As recently as 10 years ago, if you needed to find the best place to get your tire changed, you would have relied on recommendations from friends, signs by the side of the road or even the phone book. Now the most common way to find any local business is via the Internet. Every day, people use GPS technology on their smart phones to find the closest hair salon or search for a 5-star Thai restaurant, refusing to finalize dinner plans before comparing reviews. A shift in the available technology has changed our habits and given users greater access to even the smallest mom-and pop businesses.
Why set up a Places account?
The main reasons you, as a business owner, should set up a “Places” account are:
- To become more accessible on search, maps, social networks and via mobile devices
- To give customers correct, accurate information about your business’s locations, hours and brand
- To receive customer feedback and reviews in one central place
- To add photos or specialties in order to advertise your business and make it stand out from the competition
- To access analytics that will tell you where your users are searching from, what they are searching for, etc.
Where to set up an account
As a business owner, you should first identify which “Places” accounts you would like to set up. The three most heavily-trafficked Places services are:
- Google Places
- Bing Places for Business
- Yahoo Local Listings
Without a doubt, Google is the most well-known and crucial service; all DROID phones- about half of the smart phone market- run off of Google services. This means millions of phones already have Google as their default map program, GPS locator, social network, etc. Google is also the number one search engine on the Internet with well over 85% of the market share.
How to start:
On Google, you will start the process by searching for an address on the map. Upon finding the correct address, Google will ask you to enter your business details such as name, phone and category. As of 2013, Google no longer allows users to create “custom” categories and all users must select from the pre-determined choices.
Claiming an existing listing:
Alternatively, Google may find a match for your business that already exists. This data may have been collected from third party providers or Google users. If this is the case, you will be prompted to “claim” the business as your own, thus gaining the ability to edit the business information and inheriting any existing customer reviews.
Whether you created a listing from scratch or “claimed” it from a pre-existing listing, you will be asked to verify that the business belongs to you. Google does this to prevent against fraudulent claims and make sure the business owner can accurately represent their services.
During the verification process, Google will send the business owner (that’s you!) a PIN verification via postcard to the indicated address. Google may also call the primary phone number listed for the business as a means of verification. Your verification options are limited to Google’s data – in other words, sometimes you’ll have the option to verify by phone, and sometimes you won’t.
What’s in a listing?
Google listings consist of the following:
- General information (business name, address, contact info, category, hours, intro/tagline)
- Customer reviews (from Google and around the web)
- Google Plus page
- Insights (analytics for your listing)
Google Places no longer allows videos, but does allow videos on a Google Plus page, or on a YouTube account connected to the listing.
Bulk upload is available for Google Places here: https://www.google.com/local/manage/. Before proceeding with bulk upload, or any other location “management” tasks, Google will identify any data conflicts (duplicates, errors, etc.) and ask you to fix these. Google does this in an effort to maintain accurate listings for all users.
Bing Places for Business
This process starts much the same way as it does on Google – you will first be asked to search for an address on the map. You may also choose to search by the business’s primary phone number. Again, like Google, you may create a listing from scratch or claim ownership of an existing listing.
Either way, you will be asked to verify your right to the business. To verify an address, you will request a call to the primary phone number. You will receive a PIN, which you will then enter into the Bing verification interface.
A Bing listing contains most of the same elements as a Google Places listing:
- Basic business details (name, address, phone, contact info, websites)
- Additional contact info
Bulk upload is easier in Bing than in Google Places. For Bing, you can download an Excel template, even before correcting any listing errors, and get straight to work organizing your data in the correct format for bulk upload.
Yahoo Local Listing
Finally, you may opt for a Yahoo Local Listing. There are two types of Yahoo Local Listings:
- A free Yahoo Basic listing
- Yahoo Localworks
Essentially, the free basic listing is similar to a Google or Bing listing on the map search. While a Localworks listing is similar to a Google Plus or Facebook page. The Localworks listing is automatically included in 40+ local directories and allows you to upload video, staff bios, menus, send event invitations, etc.
The Yahoo basic listing begins by asking to identify your business’s basic information. If a data match is found, Yahoo will prompt you to claim the existing listing. If not, you may proceed to create a new listing.
As with Bing and Google, the verification process will be done over the phone. The Yahoo Basic account includes:
- Phone, address, store hours and website
- 1 photo
- Listing of products and services
- Yahoo Reviews
Because all three services will have visibility among different types of users and devices within your demographic, Lucid Agency recommends setting up and maintain a listing on all three. It is simple and takes just a little due diligence to maintain. After the initial set up, simply check in periodically to make sure all of the information is still correct.