Google Places Optimization Checklist, Part 2

Guest Post:  Adam Steele is the CEO at Nightlite Media. His expertise includes SEO, social media and email marketing. This is Part 2 of Google Local Results Changed the Game.


97% of consumers search for local businesses online. You definitely want to be there when they’re looking for you with Google Places for business.

Google wants to show its users the most relevant, up-to-date, quality information (including companies) possible. This is its mission and just one reason it is the biggest. As such, when it comes to optimizing your Google Places page, you should keep this in mind.

The following are some simple tips and guidelines to a successful Google Places page optimization. The quick tweaks will improve your chances of securing better positions for your business. Please keep in mind that Google Places is constantly changing, and what works at the time of this checklist may change dramatically in 30 days. Saying that, we have tried to keep to the things that have remained a constant for some time now.

Initial Process

  • Select the area/city you wish to target
  • Keyword Search: Put in a word that you “think” the average person would type in Google when looking for a business in your city. (NOT the name of a business, but a word or phrase.) Example: ‘Dallas electrician’. Google will suggest other popular words below that term. View the ones that are popular and record them. Make sure you deselect broad and select exact (on the left) and focus your attention on local volume/searches, not global.
  • Identify keywords you would like to dominate in your local town/city and search them for yourself. Not all keywords will trigger Google Places. So, you need to make sure the ones you go forward with bring up Google Places results when you search for them.
  • Record on a piece of paper the top 5 -10 keywords and rank them in order of priority (keep on hand).


  • Set up a Gmail account if you don’t have one already here.
  • Search for your company to see if an existing Google Places page is already setup. Go to and put in your phone number with area code to see what comes up. Try more than one phone number if you have more than one for your business.
  • If after you check, you DO have a page, then you will simply want to “Edit Page” if there is anything you want to change (check below to see if your current Google Places page has the appropriate content listed below.) If you do NOT have a page after entering your phone numbers, then you will want to create one!

Creating A Google Places Page

  • After you have created a Google account, you will want to set up your Page. Answer every question (Leave nothing undone – Google views this as “incomplete”.)
  • Company Name (Without keywords) DO NOT get fancy here. Stuffing your title with keywords is just going to get you in trouble. In the past, stuffing the title offered an SEO advantage, but now it is both risky and unnecessary. Simply put your business name here as it is recognized everywhere else.
  • Street Address: Your business address as it occurs everywhere else online and offline. Consistency and accuracy are KEY. If your business has existed for some time, try and search your own address. Look for the most popular address for yourself and go with that one if it’s applicable–otherwise update it. You would be wise to go back and adjust all those addresses that are different than what you use in your Google Places page. NOTE: If later you decide to make any changes to your address, Google will very likely request to send you a post card before updating.
  • City/Town: Self Explanatory. NOTE: This is the city that you will have the best chance of ranking in for your keywords.
  • Main phone: Same principle as your street address. Take a look how your phone number appears already online. Is it in (xxx) or xxx? You want it to appear in Google Places the same way it does elsewhere online.
  • Website: Use http://www. You want it to be hyperlinked.
  • Description: I would typically suggest using the same one that occurs in your site’s meta data (description tag) for consistency. Keyword rich is fine, but don’t make it spammy. Also, consider your click through rate (CTR). Searchers will see this, and decide whether they want to click or not so don’t be afraid to be a bit ‘salesy.’
  • Category: Few things to know here. Stay the heck away from city modifiers. That is, your category should be ‘electrician’, NOT ‘Dallas electrician.’ Doing the latter will get you in trouble. Google gives you 4 custom categories and one pre-defined. Make good use of them and align them with the keywords you want to rank for. Similar to the Company/Organization field, categories are being screened and the same sensitive keywords apply. Custom categories don’t really have to be too coherent. If you have a lot of keywords you are targeting, try and combine them with other keywords, but again, not too spammy.
  • Service Area and Location Settings: Pretty self explanatory. It is commonly used if you are using an address outside of the city/cities that you want to rank in OR you want to rank in all your surrounding cities. Use this function to define your service area(s). NOTE: You aren’t going to rank in San Fran, if your address is in Austin. Obvious, I hope. However, if your address is in the suburb of San Fran and you want to rank in San Fran and its surrounding suburbs is doable. Being outside of the city you want to rank in puts you at a disadvantage. If you are trying to rank for a competitive keyword and you are not located in the city you want to rank in, you could be hooped.
  • Hours & Payment: Just make sure this is consistent with everything else that is published online.
  • Photos: Yes, you should add photos. Photos uploaded should be saved as ‘cityname-state-keyword’ and then uploaded. Google also gives you the option to “Add a photo from the web.” I like to add a picture from the website. This creates a connection between your Google Places page and your website. This is a good thing.
  • Videos: Yes, you should add video preferably of a testimonial like a customer (not you). These can be YouTube videos. Remember to make sure your files are named after a keyword.

Verification: More than likely Google will want to send a post card. The post card typically takes 5-8 business days to arrive. When it arrives, log back into your Google Places dashboard and enter a PIN code to verify and activate your listing.

Similar to my last post, there is a perk for reading. This articles perk is 3 months of FREE Google Places page optimization…a $300 value!! To enter the draw, send your answer to the following question to Also, if you like some of the tips above, follow me on twitter for more at

Question: In the categories section of your Google Places page, doing what can get you in trouble?

Are You Ready to Start Your Own Business?

Posted January 20th, 2011 in homepreneur, Small Business Tips by Mara

startThe life of an entrepreneur isn’t for the faint of heart – but for every risk, there is an opportunity for huge gain. The thrill of success is made even better by knowing that it’s YOUR dream being realized. What could be better than being your own boss, running your own small business?

Keep in mind that before you jump in with both feet, it’s important to make sure you can swim. Being prepared and going in with the right attitude and information sets you up for success.

Two years ago, Alexa von Tobel launched, a website dedicated helping and teaching women to manage their finances. In a recent blog post, Alexa outlines her top tips for starting your own company – and she’s got some great points.

Continue Reading »

Top 10: Our Best Small Business Blogposts


Over the last year we’ve written a few articles on running an online business (hopefully you’ve found some of them to be helpful!). We have also had a few terrific guest bloggers and reviewed some expert speakers. Because our customers often email us with similar questions – about SEO, paid search, and the like, we thought it would be helpful to compile some of this information in one place. You might want to bookmark this post for reference!

#10 How to Boost Holiday Sales

#9 How to Optimize Your Website for Local Search

#8 New Year’s Resolutions for Small Business Success

#7 10 Free Software Apps to Manage your Business and Cut Costs

#6 10 Website Mistakes to Avoid

#5 Thoughts on Customer Service with Shep Hyken

#4 3 Secrets to Getting More Customers

#3 Using Paid Search to Increase Your Traffic

#2 How to Build an Army of Brand Loyalists (guest blog by Jonathan Kay)

And presenting the #1 blogpost of the past year…. *drum roll*

Basics of Search Engine Optimization (John Lyotier of

**Bonus** 3 Ways to Convert Website Traffic into Customers

Public Relations Tips for Small Businesses (Homepreneur Website Makeover: Part 3)

Posted May 26th, 2010 in homepreneur, Small Business Tips by Patrick

ferraris-with-maxToday we welcomed our Homepreneur of the Year runner-ups, Mike and Mary Ferrari of to our office. They stopped over in Vancouver on the way home from one of their vacation cruises (not a bad life eh?), so we thought it would be nice to meet them and get started on their website makeover.

Through, Mike and Mary sell celebrity fashions and have experienced some real online success – generating over $25,000 per month in revenue and 1500+ monthly unique visitors! It’s a great start, but we found that the Ferraris could still improve their search engine optimization, PPC, and overall public relations/social media efforts.

Public relations are essentially the game of selling stories through the media to a large group of potential customers. The payoffs can be huge, with the implied endorsement and additional credibility from the media spotlight – be it TV, radio, print, or blog. Here are a few basic PR tips I gave them that you can apply to your own business:

1. Know your audience.
Any good campaign starts with research. Before you pick up the phone or send out an email pitch, ask yourself:

  • What does this publication or journalist cover?
  • What were their last three stories like?
  • Who is their readership?

2. Only pitch brands and businesses appropriate for that publication’s news.
You probably don’t want to waste your time pitching Forbes Magazine if you are doing three sales a month from your home. However, there might be plenty of small business publications that are a perfect fit your story.

3. Seek only media exposure that is relative to your brand AND your customer.
The end goal of public relations for most small businesses is to increase sales. Consider the following:

  • Do your customers read this publication?
  • Would your story convince readers to buy?

4. Sell your story, but prepare backup pitches.
No editor is always going to go for your first story idea. Create a few alternate storylines that you can quickly slide over to if the editor/reporter is not loving your initial brilliant pitch. For example, a couple of story angles for could be:

  • How to dress while on a budget
  • How certain clothing can you make look skinnier
  • How to shop for certain niche brands

5. Create an event calendar.
Timeliness is everything in the world of news. You don’t want to miss out on an event that might be a cornerstone of your industry (e.g. Oscar Night for the Ferraris, or National Small Business Week for as this creates many opportunities for pitching and dialogue. Take the time to plan out the next year, and mark down the “can’t miss” events – you can often piggyback off their momentum for your next pitch.

6. Foster relationships.
As with most aspects of life, relationships can help you grow exponentially. Don’t be discouraged if an editor doesn’t reply, or hangs up on you. Continue to pitch appropriately and become a valued resource for information in your field. Once you have demonstrated your industry credibility, your likelihood of landing a story becomes all the greater.

Many people underestimate the power of effective public relations and overestimate its cost. You don’t need to hire a specialist, and there is no secret – you just need a bit of research, creativity and courage to pitch your business. Media coverage is invaluable no matter what industry you’re in, and everyone has a story to tell. So get out there and start pitching!

Written by Patrick Lok, Town Crier at