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June 29, 2011

Making the Most of Local SEO With A Google Places Page

Like most small business owners with their first website, I didn’t immediately understand the importance of keywords and search engine optimization when it comes to being found by customers who live virtually on your doorstep. And that’s where Local SEO is a key factor.

Statistics have shown that most customers will buy from businesses located within five miles of their base. It’s almost as if they trust a business more if it has a local physical address.

I now know that the key to getting on the front page of Google for local keywords is to rank in the seven-pack list of Google Places pages with one of those red balloons These are the websites that Google is giving away for free to those businesses that they recognize as being the ‘go to’ places for a particular service/product in that location.

Google makes the decision as to who gets into the top seven by the relevance of the website’s description to the search term, its proximity to the center of the location and how often they have seen that business mentioned in a variety of local listing directories/social media platforms. That’s what makes the difference between the award of a red balloon and a red dot.

However, as a small business owner with no knowledge of SEO, local or otherwise, I was not aware of the thinking behind the selection. I knew I had to have a Google Places page but, over the months, there was conflicting advice as to the best way to get one.

Some experts advised that an existing Google Places page should be claimed immediately to stop any mischievous competitor from taking it and messing around with the phone number or address whilst others suggested that it was better to get all the information needed to complete the various demands for company information and then claim it.

Still more said that, if Google had not already deemed you worthy by preparing a Places page for you for free, then you should just create your own and another group insisted that was wrong and you should promote your online presence until the big G had been nudged into noticing you.

The one thing that they all eventually agreed on was that you shouldn’t try to influence Google or any potential customers by stuffing keywords into the Title of your business listing. Sadly, it was too late for me because, by then, I had already submitted my entry with explanatory keywords after the main name of the business.

The next thing that became a consensus was that you needed to have an absolute address. PO Boxes and virtual addresses would not do at all since verification was now done via postcard and no proper address meant no possibility of proving that you did do business from that address. However, again, this became a fact after I had entered a second entry (with an incomplete address to preserve my anonymity as a home worker) because Google Places seemed to have eaten my first.

Two months later, I typed my keyword and location into the Google search box and discovered that both entries were now showing – and that neither had the correct details. To my consternation, one had a big red circle with a letter and the other the standard red lettered balloon.

That’s when I met someone who did know what they were doing and, under their guidance, we were able to start again and do things properly, in the right order, so that Google could present me with my own free website showing all the required information for local customers to get in touch.

The red balloons of Google Places are the key to getting found online. To find out more, go to For Essex Local SEO advice you can trust, visit