This post is the product of a recent spate of enquiries I received, in essence each wanting to know How to optimise Google Places. However, my experience is that Google Places is pretty hard to optimise, this is because Google wants all businesses to supply the same data (great) and it will then bring your result forward if it is relevant (or sometimes if it is just well reviewed). From this basic overview it is easy to see why its fairly hard to optimise, but hold tight because you can optimise your listing during it's set up.NB: If you have already set up your listing, use this list as a check-list for things you should have done or still need to do - it is not too late.
10 Easy Steps to Success with Google Places
Your Company Name
Google want your real company name, don't mess around with it. However, if your business name is non-descriptive add a keyword or two to the end (eg Andy's may become Andy's Design Agency).
Your Company Address
This sounds a little mad, but people really do pretend to have a business somewhere it isn't... it means that small little villages can end up full of business in online directories but not in real life. Google (and Bing) will check your address, Google send out a post card with a code for you to activate your listing.
Your Company Phone Number
Do not use a non-geographic (0800, 0845) number, use a local phone number, this adds to the trustworthy nature of your listing. If you are on the road a lot use your mobile number, but have a landline too if you can.
Choosing a Company Category
This for most should be simple but here is a tip. Think about how people search for you. Use the most common category from the search pool (eg for me this is Website Designer) as your top category. The next 4 should be the categories you think you should be coming under. A handy tip is to try and avoid repetition.
Additional Company Information
Google Places allows you to add "additional information" to your listing. These are sets of blank boxes, but use them to describe your business. For example if you sell certain brands, list your top selling brands. The more information you can supply the happier Google will be.
Company Pictures and Videos
This may sound obvious, but if you are a shop put up a picture of your store front, possibly views inside your store and also sale banners - these are a selling space as well as a chance to show you are real. If you have videos on YouTube, link to them, again it all adds up in making Google happier.
A Company Account
Do not be tempted to set up a business listing in a personal account, I made this mistake once and Google really don't like it. My advice is if you are setting up an account for a client, always create individual Google accounts for them - you can use them for YouTube etc, but never use a personal account.
Your Company Website
An often overlooked part of Google Places, mainly as it can be taken for granted, is the website address. I have found through monitoring and managing Google Places accounts that you can do all the work in the world to make a listing better but if you do not have your own website in the listing you will struggle. Make sure it is there.
Create Offers / Coupons
Without a doubt these are the most often forgotten part of Google Places. But they are very useful. In essence it should only be repeating what is already on your website, but in reality it gives you another chance to sell. If you've a special offer (say 10% off if you use this code, or a BOGOF type offer) use Google Places to promote it, its quick easy and simple.
Get Real Customer Reviews
I can't emphasise enough the need for reviews to be from real customers, it is so easy to tell when they are not! And if someone spots one and tells a few people on twitter, you may suffer for it. So use an external party (not Google or your own website) to supply reviews, the likes of TrustPilot (you pay for this) and FreeIndex (this is free) show up on Google Listings and Google Shopping - make use of them.
10 is a nice number, but its about quality
If you need more help either leave a comment or pop over the Google Places Guidelines for help. The Guidelines are pretty clear and give some handy advice.