Google Places for your Small Business

*Update!  In June 2012, Google announced that they are transitioning existing Google Places pages to Google+ for local business.  If you have an existing Places page, the content will automatically be moved over to the new Google+ page for your business.  If you don't have a Google+ page for your local business, you can create or claim your Google Plus page here.

Google Places (formerly Google small business center), is a wonderful tool for your small business.  The best part about it is that it’s totally free.  Too many small brick and mortar businesses are not taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity to create an online presence for their small business.  With the soon to be death of traditional yellow pages, and in most areas, print advertising, you cannot afford not to be online.  Customers today mainly are looking for what you have to offer online.  If you do not have a website yet,  you have to, at a minimum set up a Google Places account.  Did I mention that it’s Free?

Some really great features that have been added with the launch of Google Places are:

Service areas – Businesses who travel can show the geographic areas that they cover. Those without a storefront can make their address private.

Advertising with Tags – For 25 bucks a month, businesses (in certain cities) can use Tags to highlight their listings on and Google Maps. These are yellow markers that let you promote important aspects of your business. They can be used for things like coupons, photos, and other select features.  They don’t affect the rank of search results, but they give customers more information and may prove beneficial. You can expect Google to increase the number of cities where this option is available.

Business photo shoots – Businesses (again, in certain cities) can request a free photo shoot from Google to have the interior of their business photographed and added to their Place Page. We've seen Google do this in the past. Now we know what they're doing (learn more here). You can upload your own photos as well, just make sure they are of good quality.  Sometimes local photography schools will come in for Free and do the work since it is practice for them.

Customized QR Codes
– Google is providing customized QR codes from the Google Places Dashboard. The code will take customers to your place page, and can be used on business cards and other marketing materials. Customers can scan them with their smartphones.

See below for an introduction to Google Places

Google also gives businesses using Google Places great tracking stats they haven't been able to see in the past, like who'searching for them, how they're finding them, and where they're coming from.

Google is really making a push into the local search market, which is great news for the mom and pop local business.  “One out of five searches on Google are related to location, and we want to make sure that businesses are able to be found and put their best foot forward,” says Google Maps, Earth, and Local VP John Hanke.

The standard rules still apply to Google Places. Every listing must have a mailing address and there can't be more than one listing per physical location. Even physicians with multiple practices and services that cover multiple towns shouldn't have two listings. Google recommends in these cases that businesses use the description or categories to explain the different services offered. Google's quality guidelines can be found here, and may be helpful to businesses with questions about their listings.

With such a great Free resource for your Small Business, what are you waiting for?  It should take about 15 minutes from start to finish so get going today.

Are you using Google Places?   Share your experiences here.

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CEO at 3Bug Media
Gary Shouldis is the founder of 3Bug Media, a web marketing company that helps businesses create 360 Marketing Strategies to dominate their market. His blog is read by over 20 thousand small business owners a month and has been featured in the N.Y. Times Small Business, Business Insider and Yahoo Small Business.
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