Sunday, June 22, 2008

Promoting Your Local Business on Google - Part I: The Local Business Center

Most people think it costs money to promote your business on Google. Well, advertising on Google does cost money, but not as much as people think. And the most important ways to promote your business don't cost anything at all.

Your Google Business Listing

Google has a service called the "Local Business Center" where you can set up what amounts to a Google Yellow Pages listing. The best part is that this service is 100% free.

Example: [Chiropractor near Soquel CA]

In these Google Maps search results you can see a mix of "organic" business listings and what appears to be a single Local Business Center listing. Guess what one is from the LBC?

You're right if you guessed, "Dr. Z's MindBody Shop". It's the only one on the page with a picture and it's got more descriptive text.


How To Create a Local Business Center Listing

To create your own Google Local Business listing, you first need a free Google Account. If you already use GMail or other Google services, you have an account already. Otherwise, to create a Google Account visit https://www.google.com/accounts/NewAccount.

Now start by visiting the Local Business Center at http://www.google.com/local/add.
If you aren't already logged in using your Google Account, you'll need to do that now.

You'll probably be greeted by a form that says "Enter your business information below." Like this one:


Go ahead and fill out the form, with your basic information and click "Next". The following screen allows you to either "claim" an existing listing or enter a new listing.



Google may have obtained an existing listing for your business from some other source. You should "claim" that listing if there is one. Otherwise add your new own listing.


After that, Google asks if you want to enter some additional info about your listing. It includes
  • Business Categories
  • Hours of Operation
  • Payment Options
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Additional Details, where you can add things like "Parking Available: yes"


The most important things here are the Categories and a Photo.

Submit your info. You may have to correct some bits before Google will accept it. For example, I had entry for "Return Policy" that said "ALL SALES FINAL". Google objected to the "excessive capitalization" until I changed it to "all sales final".


Now you'll get a page asking you to validate your listing, and giving you two choices:
  • By Phone
  • By Postcard
By postcard takes weeks -- you really want to do the phone validation.


When you click "Finish", you get the phone validation screen:


If you're at your phone, go ahead and click "Call Me Now". In a few seconds your phone will ring and you can enter whatever code number they've given you.

Here's what the screen looks like while it's calling you:



And here's what it looks like after you've successfully entered your 4-digit code:

That's really all it takes. In the past, it may have taken several weeks for these listings to appear, but now it may appear in our index in less than a day.

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