There’s no doubt about it; Google has forever changed our lives and our businesses. This is especially true when it comes to Google Places. Google Places is one of the best and cost effective ways to be found online. After all, not only is it free, it also integrates with Google maps, so people can physically find you, and the Google search engine, so people can find you online. Google Places also offers a section for images, videos and customer reviews so future customers can learn more about your business.
Small business owners with only one or two locations find it easy to use. But what about large business owners, the ones with many locations? Can they get as much benefit from Google Places? The answer is yes. Google has recently unveiled their bulk listing manager and uploader, which promises to be a real boon for large businesses.
Not that every business qualifies for a bulk listing or even a Google Places listing at all. The types of businesses that qualify to do bulk listing are the ones with physical locations. Because everything is integrated with Maps, Google Places does not accept virtual businesses or businesses where the provider comes to you without having a storefront.
For example, a REALTOR® who works out of their home without a public office is not eligible for a Google Places listing of any kind. However, a REALTOR® who is affiliated with a company or has a walk-in office is eligible. It’s important to note that the agent’s location has to be the physical office, not the area they service.
Google Places is great for any kind of retail, restaurant or storefront with many locations. Ten locations is what Google considers ‘bulk’. If you have nine or fewer locations, each one has to be handled individually.
The first step for bulk management is getting verified. There is a link for “verify for bulk” in your Google dashboard. Once you are verified, it’s a simple matter of filling out the form and waiting. When filling out this form, give Google the business email of the person who will be managing these listings. Google prefers that there be only one email to manage all of the listings included in a “bulk” package.
Verification can take up to a week. Google checks out your business to ensure its legitimacy, that all the contact information is correct, and you do have the authority to create these listings. While you wait, you can start working on your bulk listing immediately. However, the listing won’t go live until after verification has been completed.
Bulk uploading enables you to upload a spreadsheet with all relevant information on it for each location. Typically, this spreadsheet contains name of business, phone number, hours of operation, websites and more. Google makes this process as easy as possible for you by providing a spreadsheet template for your use. It also has a guiding feature to point out errors and to help you correct them.
Once you’re verified and your listings go live, the person who logs in with the given email address and login makes any changes that need to be made. You can add or close a location at any time. You can even do another bulk upload without going through verification again. In fact, the only time you need to go through verification again is if your places account sits inactive for too long.
Now that all your locations are uploaded and live, it’s time to have some fun with them. Even franchises like McDonalds don’t all look alike or have the same features, though they do all sell the same food. While it’s important that you brand yourself consistently, you also have the ability to customize each listing to bring out its best features.
It all starts with the photo. Each location needs its own photo of the building. This helps differentiate multiple locations. It also helps the customer when they are in your area looking for a special location.
Next, comes the description. Even though your stores will be similar, each one should have its unique description. This gives you the opportunity to optimize for location specific keywords, excite the customers in that area and create the original content that Google loves to show.
Providing different images or videos of each location is another way to differentiate your locations. This helps fill out your places page, encourages interaction, and delights your future customers as they can now see which location is best for them. Sometimes, it’s not always the closest one.
Google Places has a section for promotions, contests and special offers. Google allows you to post special offers that are available at some locations, but not all. This is a great way to drive traffic to an underperforming location or to celebrate a special location’s specific event such as a grand opening or anniversary.
Google Places is one of the easiest, most cost effective ways to be found online. Not only does it benefit “small,” it also gives large businesses a chance to brand themselves as “small.” Even when people know you’re part of a larger company, differentiating each location through Google Places gives each location a more ‘small business’ feel and helps make it an important part of the community.
By Martin Brossman and Karen Tiede
Research by Mercedes Tabano II