Like many business owners, you may be confused about listing your business effectively on Google. Using search engine optimization and related strategies to boost the ranking of your company website is great, but there are plenty of other things you can do too. Without claiming and enhancing your business listing on Google Maps, you will be missing out on a lot of exposure. Due to recent changes to the Google Maps and Google Places platforms, confusion abounds. Fortunately, creating and optimizing a listing so that it appears accurately and prominently on Google Maps is actually quite easy. Learn more about how to do so in this handy guide.
Overview of Google Maps
To get a feel for why Google Maps is so important, perform a search for services that relate to your company. A map should appear on the right side of the screen. This is a direct link to Google Maps, and it should reflect results that appear in the immediate area. For several years now, Google has awarded local businesses with superior rankings as long as they show up on Google Maps. Does your business appear? If you haven’t claimed or edited your listing, it may not.
By clicking on the small map that appears in the results, you’ll be taken to a full-size map that is studded with thumbtacks. Each thumbtack is labeled with a letter of the alphabet, and each letter has a corresponding entry along the side of the screen. At a glance, you can determine whether or not the business you need is located nearby. The results are made up of more than generic listings though. Listings that appear near the top have most likely been claimed by business owners, and they are more likely to include a lot of additional information. In other words, they stand out, and people are more likely to click on them for that reason.
For many years, the specific listings that appeared on Google Maps were collectively known as Google Places. Business owners could claim their Google Places listings and update them to make them more prominent and useful. In fact, you may have done so yourself at some point. With Google Places, business owners could increase the odds of being discovered by people who were searching for their products and services. As useful as Google Places proved to be, it is being phased out in favor of Google+ Local.
Near the end of May 2012, Google announced that Google Places listings would gradually be converted into Google+ Local listings. Business owners who had already claimed their listings didn’t have to do a thing. Their listings would automatically be converted, and they could log in and make whatever changes they needed to at any time. If you already had a claimed Google Places listing, yours may have already been converted into a Google+ Local listing. If you never claimed your Google Places listing, or if one never existed in the first place, you can start from scratch with a new Google+ Local listing.
Completing a Google+ Local Listing Makes it Stand Out
Google uses sources like the Yellow Pages, business directories and business databases to populate its Google+ Local listings. Even if a listing hasn’t been claimed by a business owner, it will still exist on Google+ Local. However, it probably won’t appear on the first page of results on Google Maps. Listings that have been claimed and edited are more likely to appear on the first page. Those that are generic and unclaimed are pushed down the list. Is your listing languishing there? If so, you’re not getting the exposure that you need and deserve.
Seven Great Reasons to Get Listed on Google Maps
There are many great reasons to get listed on Google Maps through Google+ Local. Seven of the best ones are:
- You’ll Get Another Opportunity to Appear in the Results – How well does your site currently rank in the Google results pages? Even if you have a fairly strong ranking, there’s always room for improvement. By claiming and completely filling out your Google+ Local listing, your site has another opportunity to appear near the top of the results. It’s just one more way to get the visibility you need.
- People in Your Local Area are More Likely to Find Your Business – Google is increasingly using location information to return more targeted results to users. If someone is in your local area and performs a search on a computer, laptop or mobile device, your claimed and optimized Google+ Local listing is more likely to appear. When a listing appears prominently in the results, people are more likely to click to get more information. In turn, they are more likely to become paying customers.
- You’ll have an Easier Time Connecting with Customers – An active and complete listing on Google+ Local gives people another way to get in touch with your business. Existing customers can click over to your Google+ Local listing to leave reviews or to see if you have any special offers. Prospective customers can visit your listing to learn more about your business, products and services. Through your completed profile, they will be able to get your business phone number, visit your website, check in on your social media profiles and do many other things. By being available to people, you’re more likely to earn their business.
- You’ll have Complete Control Over Your Listing – If you don’t claim and update your Google+ Local listing, it’s less likely to appear prominently on Google Maps. That’s not all though. It could also contain inaccurate information that could cost you a lot of business. If your competitors have completed their listings, and they probably have, you will essentially be handing them business that could be yours. If people stumble upon your listing and find nothing but tumbleweeds, they’re less likely to turn into customers. It’s much better to claim your listing and maintain complete control over it.
- You’ll be able to Ensure Accuracy – If your business already shows up on Google Maps, is the thumbtack pointing to the right place? Even if the address is accurate, the thumbtack could be in the wrong location. Without claiming your listing, you won’t be able to do a thing about it. Inaccurate information can lead to confusion, which can cost you sales. People need to be able to find your business quickly. If they want to call you, they should be able to find the right number immediately. Google is the top search engine, so it’s critical to ensure that your business is listed accurately.
- You can Enhance Your Existing SEO Efforts – Search engine optimization, or SEO, is an excellent way to enhance the ranking of your website on Google. If you already engage in SEO, you can take what you know and apply it to your Google+ Local listing. By doing that, your business is a lot more likely to appear in local search results. You can’t optimize your listing with the right keywords if you haven’t claimed it. After claiming it, you don’t have to devote a huge amount of time to optimizing it. You just need to make sure that a few keywords are sprinkled throughout your listing.
- You can Claim and Update Your Listing for Free – This is probably the most compelling reason to claim and update your listing. You don’t have to spend a dime to do so. At the very most, you have to create a Google account. If you’ve had a website for your business for awhile, you probably already have a Google account. You can also create a new account that’s specific to your business. The process of optimizing your Google+ Local listing is also free, and it’s incredibly easy too.
Creating or Claiming Your Google Maps Listing
As mentioned above, your business may already be listed on Google Maps and Google+ Local. Google generates listings using various databases and directories. If that’s the case, and a listing already exists for your business, you can claim it. If you’ve already claimed a Google Places listing, it may have already been converted to a Google+ Local listing. Either way, it’s more likely to appear prominently on Google Maps if you update it regularly.
If you’re not sure whether your business is listed on Google Maps, it’s easy to find out for sure. The steps below explain how to create or claim your listing.
- 1. Visit the main Google+ Local pages portal by clicking here.
- 2. To check and see if your business is already listed, click on the “Local Business or Place” link on the left side of the screen.
- 3. You will be directed to enter your country and the phone number of your business. Use the local number of your business, if possible. Google will search to see if a listing with that phone number currently exists.
- 4. If your business listing is located, you will be able to click a link to claim it. You will have to confirm that you are authorized to claim the listing though. Otherwise, any random person could claim your listing and mess it up. One way to verify your listing is by having Google call your business phone number. Another way to is to have a text sent to your business number. The third option is to have a postcard mailed to your business’s street address, but that takes a long time. Regardless of how you proceed, you will be given a PIN. Just enter it on the Google+ Local site to claim your listing.
- 5. What happens if no listing exists for your business? In that case, you will be given the opportunity to create a new listing. Click on the link that says “Add Your Business to Google.” You will be taken through a simple process to set up a basic listing.
- 6. Whether you claim an existing listing or create a new one, your work isn’t finished. Refer to the next section to learn how to optimize your listing for best results.
Optimizing Your Google+ Local Listing for Improved Visibility on Google Maps
Business owners who already had Google Places listings were thrown for a loop with Google+ Local listings debuted. Listings that were converted to the new format were automatically populated with a lot of information. However, additional work is required to make the most of a Google+ Local listing.
Categorizing Your Business
You will have the opportunity to categorize your business. You can select five to 10 categories. You should be able to find at least a few categories that apply to your business. You can create new categories if necessary. Try to choose categories that include keywords that relate to your products and services.
The About tab on your Google+ Local listing includes an introduction, the location of your business, your business hours, contact information and recommended links. It’s the first thing people will see after clicking on your listing, which they can access through Google Maps or through the search engine results pages.
Photos and Images
At the top of each Google+ Local listing, there is a photo strip that includes five photos. You can also upload an image to use as your business profile photo. Most people use their business logos. As for the five photos in the photo strip, they should include things like images of your products, photos of your location and photos of you and your staff. When someone clicks on your location on Google Maps, the business profile photo will be displayed. In some cases, photos from your photo strip may appear as well. The right photos will make your listing more appealing and effective.
You might as well include at least a few videos on your Google+ Local listing. It’s easy to do so. To ensure the best results, keep your videos between one and two minutes in length. You don’t have to spend a fortune to have professional videos produce, but you should try to make them as professional as possible.
After creating your videos, upload them to YouTube. You should have a separate YouTube account for your business. Optimize each video with descriptions, tags and other information. From your Google+ Local profile, you will be able to link to the videos that you have uploaded to YouTube. This is another great way to increase the visibility of your business, and it will increase the odds of your company appearing prominently on Google Maps too.
With the changeover from Google Places to Google+ Local, a new review system was implemented. The new system is modeled after the Zagat rating system. It allows customers to be a lot more specific when reviewing a business. Your listing is more likely to show up on Google Maps when it has at least a few reviews. Encourage your customers to submit reviews about your company. You could even offer incentives to generate as many reviews as possible. If a negative review is posted, you can respond to it.
A Few Final Notes about Getting Your Business on Google Maps
With a completely updated Google+ Local listing, your company is sure to appear prominently on Google Maps, which means that it will enjoy a higher ranking on the Google search results pages as well. Keep in mind that you can update the thumbtack icon if it doesn’t accurately reflect where your business is located. On your listing, you can also include information about nearby public transportation options. In short, just do everything you can to give people as much information about your business as possible. When your company appears prominently on Google Maps, it’s visibility will shoot through the roof.