Google Places: Local Business Center Merger with Place Pages

Google has merged the Local Business Center and the Place Pages to create Google Places. According to Google. 1 out of 5 searches on Google is related to location so creating a place that is user friendly as well as business friendly increases the overall experience. Business owners can create or enhance their profile to expand their presence locally to reach their local community by having photos, coupons, reviews that are real time updates. The user is able to find that local business and see what others are saying and get a feel for that business prior to ever visiting.  Google has added some new features with Google Places that were not available with the business center or place pages.

Google Places Features

1. Service areas. As a business you can indicate which areas you service so to reach new customers by giving them a new option or a simple reminder that you are in their area.

2. Private Address. Work from home and not want your address public? With Google Places, you can make your address private. With more and more small business owners or new businesses starting the amount of people working is on the rise and having an online presence is crucial to keep the business top of mind but not at the expense of exposing your home address.

3. Photo Uploads. You can upload photos of your storefront, merchandise, menu – anything that is a true representative of your business offering. Not a great photographer or money too tight for a professional photographer?  Google is offering FREE photo shoots in select cities.

4. QR Codes. Google will create a customized QR Code for your business that users can scan with their mobile device and learn more about you by visiting your mobile Google Places page. This operates the same as your desktop page with the exception that users can star the listing as they have done with Google Maps and visit it again on their desktop Maps under “Starred Places.”  Makes repeat visits much easier.

5. Favorite Places. Back in December 2009, Google started sending out a window decal with a QR code to businesses that were the most sought out and researched on Google.com and Google Maps. Owners could display the decal in their window for current or potential customers to scan the QR code with their phone and immediately find reviews, coupons, etc even before entering.

6. Personalized Dashboard. Google Places has introduced a personalized dashboard that includes daily activity data about how many times users saw your business listing, how many times users showed interest in your business listing, top search queries, clicks to your website, clicks for driving directions and where the driving directions requests came from.

7. Advertising. Want to stand out above your competitors? For just $25 per month you can be tagged by Google on Google.com and Google Maps. Google Tags are yellow markers that promote certain aspects of your business. These do NOT increase/affect your rankings, just highlight important factors (sponsored links, coupons, photos, etc) you want a potential customer to know and see above your competitors.  Tags are limited to certain cities at this this time.

Google has prepared a short Google Places video that outlines the new features and how to get the most of out Google Places.

Google continues to try and increase user experience while at the same time get your business found.  As a small business owner it is a struggle to stay on top of what is going on with the search engines, running the business and maintaining a good relationship with customers.  Having a chance to improve your listing and be able to see the measurable statistics is yet another chance to see what people are searching for to find you locally and be able modify your listing to get the best impact.  Also having the opportunity to update your listing in real time, you can add a coupon or some type of perk to increase business on a slower day or maximize the busier days and remove the offer at the end of the day.  I am sure that we can expect more to come from Google with Google Places.  Do we see a Foursquare or Gowalla – “like”  platform on the horizon?

Have you taken a look at your statistics?  Do you see where you can improve or how you can better reach your local target market?