What's in a Name

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but there was no denying the “Google Local Business Center” was a bit sterile for such an exciting business resource.  Of course, uptight doesn’t really mesh with Google’s casual Friday image.  I think many of us gave a sigh of relief along with Google in April when the company loosened its collective tie and changed the name of their business listings service to Google Places.  You’d think that a major search engine provider who has put out extensive tutorials and tip sheets about selecting strong keywords would have been able to come up with something more compelling than Google Local Business Center the first time, but hey, they can’t all be winners.

Actually the name change had a lot more to do with restructuring the Business Center to fit seamlessly with Google’s Place Pages, the business listing service that Google unveiled in 2009.  The Place Pages really upped the ante for online business promotion and for search engines.

In case you have been living in a cave for the last 8 months and have somehow managed to completely miss Place Pages, the service provides Google users with pages of info on local businesses the turn up in response to their queries for local products and services.  The Place Pages provide images, hours of operation, customer reviews, etc.  Definitely a step up from just the simple name/address/phone number listings of the past.

For business owners, Google local Business Center/Google Places lets you reach your customers with relevant details about your business right from the word “go”.  You have a chance to make a first impression directly from their initial search results page.  Of course, that only works if you actually list your business through Google Places.

None of that is really news, though.  Google Local Business Center provided the same resources to business owners, including handy organizational tools and other resources.  When Google transformed Google Local Business Center into Google Places, they did a good bit more than just slap a new label on an old product.

Google kept all of the great business tools of the Local Business Center with a few significant additions.  First, Google Places now allows your business to list your service area.  What is more, if you don’t actually operate a brick and mortar facility, Google Places allows you to set your business address to “private”, a feature that was sadly lacking in the old Local Business Center incarnation.

Besides providing customers with more info about your business, Places also provides you with more info about your customers.  You can access information about who has been searching you, where they are searching from and other details that are invaluable for search engine marketing strategies.

If you have jumped onboard the QP code train (or would like to), then Places has an outstanding tool that allows you to generate a customized QR code directly from the dashboard.  Print it on your business cards and promotional material.  When scanned, the QR code will direct the customer directly to your Place Page.

Earlier we mentioned the images available to customers.  You can upload pictures of your facilities via the Place Page to give customers an enticing peek at what you have to offer.  If you are fortunate enough to live in one of the test cities, you can even get Google to come out and take the pictures for you.  The rest of us, however, have to tough it out and do it ourselves until that option if officially released.

Speaking of test cities:  On the advertising end of things, Google provides Tags that highlight business listings on Google Maps at a reasonable $25 per month.  You can highlight important features of your business, promotions, coupons, etc..  Expect to see a lot more about this as it becomes widely available to the business community.