Simple improvements for a high-impact Google Place Page
So you’ve decided to spend some time focusing on the web presence of your practice. Your Facebook page looks great, YouTube videos are getting some views, website traffic is on the rise and you’re even thinking about starting a blog. You’re feeling pretty awesome about how everything’s going…until you Google orthodontist and your Google Maps listing is nowhere to be found. To make matters worse, you’re left staring at your competitors’ Maps listings wondering how in the world they made it to the Lucky 7 Pack, which consists of the 7 Google Maps listings that typically appear in Googlet’s web search results for queries that include both the type of business and the location of the business. For example: orthodontist Mobile, AL.
When I think of why Google ranks things the way they do my mind often wanders off onto other questions like: Wha’s really going on inside a black hole? What happened to the Lost City of Atlantis? Do aliens really exist? Granted, the Google mystery isn’t really in the same league as the others but the point I want to make is the same; we are not going to know the answers anytime soon, or perhaps in our lifetime, or ever. Just like with Googlet’s natural search results, how and why Google ranks Maps listings the way they do is a closely guarded secret. So we may not ever know exactly how a competitor made it to the Lucky 7 Pack. But what we do know is that there is a lot of evidence, including a few hints dropped by Google, to suggest that making simple improvements to your listing can impact the visibility of your Maps listing and that these improvements, together with a great overall web presence and relevance, can make your listing more likely to slip into the coveted Lucky 7.
Make sure your Google Place Page is owner-verified – by you
Your Place Page, for those still learning the lingo, is the Google profile for your business. It houses your name, address, phone number, website address, reviews, etc. Basically it’s a combination of details about your business that you provide when you set up your listing plus information Google has been able to compile from other sources on the web all rolled into a profile page. It’s this page that supplies the information Google uses to put you in Google Maps.
Here’s where it gets tricky: sometimes the business owner isn’t the one who set up the listing. The one way to tell if this is the case is if the Place Page is missing the green checkmark that says “owner-verified listing”. Every owner-verified listing has, at some point in time, been through a validation process. The process involves (1) the owner of the business, (2) a Google account, (3) a PIN sent to the business owner via postcard, automated phone call, or an SMS text message. So a newly created listing would need to be PIN validated by the business owner to get the green check. Similarly, an un-verified listing that was not created by the business owner could be claimed under the business owner’s Google account and could also be PIN validated. For info on claiming an existing Place Page, you can visit here.
You might wonder why it’s even worth the trouble to verify your listing. Seems like it’s all the same information whether it’s verified or un-verified so why should it matter? It matters because Google has no way of knowing if your information is legit or completely bogus and there are a lot of bogus listings out there. Because of this, the quality rating of the information in your listing is not as high as it could be in the eyes of the search engine and therefore contributes to poor listing performance. Also, you can really spruce up your Place Page, if, and only if, you’ve verified your listing under your Google account. So it’s definitely worth verifying your business listing.
Sprucing up your Place Page
It’s no secret that Google values quality, accurate information so not only do they allow you to edit and verify your basic business information such as your phone number, web address etc; but they want you to add details that would enhance the user experience of anyone visiting your Place Page. Need to see evidence of this? Look no further than your dashboard when you log in to view your Google Places account. Under your business info, if you see that your profile is less than 100% complete, it’s time for some work. Start here:
- Is your business name, address and phone number consistent with your other online listings including the business name, address and phone number on your website?
- Is your business name, address and phone number presented exactly how it would be in the offline world? In other words are you using the same business name you would use if it were on a brochure for your practice?
- Does the description in your listing match how you would describe your practice to someone in person or is it loaded down with too many keywords?
- Did you include an email address that matches with your website address? For example: www.soandsosmiles.com would be email@example.com.
- Did you choose categories that accurately describe your practice?
- Did you check to make sure there is not more than one category that would best describe your practice?
Service Areas and Location Settings
- Did you select “No”? If you did not select “No”, you will be representing that your practice does not have an actual business location and that staff will be sent to patients’ homes.
Hours of Operation
- Did you accurately specify your business hours?
- Did you check off every payment option your patients have?
- Did you upload the maximum of 10 photos*?
- Do these photos represent your practice and exclude** logos of brands you offer?
- Have you added the maximum of 5 videos* from your YouTube account?
- *While adding the maximum number of photos and video is not required, it could give your listing a competitive advantage over similar listings in your area.
- **In the past, Google has suggested that images uploaded to a Place Page should represent only the actual business that’s listed. Examples of appropriate Place Page images include pictures of the storefront, the business’s logo, office pictures and products. Logos that represent other companies, however, would not be appropriate for your Place Page.
- Did you list out the main brands you offer?
- Did you list your treatment options?
- Did you add your certifications and other information patients would like to see?
- Did you add any of your social media sites your practice is set up under?
Wait, there’s more? There are a few extra things you can do with your Place page to help enhance it beyond just getting to the 100% complete mark. For one thing, you can add coupons to your listing. When you log in, you’ll notice a coupons tab you can click on and create a few coupon offers to go along with your business info. They are easy to create and add that little something “extra” that improves the quality of your listing.
Another thing to consider is posting news items to your Place Page. Your Google Places dashboard has an area where you can post announcements about your practice that will be available to viewers of your Place Page for 30 days. You could announce the launch of your new website or welcome a new doctor at your practice, for example. It would also be a great place to encourage your patients to write a review.
Speaking of reviews, don’t shy away from encouraging your patients to write a review about your practice on your Place Page, especially the patients most loyal to your practice. Remember, it’s always easier for someone who’s angry with you to vent their frustrations about your practice online than it is for someone, who appreciates the work you do to take a few moments to write a recommendation; the motivation is completely different. While you might have a few bad reviews, you really should find ways to show appreciation to patients who go out of their way to share their kind words about you online. Helpful, genuine, quality reviews can add to the overall quality of your listing and potentially help increase its visibility at the same time.
Alright and now for the icing on the cake: Place Page Tags. Twenty-five buck a month, paid to Google, gets you a little yellow tag that calls attention to specific items on your Place Page; for example your videos, website, images and coupons. All you have to do is log in to your Google Places dashboard and sign up. If you can’t sign up it only means that these tags are not yet available in your area but keep you eyes peeled because they’re on the way. Great way to attract eyeballs to your listing and a great way to top off all the great improvements made to your Google Place Page.
Sometimes the best strategy is to make sure you’re doing everything correctly the first time, be patient and continue focusing on your overall web presence including your social media strategy, your website, and other websites that refer to your practice. The more active you are in engaging your online audience and making sure the online content for your practice is presented accurately and to the fullest; the better off your visibility will be in the long run. Good luck!
Originally published in The Progressive Orthodontist, Q4 2010