Okay, you can’t actually own your Google places page, but you can claim it and here’s why I feel you must. According to research from WebVisible and Nielsen, 63% of consumers now turn to the Internet first for information about local companies and 82% use search engines to do so, and yet only 44% of small businesses have a website and half spend less than 10% of their marketing budget online. Additionally, it appears that small business owners are somewhat behind the times when compared to their customers since only 41% report turning to online search engines first, while 31% still turn to yellow pages directories. Despite this obvious disconnect, due to consumer demand the tide is slowly turning away from traditional and “push” advertising such as printed directories, newspapers, radio and direct mail to online advertising that successfully “pulls” consumers to local businesses at the exact moment they are searching for a particular product or service. On top of this, the exploding use of net-connected and GPS-enabled mobile devices has only served to reinforce the wisdom of delivering your advertising when and where potential customers are spending their time online.
Local search and the market for local advertising is big and getting bigger. According to market researcher Borrell Associates, the local portion of online advertising will grow 18% this year, to $15.9 billion, more than online advertising overall, which is forecast to grow 14%. Recognizing this, Google made significant changes to their interface last October to capitalize on the growing demand for local searches. You’ll now notice that they have given top priority on their results page to Google places listings (formerly known as Google maps) in response to a likely local-oriented search query. When a potential customer searches for a local business the first seven or so results, referred to as the Google 7-pack, will now be displayed prominently at the top of the page after the sponsored links. Another big change is that Google has moved the user location setting to the left hand side of the page. This feature automatically detects your location based on IP address in order to deliver relevant, local search results. It can be changed by the user if Google should happen to get it wrong or if the searcher is looking for a product or service in another location.
While paid search advertising, websites and website search engine optimization are all important, it is a fact that many small business owners don’t have the resources to develop their presence online. What these changes by Google mean to you is that you can now claim your rightful spot at the top of the search results page when a consumer is looking for your business. You can do it for free and you can do it in less than thirty minutes. In fact, Google is going to display your results even if you do nothing. Unfortunately, if you don’t claim your places page, it may contain inaccurate or dated information. It may even have been set up by unauthorized or former employees.
Google’s focus on the local advertising marketplace is expected to intensify. It’s widely known that Google moved Marissa Mayer, its high-profile VP-search products and user experience, to VP-consumer products, where her main job will be developing new geographic and local services. Ms. Mayer was quoted in a recent article appearing in Advertising Age Digital stating “The core piece is really making the local business work.”
So if we accept the fact that consumers are searching for your business online, that the importance of local search advertising is increasing daily and that only four in ten of you have a website, it seems likely that these searchers may be discovering your competition instead of you. Here’s one step in the right direction. You must own your Google places page. Well, again, you can’t own it because Google owns it, but you can claim it, you can manage it and in the process, it’s no small benefit that you can earn that highly coveted listing near the top of the search engine results page when potential customers are looking for you. Still not convinced? Just don’t have time or don’t think you can do it? Request a free evaluation of your digital marketing strategy here and I’ll have one of my associates set up your Google places page free of charge or obligation.