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.

Overview

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: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal. 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).

Submission

  • 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 http://maps.google.com 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 adam.steele@nightlitemedia.com. Also, if you like some of the tips above, follow me on twitter for more at http://twitter.com/nightlitemedia.

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

Happy Holidays from CityMax.com

From all of us at CityMax.com, happy holidays and a joyous New Year! Thank you for another great year.

It might be the holiday season but things are still busy here, between our annual ‘We Care’ Night (where we join up with the local community to give out 1500 bags of warm clothing and food to the underprivileged) and our own visit from Santa… check out the new addition to our office and our crazy Christmas challenges!

KIVA.org: Giving Back to Entrepreneurs Globally

It’s the season for giving! No matter what religion, race, or denomination you belong to, if you’re reading this you probably share our belief in the entrepreneurial spirit.

This winter, why not help someone else achieve the same dream? KIVA.org supports entrepreneurs all over the world through a micro-loan system – based on the same idea that Muhammed Yunus, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize created. This concept is based on funding entrepreneurs through the concept of microloans, rather than donations. Since 2009 Kiva has helped raise over $160 million in loans with a 98.90% repayment rate. For as little as $25 you can help fund an entrepreneur’s dream – so please join our CityMax.com giving team.

Read More

Annual “We Care” Night

wecare1Imagine being cold, alone, and having no roof over your head in the depths of winter. In our neighbourhood, Vancouver’s Downtown East Side (DTES), there are thousands of people in this position – and every year we try to make a small difference by hand delivering care packages to help make those nights a little bit warmer. Through generous donations from people and business owners just like you, last year our volunteers were able to hand out over 1,500 re-usable bags filled with items like:

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Soap and shampoo
  • Socks
  • Mittens and winter hats (or toques for us Canadians)
  • Snacks

Read More

3 Top Tips for Dealing With Information Overload

is-information-overload-taking-its-toll-on-our-brainsEmails. Twitter. Facebook. Blogs.

We live in an age of infinite information and perpetual data. It’s easy to waste an entire morning reading Tweets, watching YouTube and checking your LinkedIn. Sometimes there’s just so much incoming material that it is easy to feel overwhelmed and lose productivity.

So – how do you get anything done? How do you take action and regain your sanity?

Here are three ways.

1. Check your email just twice a day.

Yes, that’s it. Unless it’s a medical emergency or the Wall Street Journal calling to put you on the front page, do NOT stop what you’re doing to even scan it. Studies have shown that it takes as long as 20 minutes to recover focus if you are interrupted while in the middle of a task.
Read More

Ken Lyotier: Vancouver DTES Entrepreneur and Olympic Torch-Bearer

2010-02-11-ken_lyotier_07It’s not often that you get to meet someone like Ken Lyotier – a man who rose above his own personal challenges to create a well-respected, non-profit business by uniting a community more known for sad stories of homelessness and addiction rather than those of success.

Lyotier is the founder and former Executive Director of United We Can, a non-profit bottle depot that operates out of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. This week, we were lucky enough to have Lyotier come in and tell his inspirational story to us first hand during our weekly team learning session.

Like many entrepreneurs, Lyotier started off by identifying a problem that he was experiencing himself. While trying to earn a living by collecting recyclable cans and bottles, he found that the stores that were supposed to honor the refunds were often unwilling to accommodate the bottle returns.

With the help of a local minister, he and a friend decided to organize an event where people could bring in non-recyclable items for cash – he was overwhelmed with the response and energy it generated from the community.

“The buzz you get from people being excited about what you’re doing is better than any high you’ll ever get from drugs or alcohol,” says Lyotier.

After searching for answers to local recycling issues and working with the government and VanCity, United We Can was founded in 1995 and has grown into an impressive source of inspiration, empowerment, and employment to people living in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. Over the past few years, the organization has grown beyond the bottle depot to include other services that work well within the community, including a bicycle repair shop and computer recycling.

Along with being a well-respected member of his community, Lyotier’s positive impact on the community has also recently earned him an invitation to light the cauldron at the 2010 Vancouver Games celebration site after being handed the Olympic torch by Canadian singer Michael Buble.

Ken Lyotier is an inspiration to any entrepreneur and he also provides some food for thought. What business opportunities surround you in your own life? What’s holding you back? Use personal challenges to take a step forward and write your own success story.

How Apple and Microsoft both blew their new product launch speeches… full of hot air (and how you can learn from their mistakes)

As you may have heard, Steve Jobs (co-founder of Apple) and Steve Ballmer (Microsoft CEO) both recently launched massive new products – respectively, the iPad and Windows 7.

Both men are known for their brilliance and leadership at the helm of two of the most successful corporations in the world.

Both men gave keynote introductory speeches.

Both men have received criticism for their epic monologues.

Here is a hilarious edited version of Jobs’ speech – which should give you a sense of the slightly inflated opinion he may have of his product. It’s great to show passion, but not everyone can get away with this!

You can also check out the transcript of Ballmer’s more convoluted speech, complete with an excellent play-by-play critique.

My first observation was that (Ballmer) refers to his audience as users, PCs, developers, and beta-testers. He could have called them all robots; none of those terms are very human. Next I noticed how much of the speech is allocated to conveying that that very same community built–or rather, fixed–the OS. He made it sound like they’re all building a camel instead of a visionary or revolutionary product…

Takeaways
Whether you are giving a televised speech, a elevator pitch, or writing for your website, here are 5 quick tips to remember when talking about your own business:

  1. Keep it short and simple. Get to the point and don’t use unnecessary phrases or jargon!
  2. Use descriptive and specific words. Take it easy on the superlatives such as “great, awesome.”
  3. Be organized and relevant. Know the statistics that are relevant to your market and reference them – sparingly.
  4. Support your claims with information! Why are you the best? How are you the cheapest or the ‘greenest’?

Beware flowery or colloquial language. There is nothing more embarrassing than misused words when attempting to sound intelligent.

To your success and eloquence!

A Global Movement of Entrepeneurial People

2009-11-16-gew_nodate22This week, (November 16-22) countries across six continents will celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week together – an initiative “to inspire young people to embrace innovation, imagination and creativity.” Over seven days, the movement seeks to achieve four goals for young entrepreneurs: inspire, connect, mentor and engage.

As part of the week, the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards will be held in Kansas City, Missouri. Regional and national winners from around the world have qualified to vie for the title of top student owning and running a business while in school. Last year’s competition featured over 1,000 collegians from more than 300 universities in 11 countries, and over $150,000 in prizes. In 2009, the competition is even bigger – with our own Chief Evangelist and President Dean Gagnon on the exclusive panel of judges.

Great job to all of the entrants who have made it this far – we’re excited to see who will take home the top prize!

CityMax.com Wins a WebAward!

We’ve just received a 2009 WebAward for Outstanding Achievement in Web Development – Small Business Standard of Excellence from the Web Marketing Association! The WebAwards are in their 13th year and are considered “a benchmark by which all Website development can be judged.”

2009-webby

This is the second year running that we’ve taken home the award, and it’s an honor to be recognized in our quest to help 1 million entrepreneurs.

Congratulations to all of the other winners! Click here to check them out.

New Coupon Feature!

Have you ever wanted to make great-looking, professional coupons that your customers could print from your website?

With the new updated Coupon page type, now you can!

This great feature provides you with two different coupon styles to choose from. You can choose the more traditional Standard style, or go with something a little more contemporary and choose the Designer style. You’ll find several variations of each.

Standard
2009-09-22-couponss

Designer
2009-09-22-couponsd

With this feature, making professional coupons is simple! So go ahead and try it for yourself. Sign in to your website and go to ‘Edit Site’ > ‘Add Page’ > ‘Coupons’.