You’re Really Going Places…Google Places

Local search is the name of the game, and in this very important game, Google Places is the only name you really need to know. So how do you make Google Places work harder for your business? Getting comfortable with Google Places is all about maximizing your Places page and then using the new Google upgrades, Tags, Boost and HotPot, to increase your exposure and rankings.

Let’s start with a quick refresher course on claiming your Google Places page. If you haven’t already done this, here is what you need to do.

  • Go to http://www.google.com/ and find your business, if you get to the places page and see this message, you know you still have to claim your page.

 

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  • Once you have gone through the steps to claim your listing, you will be able to add any basic information that is missing, including hours of operation, address and phone numbers. List your name, address and exact phone numbers as Google doesn’t take kindly to geographic or keyword stuffing. If you have a toll free number, you can add more than one phone number, but list your local phone number first as this will help to localize your listing.
  • You next step will be to choose your keywords, categories and description information. You can choose up to 5 categories to describe your business, if possible use all five, but choose only those that accurately describe your business and avoid location words as Google doesn’t like them here. Your description, on the other hand, can and should include geographic or location keywords, while still being easy to read.
  • After this step is completed, it is time to add photos and video to your profile. Add at least one photo, even if it is only a logo or photo of the outside of your location. Also consider adding geotagged images to Google Picasa or Flickr. By adding geotagged images to these sites and linking them back to your Places page, you are providing Google with additional geographic data. You can also add up to five YouTube video URLs and since YouTube is now a Google company, it certainly won’t hurt to do so. Video is an engaging medium and adds a compelling image to consumers who visit your Places page.
  • Ratings and reviews are important to your rankings, so ask frequent customers to rate you online. It’s not advised to post your own reviews, but if you can get a few positive reviews online it will certainly help the cause.

All of these factors go into helping improve your ranking because Google takes several things into account when providing search results.  The three primary factors are:

  • Relevance – Google only shows you those listings that are relevant to your search. For example, if you search for sporting goods stores, they won’t show you listings for car dealerships and fast food chains.
  • Prominence – Prominence is determined by how well known those stores are based on sources across the web.
  • Distance – Distance is calculated based on how far the stores are from the locatiaon you typed in your search or from your general location.

Now that you have claimed and optimized your Google Places page, let’s take a look at what’s going on with the newest additions to the Google arsenal…Tags, Boost and HotPot.

Google Tags help your organic listings to stand out on a Google results page or a Google Maps search results page.  Google Tags are the bright yellow marker that highlight when business have videos, photos or special offers on their page. They look like this.

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Google Boost is an online advertising solution that enables you to create an online search ad from your Google Places account.  A Google Boost ad appears in the Pay Per Click listing area with a special blue marker and looks like this.

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Google Tags is a flat rate, online advertising product.  While Google Boost is a per click advertising product. Neither affect the ranking of your business on Google or Google Maps.

Google HotPot on the other hand can affect the ranking of your business’ local search result.  It is Google’s new local recommendation engine that allows users to rate and review stores, restaurants, and businesses, and then share these reviews with friends.  When logged in, Google HotPot will also send you personalized recommendations based on the ratings you and your friends provide with the goal of providing you with exposure to new places you might otherwise not have visited.

As Google continues to evolve and add new products to its local search toolkit, it is vital that you have a firm foundation to stand on. Now is the time to ensure that your Google Places listing is claimed and that all information is correct. Firm up your Google Places listing now and start exploring the options available with Google Tags, Boost and HotPot.  Then see what happens to your local search rankings!

Google Projects Half of All Transactions to Be Mobile by 2015

Google executives recently detailed their projections for mobile transaction usage while speaking at a Direct Marketing Association breakfast. These projects included staggering numbers like two-thirds of all purchases and half of all transactions occurring on mobile devices by 2015. Additional projections reported by Google executives included:

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  • 80% of visual content to be digested through digital devices by 2015.
  • 5 billion people to be active on the web by 2020, up from the 1.9 billion active on the web at the end of 2010.
  • 10 billion mobile subscribers by 2020, up from the 5 billion mobile subscribers in 2010.
  • 53 zettabytes of digital information projected to be created by 2020, as compared to the 800 exabytes created at the end of 2010.

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According to David Shapiro, Google’s director of small business marketing, “Mobile will be bigger than desktop in five years.”  He also pointed out that “Mobile searches grew five times in the last two years.”

He went on to explain that searches are the “web’s killer app,” with mobile and search functions becoming increasingly integrated.  Shapiro explained that one-third of all Google mobile searches have local intent, with consumers searching for information related to where local businesses are located, what products they carry and what their hours of operation are.

Google to Compete with Groupon

After its failed attempt to purchase daily deals powerhouse Groupon, Google has decided to launch its own service to be called Google Offers.  Google has confirmed its plans to compete with Groupon after the Google Offers initiative was first reported on January 20.

“Google is communicating with small businesses to enlist their support and participation in a test of a pre-paid offers and vouchers program,” the Mountain View, CA-based company said in a statement. “This initiative is part of an ongoing effort at Google to make new products, such as the recent Offer Ads beta, that connect businesses with customers in new ways.”

While Google is not discussing specifics about the Google Offers program, CNN has reported that a Google fact sheet states that the new service will be a “new product to help potential customers and clientele find great deals in their area through a daily e-mail.”

In advance of the launch of Google Offers, Google has been on the acquisition trail.  They have acquired deal websites SoSasta in India, Grouper in Israel and Twangoo in South Africa.  Google has also hired Vertica Systems, a real time analytics platform provider, to analyze subscriber behavior and scale its business infrastructure capabilities.

Let the competition begin!

Google Announces Q4 Revenue Numbers and Change at CEO Post

It was another record year for internet powerhouse Google. Fourth quarter ad revenues increased 26% over Q4 2009, to $8.2 billion. Full year ad revenues increased 23.4% to $28.2 billion.

Google partner sites did their share to boost revenue numbers by generating $2.5 billion in revenue in Q4 2010. This represents a 22% increase over Q4 2009. Both aggregated paid clicks and average cost per click were both up in Q4 2010 compared with Q4 2009.

Total Q4 revenue for Google was up 26%, to $8.4 billion, over the same period in 2009. Net income for Q4 2010 was $2.5 billion, up nearly 29% over the previous year. Total revenues for full year 2010 were also up, totaling $29.3 billion, an almost 24% increase over 2009. Net full year income for 2010 was $8.5 billion, an increase of more than 30% over 2009.

In other Google news, Eric Schmidt has announced he will step down as CEO to become executive chairman effective April 4. He will be replaced by cofounder Larry Page.

Yahoo Sees 18% Decline in Search Revenue in Q4

Attributing its steep decline in search revenue to its agreement with Microsoft, Yahoo announced search revenue dropped $388 million, or 18% in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared with 2009. 

“Taking our search alliance revenue share into consideration, we were only down 6% for the quarter and 2% for the year,” said Carol Bartz, CEO of Yahoo, on a conference call. “Whenever you make big changes, it takes some time for the market to adjust, but we are confident that this will turn around this year.”

Yahoo’s display advertising saw more encouraging numbers with an increase of 16%, or $567 million, over the previous year.  However, total fourth quarter revenue was also down 4% to $1.2 billion compared with the previous year.  Yahoo’s net income was nearly $318 million for the quarter and $1.2 billion for the year.

The 4Q results reflect search operating cost reimbursements totaling $66 million from Microsoft under the joint search agreement.  Yahoo projects that search operating cost reimbursements will continue to decline in 2011 as it continues it transition to the Microsoft search platform and underlying transition expenses are no longer required.

Yahoo has announced that its goals for 2011 include a focus on optimizing price-per-click and increasing growth in affiliate traffic.  Yahoo also pointed to its strong performance in display advertising as an indicator of positive growth for the company.