Google Places is the single biggest change to the natural search results this year and considering the resources Google are investing in making the system work its something that every single website needs to start using.
At present Google Places results are shown for geographical queries such as “plumber in Leeds” as well as the more general “plumbers” query. In the future I can imagine Google will start showing these results for pretty much everything.
My feeling is that the recent changes are very positive. The old Google Local system wasn’t very good and the move towards a single algorithm will mean more investment and better services for website owners. Already the results are impressive, we’ve run some tests and you can now edit your listings and the changes will appear in the main Google Places search results in real time. Being able to change a Google search result in real time was unheard of until this new system rolled out.
Another big improvement is the way Pending Listings are actually being reviewed now rather than sitting in a queue for months. We’re seeing review times of sub 24 hours now which is excellent.
One of the strange bugs/features in the system is that the Places results are not using the URLs submitted via Google Local Business Center which means tracking tags are being lost.
This post is intended as a brief overview of the way to rank higher, for full details read the excellent Local Search Ranking factors article.
The first step is to get your business verified via post or phone and then to fill in your entire listing. Don’t miss anything out. Then make sure you tag your URLs with Google Analytics tags, you can either just copy the format below or use the Google URL builder.
The next step is to build some citations around the web, citations are the equivalent of links in Google Places. First of all you need to find existing mentions of your business and make sure they all use the same details, address, URL, phone number. Try tools such as Get Listed to see what information people know about your business already.
Next you need to generate some new citations from sites that Google trusts. The list below is a very good starting point. Full credit to this list of UK citation providers and this one too which is much more up to date.
Local Data Company
City Visitor (part of Infoserve)
We Love Local
View London (& every other city they offer)
All in London
Finally you need to generate some reviews. It’s illegal to write these yourself or to get your friends/staff/family/SEO agency to do it. The best way is to email your customers and ask them to add reviews for you on sites such as Yelp.