Things are (still) crazy out there, folks. Anyone who has even attempted to venture into the world of Google for local businesses knows that the way things work and look is constantly changing, not to mention the fact that it’s constantly confusing. The great Google+ Business, Google Places, Google+ Local debacle is arguably one of the most disastrous and ill-managed things Google has ever done. Every step they have taken to make things easier has only resulted in making things more confusing and leaving many a poor SEO/social media strategist/marketer/business owner feeling like this:
But, fear not! You can figure this mess out. There are mountains upon mountains upon mountains of articles and tutorials out there about which type of page is which and what you must do on Google+. Trouble is, most of it became outdated shortly after it was published. To help save the sanity of small business owners, I’ve compiled this list of steps for making your mark as a local business on Google. Before we get into the nuts and bolts, though, a brief history…
How the Mess Became a Mess
Regular, old Google+ came first. Then came Google+ Business, then Google Places for Business, and finally, Google+ Local. By the time Google “fixed” things with Google+ Local, nobody could tell what kind of page they had or, in some cases, where to start. For our purposes, think of Google+ Local as the child of Google+ Business, which allowed businesses to create Google+ pages for social purposes, and Google Places, which contains basic listings with a business’s name, address, and phone number. These Places listings supply location information for Google’s search results and Google Maps. Clear as mud, right? For a little more information on everything that went down, take a look at this handy little article.
Although it now falls under the Google+ Local umbrella, Google Places is still technically up and running, and that’s where Google wants people to start creating new listings. So, let’s do what they say.
How on Earth Do I Do This?
Setting up a Google Places listing isn’t as complicated as it might seem. To get started, visit this URL and sign in with your Google account. If you don’t have a Google account, set one up. Now you’re ready to get rolling.
- After signing in, you’ll see a page that looks like this:
- Start typing in your business name. Google will pull a list of businesses that it thinks belong to you. If you see your business (check that name, address, and phone number all match), select it and choose your verification method (more on that in a minute). If not, choose “No, these are not my businesses.” This will allow you to create an entirely new listing.
- If you’re creating a new listing, you’ll see this:
From here, you can start filling in your business information. There are a few really important pointers here. Following these rules will help make sure your listing meets Google’s quality guidelines and is nicely optimized:
- Use your actual business name. Please, please don’t attempt to keyword spam.
- Enter a physical address. No P.O. boxes.
- Use a local phone number.
- Choose an accurate category. Google supplies the categories and will auto-fill this field as you type.
When all of your information is complete, click submit.
- Next, you will see a screen that says “Verify by postcard.” Click the button, and in about two weeks, you’ll receive a postcard with a PIN number. Follow the directions for verifying your business and you’re all set. You can skip verification during set up and do it later, but you will have to verify at some point.
- Even if you opt not to verify during set up, Google will go ahead and create your Places listing and your Google+ Local page (essentially, the Google+ page where your business can post photos and interact with customers). If you skipped verification during the set-up process, Google will still allow you to see both your Places listing and your Google+ Local page. You will, however, have to complete the verification process to ensure that your page and listing show up for other users across Google’s products.
- Now that you’re all set up, you can edit your business information in your Places listing and start posting to your Google+ page. You can use your Places listing to do anything from updating your phone number to changing the location of the pin marker on Google Maps for your business. You can also manage your Google+ Local page directly from your Places dashboard. Simply click the Google+ Page link in the menu on the left (see below), and your page will open in a new window.
That’s really all there is to it. It’s easy to get lost in all of the talk about recent changes and additions to the various Google interfaces, but hopefully this makes setting up a listing for your business a little less intimidating. If you haven’t claimed your listing yet, I strongly suggest that you do so. Google’s got information about your business out there, so why not control what you can?
Have you used Google+ or Google Places before? What did you like or dislike? Share your thoughts in the comments!