Columnists Brad Simon Internet Marketing Strategies: Google Local Business Center

Internet Marketing Strategies: Google Local Business Center

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During the past year, Google has made some major changes in Local Search, making it vitally important that every brick-n-mortar retail business establish their Local Profile in Google.  Search Engine Marketing is very competitive, and getting your business to show up for prime keywords such as “jewelry” or “diamonds” has been nearly impossible unless your website has been established for those terms for several years.  However, this past year Google made some major changes which tip the scale in favor of local businesses.  And the best part is, setting up your account in the Google Local Business Center is easy and FREE.

Google Maps is the center piece of the Google Local Business Center.  Whenever you perform a local search in Google, their map displays right at the top of the listings showing several local business carrying that product or service.  In the past Google would display either 3 businesses (most commonly referred to as the 3-pack or 3-box) or 10 businesses (most commonly referred to as the 10-pack or 10-box).  In November 2009 Google removed 3 from the 10-pack listings to make local search even more competitive – the 10-pack is now the 7-pack!

This makes it even more important to optimize your listing in the Google Local Business Center.  Regardless of how large a city you are in or how many companies sell your products or services in your area, the most Google will display on the first page of Google Maps is 7 listings.

In April of 2009 Google started displaying local search results for NON local search queries! This is generally displayed as a Google Map 3-pack about half way down the listing pushing traditional online business off of page one and replacing them with local businesses.  This means that if a potential customer in your area does a search for “jewelry’, “diamonds”, or any other product or service you offer, your store can be displayed in the listing even if they do not include a local search term such as city or zip code.  So, you see that it’s now even more imperative to get in on this market now as it’s expanding wildly.

To set-up your Google Local Business Profile you need to use a computer with Internet access inside your store.  Google will call to verify your listing.  You will need to answer the phone number listed and enter the verification number given.

To start it is best to go to Google Maps at www.maps.google.com and type in the name of your business and city where you are located.  Scroll through the listings until you find your business and then click on “more info”.   A page about your store will appear.  At the top of the page click on “Business Owner?” and you will be taken to Google’s Local Business Center.  Here you will need to either sign into your Google account, or if you do not have one, you can set it up.  Following these steps will associate you with your Google Map listing and not create a duplicate business.

If your business does not show up in Google Maps, go to www.maps.google.com and click on the link “put your business on Google Maps”.  This will also take you to Google’s Local Business Center to sign into your account.

Once you have signed in you will be taken to a page with a form on it with information about your business.  Fill out the form putting as much information as possible.  Google cannot list you in a search unless they know your business relates to it.  So the more information you provide Google, the better your chances of showing up in a 3-pack or 7-pack listing.

When filling out the Description box include geographic qualifiers and list all your products and services. The description needs to include all the keyword phrases/terms you want to be found for when someone does a search. This is one of the major criteria for getting placed into the Local 3-pack or 7-pack on Google queries. Make sure you work them in naturally of course.  The description should always be in readable sentences, not just a list of keywords.

Make sure to put in your local phone number as it may encourage potential customers to call. Do NOT use an 800 number as Google prefers you have a local number, and it helps establish your geographical area.

Once you have filled out all the required information click Next.  On the next page you’ll find another form to fill out.  MAKE SURE YOU FILL OUT EVERYTHING.  Remember the more you give Google the more Google will list you.  This is a long page to fill out but it’s really pretty easy.

Under Categories you can add up to 5 categories.  ADD ALL 5 CATEGORIES.  These categories are similar to the old yellow page book sub-headings.  Type in the most appropriate heading for your store and then click “Add another category”.   Repeat the process until you have a total of 5 different categories related to your store.

Fill out your Hours of Operation, Payment Options and list as many Brands carried as permitted.  If you don’t list your brands here Google will not know to list your store when someone searches for that brand.

It’s definitely a good idea to add a company image, pictures of your products, and video in this section. The more you can do to set your listing apart from the other stores in your area the better!  Remember that getting listed in a 3-pack or 7-pack is becoming very competitive.  One picture or YouTube video more than your competitor may be all you need to get listed and push them off the list.

It is best to fill out this form as completely as possible now.  However, you can always come back to this form and change or add additional information later.

Then click on the Submit button and you’re almost done! On the next page they need to verify you’re a real business so they will either call you or mail you a postcard with a verification code on it. For the sake of expediency use the Call option since the postcard can take 3 to 6 weeks!

The only time I would recommend using a postcard is if you are located in a new development and Google does not have your street address on their map.  By having them send a postcard to your address to verify your business you prove to them the street does exist.

If the marker on the map is not in the correct place you can drag it to the proper location.  This is important as your new customers will use this map to find your store.  Having the marker on the right side of the street or in the right place in a strip mall goes a long way towards them finding you easily.

When you click the “Call Me Now” button the phone will begin ringing.  A computerized voice will give you a PIN number to type in, and that’s it.  You have now created your Google Business Listing and linked it to your Google account so that no one else can change any of your information.

Now on this final page you’ll see a link to Learn more about Coupons.  This might be a good idea to take advantage of yet another way to call attention to your listing over your competitors.

Guess what comes after you click that Add a Coupon now button? Yup, you guessed it, another form to fill out. Type in your store’s name, a headline for the coupon, and details.  In the description you may want to include a phrase such as “Print Coupon and bring into store.”  This will help you track the effectiveness of the coupon.  You can also add an image and set an expiration date if you want.

So while there are a few forms to fill out, this is a pretty easy process and it is VERY effective.  Few stores have claimed their listing on Google Maps.  Optimizing yours will help your store receive top listings.

For more information on marketing your jewelry store on the Internet, getting higher search engine rankings, or using the Internet to keep in touch with your existing customers visit www.Internet4Jewelers.com You can follow Brad on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BenchJeweler.

 
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