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Google Places isn’t just another social media fad or passing idea. It’s now an integral part of Web search as we know it.

What is it? It’s a platform that lets businesses interact directly with their customers online. It’s also a powerful tool for attracting new prospects and customers, and it helps you rank higher in the search engines. (especially Google…)  It really is Google’s answer to a combination of Facebook, LinkedIn, Four Square and other platforms. But to summarize what it means for your business – It is a free tool to help potential customers find you, online, both with their computer, but also with their phones.

DO IT NOW -Sign Up For Google Places

You may already have a Google Places listing! If your business has been reviewed online, you’ll be there. But, if you haven’t claimed it, you have no control over it, and that could be a very bad thing!

First, go to Google Places and search for your business. If you do find it, click on the link that says ‘business owner’ on the upper right-hand part of the screen.  You will edit your information and verify that you’re the owner of the business. This is done by submitting a phone number to which Google calls to verify. You can also do it by mail.

If you don’t find your listing, it takes just a few minutes to sign up. Create a Google ID first, and then follow the steps it will walk you through.

Tips to Optimize Your Listing

Treat your Google Places listing as if it were your website. Keyword-optimize your listing and tell potential customers what your business is all about.  Make sure to list all the areas and locations where you operate. Be sure to complete your entire listing. If your listing is incomplete, it won’t appear in searches, and you won’t get all the value from it.

Branding is extremely important with Google Places. Use the same logos and images that are used elsewhere so that your brand is consistent. You can also improve your site’s ranking by linking all of your other sites and social media profiles to your Google Places listing.

What Not To Do on Your Google Places Listing

Although you might be tempted to keyword-stuff your listing / profile, don’t do it. Write for humans.  Google’s search spiders and the algorithm they are based on is really, really smart.  It takes into account LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing), and will recognize that you are just jamming your keywords in, and you will hurt your profile – ie: they won’t offer it up when people search. Do not add keywords to your business name – unless it really is your business name. If you are a franchise, or know that a lot of businesses have the same name, you can add a geographical indicator after your business name, like Joe’s Pizza – Austin TX.

When you enter your address, be sure it is the same as on all other information. If you write out ‘Street’ elsewhere instead of abbreviating it ‘St.,’ stay consistent.  Make sure that you use a street address and not a post office box.  Don’t add landmarks or cross streets or anything like that.  It integrates with Google Maps, and it will just make it so that it will not work, and guess what – you will not get all the “Google Goodness” that you want…

It really is important.  Go do it now.