Sunday, November 28, 2010

Google Places Categories and Google Instant - Ideas to Maximize Impressions

If you've spent any time at all with Google Places, you know that a very minor change in the search can result in your business being #1 or #Not showing at all.  The addition of the state to your keyword (eg Mortgage Broker Los Angeles CA instead of just Mortgage Broker Los Angeles) by two digits like CA on the end of a search can change the listings.  Want to see a different list, then spell out the state. 

But this can also change radically by adding services or service or making something else plural in the search.  Google makes these decisions by how they find you business described elsewhere, primarily on your website.  So if you have your address as CA all over your website, then that will get you higher ranking when that is how the lookup takes place.  If you spell it out, your rank will drop under CA, but get better under California. 

So what are you supposed to do?  First of all, in choosing your categories, you generally prefer to select those that Google has offered as a Map.  This is where instant comes in.  You can quickly determine what has a map and what doesn't by making minor changes in your keywords in the search bar. 

But then, something else becomes obvious.   Google is giving you suggestions as you type.  That's half the point of instant.  Getting suggestions on what will provide the results you want.  You client might start typing in something that would go right to your best ranking on a map, but as they are typing the word, other options pop up which may cause them to stray away to a map that you don't do well on. 

So, in determining what categories you should list, begin by seeing what Google is recommending on Instant, then find out whether there is a Map for that.  You may want to double check with the keyword finder tool to make sure that more than 6 people per year look for that keyword.  Or alternatively, make a long list of the best keywords before you begin using instant to help make your decisions. 

Now you need to go to your website and make sure you are using these words on your front page in the same way, so that Google can confirm that you are who you say you are and do what you say you do.

P.S.  Google has just changed the rules.  They seem to be reducing the number of suggested categories on the set up page.  No clarity on whether they will also limit the variety of maps, too.  This is part of their new rule that says the categories are supposed to be who you are marriage counselor, not what you do, marriage counseling.

Google Places Changes the Rules on Listings

Just in case you were getting comfortable with the rules of the game, Google has changed the rules at Google Places, AGAIN.  Probably the most important had to do with how to use or not use descriptions and categories.  I could just repeat everything that another SEM Guru already said.  Better to just send you to her for a great analysis.

Key ideas:

  • You can now use your business name, city, or category info in your description, unlike the last version of the rules.
  •  Categories need to be who you are, not what you do.  What does this mean???  See the blog post noted above
  • A new emphasis on no geographic or Brand info in categories.
Creating the description and selecting categories are very, very critical operations.  Not abiding by the rules can result in getting suspended, delisted or just ending up with no visibility through page 10.  Not being careful enough to do the full marketing analysis necessary to wisely choose categories could mean that you have great visibility under keywords that nobody ever looks up, but no visibility on your most important key words.  

Google Places Expands Integration of Places with Organic to Pages Two and Three

Only 20% of search goes beyond page one of Google. That is why our company name is Page1Listings.  Being listed in the organic section of page one for searches important to you will generally result in 80% of those searching to see your listing.  However, Google might have come up with a scheme to encourage folks to check out page two.  By adding Places to the organic on page two and three, there might be a greater inclination to go beyond page one.

If you'd like to read more about this with a nice example pictured, visit this blog.

Now this is going to make a difference to you, the business owner in potential impressions.  However, it doesn't change your strategic plan.

What about Google Places Offers - AKA Google Places Coupons

According to some who claim to know Google has passed 1,000,000,000 downloads of coupons on the Google Places Listings.  I have reported here and continue to believe that up until now, the coupon has been way less than effective as a way to motivate decisions or actions by local business clients.  Google may believe that, too.  They have changed the name to Google Places Offers, and they have provide more prominence to the "Offer."  See below.