The very first thing that is to be explained is what is Google Places and local SEO and why they are so important (and will be getting more and more important) for every business in the world.
Google Places is a product of Google Inc., which many could acknowledge as a kind of Yellow Page. There are many rules and regulations set by Google, some of which are quite strange, but overall the opportunity that Google Places give to every business owner is incredible. For almost any search, connected to product, service, business, Google would return thousands of results, but only the luckiest (or smartest) ones to appear on page 1 will get some piece of the big pie, because let’s be honest – no one goes to page 2. The results that appear are local, i.e. if you are currently in Queens, New York and you want to drink your morning coffee in some nice coffee shop, you take the mobile out of your pocket and search for the word “coffee shop”, or just “coffee”, and the results that will appear will be the most relevant for you, based on many factors, one of which is the proximity of the coffee shop to your current location. But this is not the only factor. In fact , there are more than 100 factors that Google minds to determine the best result for your search (the most thorough and authoritative list of these factors could be found here: Local Search Ranking Factors, however, it is not up to date and many major changes happened since this research was done). Currently, one of the most important factors is the company’s website and if it is optimized for local search.
Now, let me prove you that this must be probably the most important part of the online marketing efforts of every SMB (small and medium business). According to Google, 20% of all searches are related to location (other sources cite 40%), which makes about 3.5 billion searches per month. Unfortunately, on first page for each search, there is place for only 7 businesses, and as Google Places results generally show up over (or merged with) the organic (website) results, it seems that the appearance in this so-called 7-pack, is a must for every local business owner. And if you are not convinced yet, let me tell you that while you were reading this article, you lost business – a big load of business, which will probably never return to you. In the next days I will try to generally explain how you could try and get some piece (as big as possible) from this so delicious pie.