Did you know that one out of every five searches on Google pertains to a specific location? It's true. And from this bit of information, Google Places was born.
Introduced to the online scene late last year, Google Places is a Google feature that produces search results for local businesses. Some consider it a highly beneficial marketing tool for their business; others are unsure of any benefits their business could receive from this localized search tool.
Recently, Google Places has added some new and exciting elements to their features list that could bode well for some businesses, but maybe not all. You make the call on these features:
* Streamline analytics feature: Discover who is searching for you on Google, how they're finding you, and where they're coming from right before they enter your store.
Benefit: You can customize your marketing strategies based on what search terms customers are using to locate you. For example, if you own a high-end spa in upper Manhattan and you list services on your Google Places page that customers are using to search for a nearby salon, you might consider keeping those service descriptions on your Google Places page. You might also consider using those keywords in other online marketing platforms such as copy on your website, blog, and social media profiles.
In addition to tailoring your marketing copy, you can also hone in on where your customers are coming from, based on their Google map search for directions to your location. This allows you to consider options such as opening another store across town-somewhere closer to your clients who live farther away.
* Business Information Feature: In addition to posting your business location, you can also post a plethora of business information, including your hours of operation, contact information, photos, payment options, products / services features and benefits, printable coupons, and more.
Benefit: Customers can receive rewards for visiting your business by printing out your customized company coupons on Google Places. This encourages support for your company and helps to build long-lasting relationships with clients.
In addition to building relationships with customers, posting detailed business information also provides your customers with necessary information in one easy-to-read location. This streamline navigation feature reduces frustration on your clients and allows you to reduce the number of unproductive phone calls and inquiries that revolve around your hours of operation, directions to your business, and more.
* Photo Feature: Businesses can offer Internet users a behind-the-scenes (transparent) look into business practices and the faces behind the business. Companies can post photos of the office, the team members, where products are made, where services are offered, and more.
Benefit: Showcasing photos of your business is a highly effective way to open your business to your clients and allow them to build trust in your company. When you illustrate your transparent business practices, you are making it much easier for customers to view your company as trustworthy.
* Customized Code Feature: As more and more businesses begin to promote their Facebook pages and Twitter usernames on their business cards, websites, and in stores, online shoppers are no longer limited to searching main company websites as their source for business information.
Playing off this trend, Google has created a new feature for Google Places that generates a customized code for each business. This code can be placed on business cards, in-store receipts, and business websites. Customers can scan this code into their smartphones and be automatically directed to the company's Google Places page.
Benefit: According to a study performed by compete.com, smartphone users are interested in receiving some form of rewards on their mobile phone. 36% of participants said they would like to receive grocery coupons, and 29% said they were interested in scannable barcodes.
Taking into account these statistics, Google Places' customized codes enable your company to cater to the smartphone segment of your market. This illustrates that your business respects your target audience's time and takes every measure possible to ensure their preferences are met and their lifestyle is catered to.
Does Google Places benefit online businesses?
Although all of these benefits sound fantastic, there is one question that comes to mind. What if you're an online business with a virtual storefront? Can you still utilize Google Places' wonderful features?
Based on Google Places' guidelines, there does not appear to be any benefits for online businesses. Here's a glimpse into some of their guidelines to help you better understand this conclusion:
- Every listing must have a mailing address.
- No one business can have more than one listing per physical location.
- Businesses that cover a wide range of cities and states must choose one business location (it's recommended by Google that you choose the address of the company headquarters if you have more than one address). You can specify the area you cover, but you must have one address associated with your business.
- You cannot use a location where the business does not actually exist.
- PO boxes don't count as viable locations.
- You cannot have more than one listing for your business, even if there are multiple locations.
- If you are renting your property, it is not considered a place of business. Therefore, you must create one listing for the location that processes these rental properties.