Yes it's a bold statement, but its true. Firstly lets quickly define what Google Places is as opposed to Google Maps or Earth. Google Places is simply the name that Google has given to the location relevant part of search and comprises Maps and Earth.
Now for the big news! Google recently (estimated early 2011) made a change to their search algorithm, and in their results display. If the search engine feels the searcher has 'local intent' they now show a Map on the side of the page and local business listings at the top of the page. (In the vast majority of search results these listings come directly from Google Places listings.) Even if you don't give a location in your search, Google uses IP address (PC/Mac originated search) or geo location (mobile originated) to make the results more relevant.
In the above example, the search is "Lawyer Sandton". You'll notice that before any organic results appear, the user receives a map and the Top 7 location relevant results- termed the '7-PACK'.
This example clearly illustrates that a Google Places listing will get you higher on the results search page that any amount of SEO on your website, based simply on the way Google now displays results.
So why have Google done this? When one considers that "...one-third of all Google searches via the mobile web pertain to some aspect of the searcher's local environment" (2010 Diana Pouliot - Director of mobile advertising at Google) it's easy to understand why. They're just making the results more useful and relevant.
Back to the attached example - notice anything about the 7-PACK results? Where are the big law firm brands? The 1000 staff, global companies that have design specialists weaving SEO magic into their websites? Well, they're on the next page in the organic search results!
The reason for this is that smaller operations (usually with a single offices) have existing listing on Google Places as they're owner run business and the owner has decided to list on maps/places. This listing is simple to do for a one location business, (must stress - a single listing is simple but optimising that listing is much more complex). But for a big corporate it's a big job and also not really in anyone's job description. Of course as bigger corporates turn to their digital agencies, who in turn bring in specialist location based marketing companies like Business Positioning Systems, these smaller operations will drop out of the 7-Pack because their listings wont be optimised as listings outsourced to specialists will have been.
Business Positioning Systems have been providing Google Maps optimisation services for almost two years now, but with the emergence of Google Places (and its impact on organic search results), these listings are now critical, and marketers are starting to realise this.
Neil Clarence (Founding partner bps) continues " We initially offered Google Maps as an add on to our Digital Mapping and GPS based offering but the demand for a complete Google Places solution is clearly on the rise. If you have a website you need a Google places listing or you will lose out as you'll drop out of top page search results."
As market leaders in location based marketing, the Business Positioning Systems Google Places service comprises numerous components:
- Listing verification
- Performance tracking
- Reputation Management
- Buzz Campaigns and review
Example of a BPS Google report:
Another example of the importance of an optimised Google Places is demonstrated below with Spur, one of BPS' first Places Optimisation clients.
Spur is displayed first on this Google places search for STEAK, EVEN though the location of the Spur is further away from the searchers location than the second results!
Why? Because the listing has been optimised.
How? To find out contact moc.enilnosmetsyspb@lieN.