Achieving a top ranking in Google’s search results can be tremendously valuable for your business, but generally requires a substantial long-term investment in mastering the arcane world of search engine optimization (SEO). However, a recent major change to how Google displays results for local businesses makes it easier than ever to put your business in front of prime prospects.
For several years, Google has offered a simple free webpage to every business via its Google Places product. With Places, you can quickly create a page (even if you don’t have a website) that lists your business’s description, location, products, hours and even photos and videos. When someone searched for a local business, Google would display Places pages toward the top of the listings, with a single link for each business along with a small map.
However, just this month Google change the way that it displays its Google Places pages, integrating them directly into the search results and making them far more prominent. For many local searches, Places pages now encompass nearly the entire first page of search results, detailing substantial information on each business. (A Google search for plumbers in your city is a good way to view an example of these type of results.)
Some experts estimate that Google Places pages now receive 20 percent of all traffic from search queries, and that number continues to rise rapidly. Here is the incredibly exciting part: Google mostly uses the location of the searcher and the business description to determine how Places pages are displayed. This means that, unlike regular webpages, a well-constructed Places page can vault to the top of the search results with no SEO knowledge or effort whatsoever!
You can create a great Google Places page in fewer than twenty minutes. Get started by registering your business at http://www.google.com/places. Be sure to fill out the profile as completely and descriptively as you can. List all of the products and services you offer, as use of these keywords can help your Places page be displayed for a broader range of relevant searches. Remember, this page can help sell your services too, so upload images of your logo, staff and office, and include any relevant videos that you have as well.
Think carefully about the categories section, which has a large impact on when your page is displayed in the search results. You can and should list up to five, and don’t worry if your ideas don’t match up with Google’s pre-defined categories. On my company’s Places page we listed:
1) Certified Financial Planner
2) Fee Only Financial Planners
3) Financial Planning
4) Financial Planning Services
5) Kristin Harad CFP
Google Places pages are a free and powerful tool to help attract local prospects. In only a few minutes, you could have your pages set up too!\
Kristin C. Harad, CFP®
Founder and Principal
VitaVie Financial Planning
San Francisco, CA