Google Places and local business marketing

Google Places has come a long way since we last wrote a Google Places blog post. With the local/mobile search market continuing to grow, it is clear Google is positioning its Places function to be the premier local/mobile search service.  Just do a simple location-based search and see how dominant the Place page results are!

Now as an add-on to their already dominant Places offering, Google have developed ‘Hotpot' – which aims to bring social elements into the local search arena.  This new product provides a portal in which users (when signed into their Google account) can rate and review local businesses, as well as view their friends ratings and reviews.

This affects the Google Places listings, as results are then organised by:

  • User preferences – Business that the user has rated highly will appear higher in the list
  • Recommendations – The more a user rates businesses through Hotpot, the more Google will be able to suggest businesses they may like
  • Friend's results – As friends ratings and reviews are also displayed, these will play a part in the Place pages a user clicks on

How does this change local business marketing in Google Places?

Google Hotpot might not be a big name yet (and Google haven't got a great record with recent product launches- Wave, Buzz anyone!?), but it is definitely something to watch over the coming year. If it gains popularity, it could revolutionise the way Google Place listings work, and how businesses use it – particularly with an emphasis on rating scores and positive reviews.

While local businesses definitely need to be aware of Hotpot (particularly as Google are currently heavily promoting it), the basics of Google Places should not be ignored, here's a refresher for you:

How do you make Google Places effective?

There are a number of key factors that are involved in marketing your local business effectively:

  • Claim your Places page – This is hugely important as it gives authority to your Places page and prevents anyone else from editing your information.
  • Business Name – This might seem obvious, but a lot of people get it wrong. An effective business name should give an idea (to both Google and the user) of what the business does. Try and include a good keyword, for example, “Prometheus Fireplaces” is better than just “Prometheus”.
  • Information – The more information you give the better, but only as long as it's good information. If you give business hours, for example, then make sure that your business is actually open at those times.
  • Categories – Make sure you select the right category for your business. If you're a sandwich shop then you don't want to be found for curry restaurants or Italian bistros. Google Hotpot recommends businesses based on categories, i.e. if the user has rated traditional pubs highly but been critical of trendy bars, then those businesses categorised as ‘pubs' will be prioritised in the recommendations. Because of this, setting the right category is vitally important.
  • Photos – Photos of your business are an excellent way of increasing your Google Places presence. A good photo makes your business look attractive, can make it memorable and can even help customers identify your business on the street.
  • Citations – The number of good quality citations can help increase your ranking in Places search results. An easy way to improve your citations is to create profiles on free business directory sites such as yell.com.

This list is not exhaustive, but should give you an idea of how to incorporate Google Places into your local business marketing strategy.  What do you think of Google Hotpot? Will it affect how you structure your local business marketing strategy?

Posted by James Murphy and Jon Potter


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