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If your local business doesn’t have a Places page or if it isn’t properly optimized, you are missing out on well qualified traffic and leads. Here’s the quick and easy guide.

1 – Claim or Create a Google Places Page
Chances are that your business already has a Places page, even if you never set one up. Start by doing a simple search for your brand name to see if one already exists. If you see a listing for your business, click to the place page and look for the “business owner?” link, then follow the instructions to claim it. If you find that you don’t have a places page, start a new one at google.com/places.

2 – Verify Your Google Places Page
Once you have claimed or created a Places page, the next vital step is to verify it. Until you verify your listing, it won’t be considered “trusted” because the search engines don’t know that you are actually the business owner. As a result, it may not appear in the search results, or how often it appears may be limited.

The verification process is easy, but it takes time. Follow the instructions when setting up your Places page or by clicking the verify link when you are logged in to your places account. You might be given the option to get a phone call, but will likely have to wait for a postcard in the mail (which takes upto 3 weeks.)

3 – Optimize Your Places Page
When you finally have your Places page verified, there are a few things you can do to optimize your page and make it easier for potential customers to find you.
• Optimize your business’s title – Your title in Google Places should be your business name, and possibly include some reference of your location. For instance, if you own a franchised business, including a location keyword is important to distinguish yourself against other area franchisees. Use Local Elxir’s Site Grader and the Google Keyword tool to better understand how users are searching for businesses like yours using city and state names.
• Include keywords in your Places page description – Write a brief and concise description of your business, and be sure to include a keyword or two from the last step (don’t go overboard adding keywords, though.)
• Choose a few appropriate categories – Choosing the right categories is important, and you can include up to five – but only include categories that are actually relevant to your business.
• Make your Places page as complete as possible – It’s generally thought that more complete Places pages have an edge over less complete pages in the eyes of the search engines. Photos, videos, links to your social media profiles, hours and additional information can help to make your Places page more engaging and appealing to users, too

4 – Google Places Rankings – Citations, Not Just Links
Links to your website have an impact on Google Places, but many believe that reviews and simple mentions of your business across the web are of equal or greater importance. Search engines likely use mentions as a means to measure the “buzz” around local businesses You can look for opportunities to build up citations on –
• Directories – Claim or create your listing in each of the major directories, and make sure that your information is consistent across all of your listings (here is a good list of places to start.)
• Review sites – Reviews give search engines a signal that your business is a real place that is known and liked (or disliked) by real people. Encourage your customers to leave truthful reviews of your business, and claim your listing on the major review sites to make sure that your listing information is complete and consistent.
• Local Resources & Events Pages – Look for local directories, business listings, and event pages for opportunities to list your site. Start with your competitors – visit their Google Places pages and see where their citations are coming from (you’ll see a list of links titled “more about this place” at the bottom of the page, which is a great place to start.)

5 – Your Website!
Not only will a well-optimized website attract organic search traffic by itself, it’s also the best citation you are likely to get for your Google Places page. In addition to following basic on-page optimization guidelines, be sure to have a exact match of your Google places info for your business name, and local address and phone number in plain text in the footer on your homepage

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