Google Local Business Centre tips
While you can't guarantee anything when it comes to Google, you can at least increase your chances of success.
(Disclaimer – this is by no means exhaustive so if you're serious about all this, check David Mihm's excellent 49 factors that affect local search ranking positions).
First of all, claim your listing if you haven't already. You do this by searching for your business in Google Maps. It's an easy process; go to Google Maps, type in your business name and click on the 'more info' link next to your result on the left hand side.
The next screen you'll see is your little place on the net; a page created by Google just for your business. These days the business info is being sourced from Yellow Pages.
Make the most of this page and update it with as much information as you can.
To edit this page click the "business owner?" link.
The next step is to edit your listing if you need to, but as you can see, it's very easy to hijack other businesses and claim them as your own (as we've experienced with our own clients from time to time – but that's a whole other story for another day).
So click the "edit my business information" radio button and voila!
This next phase is where the magic happens. This page is where you need to be thorough and be smart about the information you enter.
Most importantly, right from the beginning, make sure all the information about your business is correct.
The Company/Organisation field is one of the most important pieces of real estate, as it becomes the actual listing title next to the map in the Google results.
If you can make this slightly more keyword rich, this will give you more chance of a rank in the Google results.
But don't go overboard – Google's quality guidelines are fairly clear about not being spammy with your company name title.
So for example, if you sell solar hot water systems in Adelaide then try optimising your Company/Organisation name to be slightly more keyword rich; perhaps just add your location as well to your title.
Try something like: "Solar Solutions Adelaide".
Add as much information about your business as possible, upload as many pictures as you can, upload any videos you have, as well as adjusting your map marker position.
Then hit the submit button at the bottom of the page.
Next you'll need to verify your listing and you can do this in a number of ways. You can receive an automated phone call from Google and note down a pin number, or have the verification number sent via SMS to your mobile, or you can request a letter to be sent to you and turn old and grey waiting by the mail box (by which time you've forgotten you even made the update and wonder what Google's doing sending you a letter with some numbers in it).
Anyway, once you've got your listing verified and all under your control, you'll learn a lot about how much traffic you're getting from your listing to your website.
The reporting section is quite new and reasonably powerful.
There's also another really useful section, which enables you to create coupons for your customers. It's worth discussing this because I think it's also a way of Google subtly showing us the way of the 'future'.
You can create nifty coupons which people can print out, or display on their mobiles or even see when they're looking at your result on a Google Map.
Here are some examples...
And one for the map:
I think it's telling that they've created a coupon specifically for mobile devices. Google's been saying that 2010 is the year of the mobile, and many of their products, from Google Analytics (showing us visits from iPhones) to Local Business Centre Coupons are showing us how important mobile devices will be from a marketing perspective from here on in.
For more Online Sales expert advice, click here.Chris Thomas heads Reseo, a search engine optimisation company which specialises in creating and maintaining Google AdWords campaigns and Search Engine Optimisation campaigns for a range of corporate clients.