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Improve Your Organic Rankings With Google Places, Part 1

davies-dave
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Most of us remember that chaotic day last October when map-based results stopped being just an alternative search function at Google and started impacting the organic results directly. For the first time we witnessed in the live results Google Places integration right into the organic listings and the impact of Google Places pages on those SERPs.

Google tells us that more than 20 percent of search queries have a regional specifier included in them (e.g., "lawyer seattle wa"). This means that this change is affecting a large number of queries.

In some cases we're still seeing the old onebox result with all the Places results showing together and 10 organic results appearing below, but in many if not most cases we're seeing a blending of the results with the map appearing to the right with the AdWords listings and Places information being included in the organic results right below the classic description.

We'll begin this series on how to improve your organic rankings with Google Places by discussing the basics of a Places listing, how to set one up properly, and some of the principles behind why this is important.

Getting A Places Page

To set up a Places page:

  1. Sign up for Google Places.
  2. Verify your listing (via SMS, e-mail, or postcard).
  3. Enter all the easy to add information you can about your company (address, hours, payment methods accepted, etc.). There will be time to add more details later.

Now that you have a Google Places page it's time to spruce it up for two audiences.

Optimizing the Places Page for Google

The primary reason we're doing this is to enhance our organic rankings (at least in relation to the purpose of this article). If I have to give one underlying philosophy to follow when seeking Google rankings, it's "drink the Kool-Aid."

Google needs data. They feed on it. The more you give them, the more they can reward you.

It's not a case of them forcing webmasters to use their services per se, but if you add pictures, videos and more details to your Google Places page they can assume that:

  • You're a real business willing to invest time into getting your message out.
  • You have a lot of resources to apply to your site.

One might even go so far as to believe that Google can assume that if you're willing to put a lot of resources onto your Google Places page that you likely have a lot of resources on your website.

And what does Google want to give their searchers? Information, answers, and solutions.

Send the right signals and you'll get the right results.

Optimizing the Places Page for Your Visitors

So often we forget that when we're talking about search engine optimization (SEO) we're not really talking about rankings at all. What we're talking about are visitors. I'm an SEO myself, and if I discovered that I'd get more traffic on page five than page one, I'd be working hard to drop in the results rather than writing this article.

Higher rankings result in visitors to be sure, but there are numerous ways to influence and impact your click-through rate once you're ranking. One of the easiest is by enhancing your Google Places page.

For those of you paying attention to your Google Places listings, when you run a search you get the Google Places page below the description. Accompanying the Places page is generally an image. This image can either be drawn from pages referencing the company (e.g., review sites) or you can take control of your own environment and add your own images.

Generally (though not always) these images will be the ones used to complement the listing. These images, properly selected, can be used to draw the eye.

Please note: images with big red "buy now" text are not a good reflection of your site and, I dare say, won't positively be reflected in your traffic.

That said, I have a client running a food tour service and we've selected some of the best images of the restaurants, cafes, and stores he visits in his tours. It makes me salivate when I look at the photos we've chosen and it appears to have had the same affect on the searchers as his traffic has improved.

Like your description tag, don't leave it up to chance how you'll be presented. Select photos that will appeal and draw the eye just as you'd write captivating description tag copy to make sure your description in the SERPs is a positive and controlled marketing message.

Summary

The goal of this portion of the series was to present the information required to set up a Google Places page and introduce you to some of the key strategies and factors behind a solid Google Places page. I hope we've done that.

In part two, we'll go further into how to get the most from your listing and how to optimize your Google Places page and your site to help move you up in the organic listings.

Now go apply what we've covered today so next time we can hit the ground running.

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