Why Google Places Is The Biggest Opportunity For Small Business In 2011

According to Google, 20% of searches on Google.com are local in nature. That means that of the +11 billion searches per month conducted on Google, more than 2 billion searches are location-based. If you’re a business that services a local area then it is time to seriously consider Google Places.

How Google Places Has Changed The SEO Landscape

In the second half of 2010 Google made some significant changes in how they displayed results for location-based searches. Before these changes were made, a location-based search would display a map within the search results with up to 10 business listings next to the map – this map would rank anywhere within the top 5 positions, depending on the keyword phrase.

After the changes were made, location-based search results (ie rankings) would include the Google Places listings, displaying each result in the same format as a standard SEO listing but adding additional information to the listing including address, phone number, reviews and star ratings. A Google Map is now at the top of the sidebar and moves down the page as you scroll.

The new Google Places updates mean that:

  • Rankings for location-based keywords now have up to 15 listings on the first page of Google.
  • Rankings that include Google Places information stand out much more than standard listings, increasing visibility and click-through-rates.
  • Rankings for websites that do not have Google Places may be pushed down to position 8 or lower, where they were at position 1.
  • Aggregator sites such as Wotif.com are being pushed down the rankings by local businesses that have a presence in the area.

Why Should Small Business Use Google Places?

There are many reasons why small business should use Google Places, including:

  • Google Places offers small business a unique opportunity to advertise to their local area at a fraction of the cost of any other form of advertising.
  • A small business owner who services a particular suburb has a very high chance of ranking at the top of Google for a number of keyword phrases simply by setting up a Google Places listing for their business (some location-based keywords might require additional work, but more on that later).
  • With Google Places you don’t even need to have a website. You can get up and running and rank at the top of Google simply by having a Places page for your business.=
  • People are increasingly searching on Google to find services in their local area. If you aren’t visible when they search for what you sell, you’ll be losing customers to your competitors.
  • The increased usage of smartphones (eg iPhone, Android etc) means that more and more people are using their phones to search on Google. And because Google can use your exact location through GPS targeting, they can show you location-based search results even if you don’t type in a location!

Perhaps the most important reason that small business should start using Google Places right away is because it’s still in its infancy. Like every new marketing opportunity before it, those businesses that start using it first have the greatest advantage in the long term (because it will become more competitive and more expensive to utilise over time).

Even if you are a larger company, setting up your Google Places listings will mean that your website ranks in each location where you have an office.

What Results Can You Expect To Achieve From Google Places?

When people search on Google they are either researching information, looking for a particular website or looking to buy a product or service… when researching, the keywords are generic and broad… when ready to buy, the keywords become much more specific. The most important thing to realise with Google Places is that anybody using a location as part of their keyword search is ready to buy, which means that the quality of the prospect contacting you will be very high.

The number of impressions (ie how many times your business is displayed to a searcher) and the number of clicks to your website, or Google Places page, will depend on the keyword searched for and the location of your business. Some keywords have a higher search volume than others, as do some locations.

In my next article I will share strategies you can use to start growing your business using Google Places. Please share your comments or questions below and I will do my best to answer them in the next article.

Alex Cleanthous

Alex Cleanthous

Chief Innovation Officer at Web Profits

Alex Cleanthous is Chief Innovation Officer at Web Profits. With more than 10 years experience in online marketing, Alex is always on the lookout for smarter, faster and more scalable ways to achieve maximum growth with minimum spend.