Monday, April 16, 2012

Claim Your Spot on Google Local

I start this blog post by admitting that Terrapin is decidedly Google-friendly.  Many times a day we use a Google website or app to take care of business.  But with all of the tools that they offer, there’s one in particular that I think small businesses need to put more effort into.

Google Local - A Powerful Tool that’s Often Overlooked
Think of Local as Google’s version of the yellow pages.   They list all of the basics:  company name, address, phone, fax and web address.  This gives Google just enough to create a profile of your business for their directory.

More and more these Local accounts are showing up in search results.  Why? Google’s #1 mission is to provide you with relevant information.  Besides websites & pay-per-click ads, Google can now share local businesses in the area as part of your search results.  If you came from the yellow pages generation, then these types of listings are a familiar site for you..

Along the way you’ve probably seen the red Google Maps markers.  Ever try clicking on one?  That will pull up a “balloon” on Google Maps with some of that basic profile info I mentioned above.  For those entrenched in the yellow page way of thinking, a phone number for a business may be all that is needed to reach out.  And you as a business owner can sleep at night knowing Google has probably already created a basic profile for your business.  

Wait... don’t you feel like you’re missing out on something?  You should!

From Shanty to Palace, Without Breaking a Sweat
The biggest search engine on the planet has created a very unique way for you to provide them with more information on your business.  It’s completely free and they have started you off with a basic profile.  All you have to do is claim your spot on Google Local.  Chances are you didn’t know you could, but it is definitely worth your time & effort.

Once you’ve claimed your business on Local, there is a lot more tweaking that you can do to improve your profile and improve your chances of attracting visitors to your site:  

  1. Add your logo - Helps to create consistency and a professional look
  2. Add your business to more categories in the Google Local directory - This is important if you offer more than a single service or type of product and may help your visibility for a wider range of search terms.
  3. Set your service area - Tells Google who are potential customers based on their location.  More on this in a minute...
  4. Upload photos & videos of your location, products or services, staff and more to add credibility to your business.  
  5. Create special offers - Add incentive for potential customers to reach out to your business.  Make sure the offer is unique, so that you can track the response.
  6. Respond to reviews - Google users can review businesses that they find on Places.  This is your chance to interact with customers directly.  So feel free to thank positive reviewers... and offer great customer service to address any negative reviews.

With literally an hour of your time you can not only spruce up your Local profile, but you can also spoon-feed Google a great deal of text & visual information... all linked to your physical location.... all linked to the products / services you offer... all linked to your business name.  

Why is this so important?

Google Knows Where You Are....
WARNING... This next part has some apocalyptic overtones.  I am sure there is some debate as to when exactly Google will go Skynet and become self-aware and have a bunch of Terminators running around wiping out humans.  Let’s just say that in the past few years Google has taken another step towards that - Google wants to know where you are, when you interact with one of their tools.

Thanks to our lack of robotics technology, I don’t consider Google knowing where I’m located a bad thing.  As a matter of fact, they use that information, along with what I am searching for to help connect me to relevant information.  How does Google do that?

  1. I have an Android (Google) powered smartphone.  Everything from internet searches, to phone calls, to Google+ posts, to snapping a photo can be locationally tagged thanks to GPS.   
  2. Any time one of my computers accesses the internet they use an IP Address to make the connection.  IP Addresses are like phone numbers that can be traced to a city/town level.  This may not be as accurate as GPS, but it’s still in the ballpark.
  3. I use Google Chrome as my internet browser on my computers and I allow it to share my location with Google.  I’ve shared my work & home address and using the IP address I am connecting with, Google can tell you if my laptop is at work, at home... or somewhere else.

Coming Full-Circle
As smartphones & mobile computing continue to grow, Google will undoubtedly leverage a person’s location to retrieve relevant information and search results.  Google Local provides you with an easy way of expanding the visibility of your business on the internet - by linking your physical location to the products & services you offer.