our ongoing commitment to providing business owners with powerful, yet easy-to-use tools to help people discover them when they search.
“Getting customers through Google makes my job great. It’s incredibly valuable to have all those listings grouped together in one place,” according to Chris Gallagher, owner of Bean & Leaf in New London, Connecticut. “It shows you how important Google Places is because we want to truly reflect the attention we pay to our business to our customers.”
Today we’re introducing several new features to Google Places:
Service areas: If you travel to serve customers – a photographer, plumber, or piano tuner, for example – you can now show which geographic areas you serve. And if you run a business without a store-front or office location, you can now make your address private. This helps the millions of home-based and service businesses be found by customers in their service areas.
A new, simple way to advertise: For just $25 per month, businesses in select cities can make their listings stand out on Google.com and Google Maps with Tags. As of today, we’re rolling out Tags to three new cities — Austin, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. — in addition to ongoing availability in Houston and San Jose, CA. In the coming weeks we’ll also be introducing Tags in Chicago, San Diego, Seattle, Boulder, and San Francisco.
Business photo shoots: In addition to uploading your own photos, businesses in select cities can now request a free photo shoot of the interior of their business which we’ll use to supplement existing photos of businesses on Place Pages. We’ve been experimenting with this over the past few months, and now have created a site for businesses to learn more and express their interest in participating.
Customized QR codes: From the dashboard page of Google Places, businesses in the U.S. can download a QR code that’s unique to their business. QR codes can be placed on business cards or other marketing materials, and customers can scan them with certain smartphones to be taken directly to the mobile version of the Place Page for that business.
Favorite Places: We’re doing a second round of our Favorite Places program, and are mailing window decals to 50,000 additional businesses around the US. These decals include a QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone to directly view the mobile Place Page for the business to learn more about their great offerings.
Over the past few months we’ve also added the ability for business owners to post real-time updates to their Place Page. They can promote sales, special events, or anything else customers need to know right now, and this feature lets businesses communicate that directly to their customers. They can also provide extra incentive by adding coupons, including ones formatted for mobile phones.
To keep track of how a business listing is per-forming on Google, we offer a personalized dash-board within Google Places that includes data about how many times people have found your business on Google, what keywords they used to find it and even what areas people traveled from to visit their business.
With the dashboard, a business can see how the use of any of these new features affects interest in the business and can make more informed decisions about how to be found on Google or how to interact with your customers.
One out of five searches on Google are related to a user’s location, and very often people are looking for local businesses. Google Places is just the beginning of what’s to come from our efforts to make Google more local. To learn more, you can visit our blog post on Google Places or see our newly updated Help Center. We’ll also be posting on the Lat Long blog throughout the week to give a deeper dive into many of our newest features. To get started now, go to google.com/places.
As you can see, Google is doing more than just adding a bunch of virtual pins to a map; it’s redefining how people find what they want online at a local level. And, if your store can be part of the famous 7-Pack (the seven local listings shown in Google Places) you can expect to see an increase in visits.
In fact, with the introduction of Place Search, you don’t even need to worry about the 7-Pack because more often than not these listings will be showing throughout the regular organic listings.
In short, being found in Google Places, whether in the regular organic mix or in the 7-Pack, is an incredibly important factor for any local business with a physical address. Do whatever it takes to get there and stay there.
New Rule #7 Get in Google Places
Google Places is going places and your website needs to be along for the ride. If you have never looked into it, and claimed your free business directory listing, now is the time. It takes a phone call, possibly a postcard, and some patience, but is so worth it. As you are about the see; this is one of your most important “to do’s”. Visit at http://www.google.com/places/ or have your SEO person do it for you.