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Optimize Google Places

Optimizing Your Google Places Listing

If you are looking for a free way to generate more business, then it’s time you focused on optimizing your Google Places listing.  As one of the most widely used business directories currently online, Google Places delivers real results.  It has worked for my handyman business, and I’d like to share how it can also work for you.

Update: Google Places is now called Google My Business and has changed since I wrote this post.  However, the tips I share in this post for optimizing your profile still apply.

Simply signing up for an account and adding some general information about your business isn’t going to yield great results.  You may get some business, but only if your competition is lacking.

Just like getting your website to rank in Google’s search engine, you need to put in a little effort and tact into Google Places.  Remember, Google is trying to return the best results to it’s customers (also your customers in this case).  So, they’ve developed a system of ranking businesses to determine their postion in the results.

The key is to optimize your listing to appeal to both Google and your potential customers.  I’m going to explain how you can:

  1. Get Google to put you on the first page.
  2. Entice customers to click on your listing.

To setup your free profile, click here for a complete guide (referred to as Google Places in this post).

Ok, let’s get started…

Step 1:  Write an awesome description.

This section will require the most thought because you need to say a LOT with only 200 characters.  You need to explain who you are as a business, the services you offer, where you offer services, and make it interesting to people.  Not an easy task when you only have 40 words to do so.

To appeal to Google (helps you rank on first page) try to include:

  • The most important keywords that a customer would use to find your business.  If you’re a handyman, the keyword phrase “handyman services” is a must.  Other keywords that relate to your specific specialty will work well, too.
  • Information on your service area.  What city, suburb, or other area do you service?  Since you’re limited on space, you may only be able to include your most important area.
  • Include any products that you may offer if you can.

In order to appeal to the customer which is equally important, you will want to make it interesting.  Don’t just list off the information above.  You need to compel the customer to first click, and then call.  The trick is to make it look good to the search engine and the consumer at the same time.

Step 2:  Choosing the right categories.

This part is pretty straight forward, but there are a couple of tips that should increase the effectiveness of your listing.

You have 5 categories to fill in, and you want to make sure they are all filled out.  Whatever you do, don’t leave any of these blank.

For your first category, use one of Google’s categories.  These are the ones that pop up when you start typing.  For the rest of your categories, you can consider using custom categories, but the first one should be one of Google’s.

My first category is “Handyman.”  For the rest of the categories, I recommend filling out your top selling services.  I regularly experiment with these to see if any specific words give me an edge.  Feel free to mess around with these until you find something that works.

Step 3:  Service area and location settings.

This part is cake.  My only recommendation is that you check the map on the right to make sure all of the areas you service are within the boundary and areas you do not service  are not in the boundary.  You can use zip code, area names, or just set a radius.  I used area names because it gave me the best control over the exact boundaries.

Step 4:  Add Pictures!

You can add up to 10 images in this section.  Add all ten pictures.  This will have a large effect on whether or not Google decides to rank you.  The more content you have in your listing, the better you will fare.

The first image you add is your icon and will be displayed in the search results when the customer does the initial search.  This image, along with your description, will help determine whether or not a customer actually clicks on your listing so it is the most important.

There are several images you may want to consider for your icon including your logo, your face, or possibly something else.  This is something that I can’t give a direct recommendation on because it is different for every case.  What works for one person won’t necessarily work for the next.

If you have a really great logo that spikes the interest of those who see it, try your logo for the first image.  If you have a great pictures that portrays you as a very accessible and friendly person, this may be your best bet.  If you specialize in building fences, a picture of a really nice fence may yield the best results.

Experiment to find what works for you.  I currently use my logo, but am planning to try a few different options in the near future.

Step 5:  Add videos to your listing.

As I said earlier, Google loves content.  The more content your listing has, the better your chances of ranking high.  You want as many videos, images, and information about your services that you can have.

I know what your thinking.  You don’t have any videos and who wants deal with setting them up.  I’m with you on that one.  If this is the case, go to YouTube and find videos that relate to your services and upload those.  Content is content, and only a very small percentage of people even view the videos.

Step 6:  Solicite reviews from customers.

Reviews are HUGE!

The number of reviews on your listing will help determine your placement in the search results.  The more and better reviews you have, the higher you will rank and the more customers you will get from Google Places.

Here is a snapshot I took after searching “New York Handyman.”  As you can see, all three listings have several reviews.

I’ve learned that most customers aren’t going to give you reviews unless you ask for them or you do a terrible job.  People are just too busy and once you’ve left their house, you’ve left their minds.  They’ve got other things to worry about like who to vote for on American Idol.

An incentive always helps make sure they follow through and actually rate you.  Offer them a few bucks off their next bill.

Bonus Tip:  Try sending a follow up e-mail thanking your customers for their business and provide a link so they can easily leave a review.

Reviews go a long way in pre-selling your services to customers as well.  Just put yourself in the customer’s shoes.  If you were searching for the best drill to buy and one drill had 35 five star reviews and another had zero, you’d choose the one with the reviews, right?  So would your customer.

One Last Thing

Content, Content, Content.  Make sure you fill in every field with keyword rich content.  I can’t stress this enough.

Just today I got a call from a lady who found me by searching “caulking contractors.”  Probably won’t happen more than once for that specific keyword, but my listing came up first because I have a ton of content in the additional details section.  The lady saw that I had several 5 star reviews and was pretty much pre-sold when I answered the phone.  Easy business.

Even if you’re not ready to put 2 hours into optimizing your Google Places listing, make sure and at least sign up.  You can always go back and change things around later.

Don’t pass this one up, it’s free business.

If you found this helpful, you may also enjoy:  Handyman Marketing:  Getting Listed Online

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  • ct contractor June 15, 2012

    Think I need to optimize my listing also

  • DARIN April 24, 2013


    • Big D April 25, 2013

      Your welcome, Darin!

  • Keith June 4, 2013

    What address do you use for your Google Places? I’ve read in SEO blogs that if you have a PO box -or- use and address that is at a Mailbox Rental Store, Google will not put you in places results. Big D, do you use your Mailbox Store Address and does that work? Since I’ll be working out of my Garage, I don’t want to use my home address.

    • Big D June 4, 2013

      My business address is at a local UPS store and Google Places does list me. However, I do not show my address as I don’t want my customers showing up at UPS looking for me!

      I’ve heard the same about a PO box though. That’s why I chose the UPS store.

      Big D

  • j October 29, 2013

    Just checked Google places and a lot of handyman have set up the account. However only one of them has really got it optimized. Looks like my next project. Thanks I never thought of this area of marketing.

    • Dan Perry October 29, 2013

      You’re welcome J!

  • jeff February 4, 2015

    Thanks D,
    with your common sense ideas and input I may actually get this thing off the ground lol.