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Help people find your local biz with a Google Places page

With more and more people using search engines and smart phones to spontaneously pick a nearby business -- be it an Italian restaurant, a plumber, or your business -- it's important for your local business to show up in Google Maps.
I do this all the time. It's so easy to click "Maps" on my iPhone, search for what I want, and get red pushpins indicating nearby places that match my search. I just click one of the pushpins to get crucial information that can seal the deal: phone number, website, and street address. When I'm on the go, it's great that Google Maps lets me get directions to the business, or give them a call. (Watch a video on how Google Maps on the iPhone.)

This all works the same for anyone doing a Google or Google Maps search on a computer.

As of late October 2010, a search for "restaurants portland" turns up the 7 Google Places listings in the normal space, and the map is to the right by the paid AdWords ads.

If your business is listed in Google Places (formerly known as Local Business Center) with full and correct information, someone searching Google for "[what your business does] [your city]" may see your listing in what is sometimes called the "7-Pack". Its current look is pictured at left; it used to look like this.

It's a map with a list of local businesses that match the search. Best of all: The 7-Pack shows up at the top of Google and Google Maps search results! Here's a video Google posted about how one person used Google Maps and the 7-Pack. (Note: It was the 10-Pack at that time).

Not sure if your business is listed in Google Places?

Go to Maps.Google.com and search for [your business name] and [your city]. If you see a red pushpin on the map where your business is located, check the letter that's on the pushpin in the list next to the map to make sure it's your business that's listed. You can also search for your business' phone number here to see if there's a listing on Google Places for it.

If you don't find anything, you can create a listing for your business in Google Places.

If your business is listed with incorrect address or phone information, you can fix that in Google Places.

How to make Google Maps more effective for your business

What a search for restaurants near our office looks like in Google Maps. It looks similar on the iPhone and Android phones. Clicking on one reveals more details, including - hopefully - contact information.

First off, you want to make sure that your business is listed in appropriate categories. This will help it show up when people search for those categories, or keywords. For example, if your store sells both running shoes and bicycles, you'll want to include both "running shoes" and "bicycles" in the categories section of your listing.

Next, it's crucial that all your relevant contact information is present and correct in your Google Places listing. On numerous occasions, I have found a business and called the listed phone number to ask a simple question while on my way to spend money there, only to discover the number was wrong. Other times I have found a business, called the number and found out they had a website that would have been very helpful -- but it didn't appear with the other information.

Ask your customers to review you on Google Maps. All they have to do is click on "reviews" or "more info" that appears below your address and phone number in your listing. Favorable, detail-rich reviews can help you attract new customers. Who wouldn't want to visit a a business they found in Google Maps that has a 4- or 5-star rating and several good reviews?

How to edit your Google Places listing

Search for your business in Google Maps (Maps.Google.com). Click on the name of your business in the list to the left of the map, or the pushpin on the map itself. Your listing will pop up in a white bubble, like the image above and to the right of Produce Row Cafe's listing.

Click the "more" option at the bottom right in the bubble, and then click "edit details" in the drop-down menu. Make your edits and click "Publish". The changes will show up after they've been reviewed by a person at Google. Other editing options can be accessed under the "more" link as well, such as moving an incorrectly placed pushpin (marker) and adding a review.

I recommend going back into edit mode and clicking the "Claim your business" link that appears in the top right portion of the page. This gives you more control over the details of your listing, you also get access to more features (like responding to reviews), and it may help you rank better.

Need more help? Go to Google Places Help for business owners.

How do I get my listing to show up higher?

Ah, there's the real question. Google doesn't say much about this, but here are some of the best answers we've found:

Can help your rank:

  • Claiming your Google Places listing
  • Accurate categories
  • Customer reviews
  • A website that Google ranks high in search results
  • Consistent contact information across your other listings around the web

Can hurt your rank:

  • No address, or just a P.O. box *
  • Multiple Google Places listings with the same contact information or business name
  • No phone number with local area code
  • Overwhelmingly bad reviews

*What about home-based businesses? Now there's an option for listing these businesses, too.

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