Prior to the dawn of the computer age, when starting a new business you’d hang out your shingle, turn on the lights, and open the doors. You’d display your wares and advertise wherever you could. If you got the word out to the market effectively enough, people would come by your store. Some customers would like what you have to offer and shop. Others would hold on to their money and shop someplace else. This was (and still is) the nature of business and advertising.
Obviously the advent of the Internet has changed business marketing for the better, primarily by providing a superior means for educating consumers. But, you must actively advertise. The buying public will only shop your store if they know you exist. Given that 97% of consumers across all markets now search for information about businesses online, it’s a good move for every business – large or small – to leverage every opportunity to get their store online and seen by passersby on the Internet. And if you’re a savvy business owner or marketer looking for every advantage to beat the competition to the available prospective clients, Google Places is a great place to start building an online presence.
Google Places (aka Google Places for Business) is a great free service offered by the folks at Google that allows businesses of all kinds to list a wealth of information about their business (business description, contact information, business hours, payment types) so that they can be better served by search. What makes Google Places invaluable for businesses is the fact that it lists submitted business information in Google search, as well as in Google Maps, on Google+ and on mobile devices. And with your business listed on Google+, you’re able to share news and information about your business, as well as respond to Google+ Local reviews. Suddenly, you’re interacting with customers or clients, growing your brand, and seeding new opportunities for more business through social networks.
Fortunately, as with many Google products, Places for Business is relatively painless to set up. The dashboard has, however, undergone a number of recent changes – mostly to the benefit of ‘local’ in search engine results. To the benefit of many small and medium-sized businesses, Google has been assigning more of their real estate to local. In fact, recent changes to the Google Places Dashboard make it incredibly easy for these businesses to manage their business information and promote themselves (especially in relation to Adwords Express).
Some of the new features found in recent updates to the Google Places Dashboard include helpful interface guides and tips to make setting up a Google Places account easier. Businesses can now select up to ten categories for their services (a big advantage for those that offer a number of different service types). There’s also a more user-friendly link to the Google+ Local page, ensuring updates will be seen on Google+ pages in a more timely manner. There’s even new support for service-area businesses that provide services in different customer regions. All in all, it’s evident that Google is trying to make life easier for small and medium-sized businesses that offer a range of services to their local markets. Is it perfect? Not yet. But it’s getting there.
FYI: If you’re not on Google Places, by the way, this is a good time to sign up. Many of the cool new Dashboard changes are only available to newly-created or newly-verified accounts (although all new developments will be rolled out to all users in due time). You can sign up for Google Places for Business by clicking right here.
This article is brought to you by Rank Fuse Interactive, which serves both businesses and agencies alike as a provider of search engine marketing (SEM) programs, including search engine optimization (SEO), paid search advertising (PPC), social media marketing, content marketing, mobile web marketing, and search-friendly web design.