Through Google Places, formerly called Google Local, you have the ability to create a high-quality free listing for your business whether you currently have a website or not. Of course the aim should be to lead the enquirer from Google Places to your own site where you can focus their attention on what you have to offer
While it's relatively easy to create the listing, it can be much more challenging to get your listing to appear on the first page for the keyword phrases you are targeting.
To that end, I offer the following seven tips:
1. Before creating (or claiming) your listing
It is important that you do thorough research. You should know what keyword phrases you want to rank for and what your competition looks like for the terms you intend to target.
I recommend that you do not optimize your listing for any keyword phrase that does not currently have a Google Places listing associated with it. If you search Google for a phrase and don't see a Google Places listing, it's best to choose another phrase.
After you've come up with the keyword phrases you plan to target (I recommend 5) it's wise to study your competitors listings to see whether their listings are complete. Have they filled in every field? What keywords are they targeting? Have they used their maximum allotment of photos and videos?
The answers to these questions will give you an idea as to whether you can expect to outrank one of the listings currently found on the first page.
2. Fill out every field completely
There are approximately 20 fields to fill out when completing your Place Page listing. It is imperative that you fill out each and every field as the omission of even one can negatively affect the ranking of your Places Page.
3. Utilize every available category
Google will suggest one category specific to your business and require you to use it. However, you can also add more categories and it is important to do so.
Using your keyword research, use your remaining keywords as the category names until you have used every additional category available to you.
4. You're allotted ten photos -- use 'em
It may seem basic, but it's true. Each business owner is afforded the same opportunities when creating their Google Places listings but many don't take advantage of them.
Google allows you to use up to ten photos and I encourage you to use every one of them. You can also enhance your optimization efforts by renaming your images to include your keyword phrases before uploading them.
5. You're allotted five videos -- use them too
As it is a bit harder to create videos than photos, you'll frequently find that your competitors fail to use their entire allotment.
However, you can create short "slideshow" type videos (which are merely a collection of photos put to motion) quite easily. If you search Google for the phrase, "slideshow maker," you'll find a number of tools that can help you make these types of videos online.
You'll need to upload each video to YouTube.com before you can add it to your listing.
6. Understand citations and build as many of them as possible
A citation occurs whenever an online reference is found for your business and services. In Google's eyes, it's a validation that your business truly exists and that it offers the type of services you list on your Places page.
It's important that your citations closely match the information found on your Places page. You can create your own citations by submitting your information to a variety of online directories including Yellow Pages, Thompsons, Yahoo Local, and othe Localized Indexes.
7. Get reviews and ratings
Google will automatically display reviews it finds on sites like yelp.com/co.uk, WalesIndex.co.uk, insiderpages.com and demandforce.com. Having a lot of positive reviews is not only helpful for your Google Places SEO, it can help you get business that might have gone to a competitor otherwise.
Ask your existing clientele to post a review of your business on the site of your choice and if necessary, offer them some form of bonus for completing the task.
If you spend the time to follow each of these seven tips, you'll be well on your way to getting your Places page listed on the first page for a variety of terms.
Just like traditional SEO however, don't make the mistake of neglecting your listing after completion. While you've completed the majority of the work, it's wise to continually build new citations, get more reviews and ratings and respond publicly to the reviews you receive.