So, you’ve got a Google Places listing set up and running at last – congratulations! You’d be forgiven for thinking that your work is done, but In fact nothing could be further from the truth. Whilst owning a page on Google is in itself a powerful tool in promoting your business, there is so much more you can do to promote both your business and the listing itself. The thing is, although you like to think your website is the ultimate source of information about your business, that doesn’t necessarily make it so from a search engine’s point of view.
Yes. In much the same way as, say, Wikipedia refers to various sources of information, Google will seek out information all by itself from a variety of reference sources. So as much as your site means a lot to you, it is only a single data point from Google’s point of view.
So, what chance do I have then?
Even if your website is brand-new, there could be a multitude of people already mentioning your business online. You might have even found that your business appeared on Google Places before you even clicked a mouse in earnest. This is the power of “citations” in action. Depending on how many times your business has been cited, and by whom, people might already be providing you with extra business that first found you online. But that isn’t reason alone to call it at a day there – why not get even more traffic?!
But I really can’t afford to spend more…
Luckily for you, many citation listings are actually free to register for. Sure, there are paid extras available if you actually want the additional benefits they can offer, but all it really takes is a bit more of your time. If you’ve already taken time to set up the Google Places listing correctly, you’ll already have a lot of the resources you need in place. As for the rest, well…being the owner of the business will be a huge advantage I’m sure!
What details can I be expected to provide for a citation?
The simple answer is anything and everything! Not all citations are built equal, and many will have different rules about what you can and cannot publish. The basics are simple though: you need your company name, address, basic contact details, your website, and a description about what you do that sets you apart from your competitors. You will also need to place your business in one of the many categories listed on the site – these are not all the same either, so do take time to find the right one that describes you best. Any details beyond these you can add are a bonus…
Where does the SEO come in to things?
The citation sources are often an invaluable source when it comes to localised search, and frequently appear in search engine results. Furthermore if you can get a website link in there, this will naturally provide some SEO benefit from a well-respected source. But really the best way to think of these listings is as another opportunity to represent your business online. Everybody wants to make a good impression, so if you can fill in all the additional sections on offer, you really should. Some sites will reward your efforts with a better placement on their website, but more than that a thorough listing is going to make your business stand out from the crowd and look more genuine.
What else I should look for in a Citation source?
When it comes to choosing sites on which to list your business, look for those that have the best experience in terms of customer interaction. Often, you’ll find some of the traditional sources you’ve heard of don’t have that much interaction right now, whereas newer, more social sites (e.g. Yelp) do. It is important to have this customer interaction in the modern world, so even sites like Facebook and Twitter shouldn’t be ruled out if you can invest the time into them. That way, your customers can do some of the work for you by leaving reviews and feedback about your business, which can be a great promotional tool in itself.
Can’t people leave bad reviews though?
Yes, but don’t be too concerned if people leave unfavourable reviews; people have bad experiences all the time, and it’s how you respond as a business that makes a difference. If a customer has a problem and you can fix it, you really should be taking this opportunity to show that to other potential customers. Showing a personal and more caring side online will actually hold you in much better stead than contesting there was ever an issue in the first place or taking criticism personally.
Anything else I need to do?
The only other thing you ought to do is make customers aware of your new online presence. Many of these citation sites have widgets which you can upload to your site to let them know where they can leave or read reviews. Also, you can just tell your customers too – if they’re switched on to the social sphere, they’ll be leaving these reviews online anyway. Although it might be tempting, you shouldn’t try to incentivise people to leave reviews – this is actually against Google’s guidelines.
..and that’s about it! As with all online marketing, promoting your Google Places listing isn’t just some SEO hocus-pocus, it’s also about promoting your business as well.