Last week Google reshuffled/revealed its local search strategy by introducing something called Place Search.
Place search eliminates the local search 7 box and blends local and organic results in a way that clearly demonstrates how important local search is to them – and consequently to your local small business.
Google has been steadily improving its ability to predict your location and offer up local results even without the use of a city name or location in your query. (It’s very interesting to experiment with this function one letter at a time in Instant Search.)
Google Place Search - note the map has moved too
One thing that’s certain from this new look is that you must claim, optimize, amplify, and participate on your Google Places Page. If you thought this was a nice thing you would get around to someday, stop right now and go get this in the works. It will be very hard for a business to rank well for local search lacking a dynamic Google Places Page.
Once you claim your Places page you must go to work on the elements that will give your page a competitive advantage
1) Add images, video and product/service descriptions to your page. Add custom fields to get more relevant content. Spend time getting the right Places categories.
2) Get listed in other second tier directories – here’s the easiest way
3) Get involved in the ratings game – on Google, Yelp, CitySearch, InsiderPages – reviews on your Google Places page and from other major review sites are a key ingredient for higher local ranking and have become an expectation from shoppers.
Ratings and reviews are an important ranking factor
4) Start routinely using the Places Posting feature to add fresh content
5) Add coupons and try out the Google Tags