Utilizing Google Maps, Google’s local search technology, can enable your small business to appear in the local business information that now may be found in traditional search engine results.
Your top competition has spent years improving their website presence, creating compelling content and building inbound links, all done to make certain that they rank well in Google for their strategic keywords. Everywhere you have looked in Google’s results, for the past few years, you’ve seen them appearing in the top 1 – 3 spots in Google search results, and couldn’t figure out how they got there. Then one day, Google started experimenting with integrating their vertical search engine technologies into traditional search results, and the game changed completely. You no longer have just website-specific results when entering a search term. There are product listings, news alerts and (what we’ll talk about in this post) local business information.
“Web Design” was searched nearly 150,000 times according to Overture data in February. Does it make the website owners who have spent years optimizing for that term in a local market upset when they logged onto their computers yesterday, used their favorite search engine and saw this result for “Orleans MA Web Design”?
DJE Design and Development appears second for that search result (assuming you factor the local business listings as traditional search results) and it took less than 45 days to do this using Google’s own “Google Maps” service. The total financial cost for the submission was ZERO – it’s a free service provided by Google. The total time, from start to finish, probably was less than 30 minutes, and definitely less than an hour – including the walk to my mailbox (that will make sense later). This post explains the steps involved in utilizing Google Maps, Google’s local search technology, and how your small business can use the opportunity to potentially realize similiar results in Google’s local search results.
How Small Businesses Can Use Google Maps
Step 1: Register for a Google Maps Account
Registration is free and you just need a valid email address and a password.
Step 2: Add Your Business Information
Click the “Add a Business Link” to begin adding your general business information (title, address etc) and when you click the link, you should see a screen like this:
Screenshot of the “Add Business Information” screen:
Once you enter in your business address information, Google requires additional information about your small business, such as the main contact information (email, phone number, fax number etc), website address (make certain to put this in if you have one), business description, etc. Try to avoid overtly promotional descriptions. It’s best to concisely explain the main products and/or services that your business provides.
Screenshot of the Business Listing Information Screen:
Step 3: Choosing Business Categories
While you cannot list your business in every possible category, make certain that you do list your business information in as many applicable categories as possible (up to five). Of course I wanted to have my information listed under “search engine optimization”, but unfortunately, there is not a “main category” for that type of information. Fortunately, I was able to choose four categories that did reflect related business offerings and information.
My four listing categories are:
- Services – Web Design
- Services – Internet Marketing
- Services – Web Development
- Services – E-commerce
Screenshot of the Category Listings Page:
Once you submit your category information, you preview and verify the submission, and Google notifies you that you will receive a letter, which will contain a unique personal identification number (PIN) for verification purposes. This PIN must be entered into your account information, once received. Google indicates that it takes about 2 weeks for delivery, but I believe I received my letter (a 3×5 postcard) in a little over 1 week of time. Make certain to input your PIN as soon as you receive the notice as I believe there is also a time stipulation associated to the mailing.
Screenshot of the Confirmation Screen:
Step 4: Verify Your Information and Wait
When you receive your Google postcard, simply log back into your Google Maps account and enter your PIN information. Assuming you are approved, Google will list your local information the next time they update their information. My PIN submission went through on March 7th and I checked this information on March 28th, so it took less than a month for Google to update their information and list the applicable business. It could take a longer or shorter period of time, depending on when Google traditionally runs this update.
In addition to “Orleans MA Web Design”, here are results for local terms present from this submission (search results checked Wednesday, March 28, 2007):
- internet marketing Orleans MA
- web development Orleans MA
- web design Eastham MA
- internet marketing Brewster MA
Disclaimer and Additional Thoughts
It’s not practical to think that a submission to Google Maps alone will bring your business search engine success forever. No one knows how long or how exactly Google will incorporate local business information into general search results or what other competitors will use the same strategies going forward. There are additional factors involved in local search engine optimization as well, that can enhance and/or improve your position in local results, which in turn may provide a better opportunity for traditional search engine rankings as well.
More importantly, if you are in a heavily saturated market, there’s not guarantee that your listing will appear higher than the competition’s listing. It’s great if there are only one or two competitors in your local area, but for most businesses, that is just not the case. That being said, there seems little reason to not consider integrating your business information into Google Maps. It’s cost efficient (umm, again, it’s free), a relatively easy and intuitive process, and takes less than 30 minutes of your total time on the computer.
Additional Resources on Local Search
- 13 Ways to Promote your Local Business for Free from Graywolf’s SEO Blog
- Tips for Local Search Engine Optimization for Your Site from The Natural Search Blog
- Google Local Search Glossary from SEO by the Sea
- Help Center for Google Maps
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