The good news is, as a small business owner, you have set up your Google Places for Business. A Places listing all by itself can easily rank first in Google Places search results, if it does not have any competition—that was the bad news.

What makes Google Places tick so you can get that almighty click? Correct citations, reviews, good search engine optimisation (SEO) on page and off are all important elements in addition to your Google Places for Business listing. However, you probably have already heard this. SEO changes like the weather, what worked last year, due to Google’s ever changing filter updates, will not necessarily work now.

A Google citation contains the name, address, and phone number of your business as Google views it listed at other websites across the web—professionally known by directories as NAP.

While back-links are still important to your website, there are many factors Google looks at before a website will get credit for them—so we will not discuss back-link know how here. Our focus here is what will help your Google Places for Business to rank well. Correct and relevant citations are another form of back-links that Google considers regarding placement of your Google Places.

If you are familiar with back-links, then this will all make sense. Say you are an exercise equipment company; you would want to seek back-links from those in the fitness industry. A back-link from a fishing website with an article about the writers exercise routine is not entirely relevant. You can earn the back-link if you want, but the time and effort may not be worth it, since in totality has little relevancy. If on the other hand, he has an entire category on his blog about keeping in shape for fishing and he has many other exercise type posts, Google might think that is relevant. No one really knows; you can only experiment.

Back-links do not normally contain all of your physical location details. A citation does. Found in a phone directory, business or industry directory, citations provide a stronger validation of its true existence to the reader. These types of citations alert Google’s search spiders that your business is viable and your NAP is most likely accurate. Do all your citations match across the web?

While Bing or Yahoo have similar products to Google Places for Business, they are not heavily used in Australia, but it is a good idea to include your business in them. Google scours the web for matching information about your local business; they gather NAP data that they tend to trust from legitimate websites in your industry and local area.

Google Spam Filters affect Keyword Company Names and Multiple Address Issues

Due to different varieties of spam, verification and trust is a huge factor in using most Google products. When Google Places first rolled out, there were not as many rules as there are now. Many strategically minded SEO’s took advantage of the new platform and claimed separate Places for relevant keywords. Many of these locations were legitimate business offices and many were just claiming the location without an actual office.

For example, Maitland SEO or Newcastle Computer Repair are fairly competitive keywords. A small company may work out of their home, and not necessarily want people walking up to their door expecting business on the spot. In a fight to serve relevant and true search results to users that they can physically visit, Google’s spam team set filters to catch key worded company names that did not have physical addresses—PO Boxes and those claiming empty lots on a map or street corners. Legitimate businesses that could not prove their local existence were/are penalised. Google also began takes issue with company names made of keywords.

Google realizes that your data on the web may be scattered and incorrect due to many factors, however, their very strict set of quality guidelines demand attention. When it comes to the sharing of one physical address or multiple locations of same business name, or perhaps a virtual office that services many areas, Google could easily deny your Places for Business claim if not properly done.

These barriers are easily overcome with attention to detail—by the book. Businesses without office locations can set their service areas by city, postcode, or radius served. Company headquarters with many local offices are allowed uniformity and bulk upload of information. Situations such as, several doctors at one physical address, is acceptable as long as the other data on the web matches.

In addition to Google Places phone and/or postcard verification, citations confirm your companies NAP data. Google will not trust any local listing if it has NAP information that is not exactly the same everywhere your business is listed on the web.

Google manually approves all Google Places for Business spots. Many of Google Places and Mapmaker editors are volunteers of Google, and sometimes they make mistakes. It seems ridiculous, but some SEO forums claim that even the difference between Ave and Avenue can cause problems. The difficulties are in finding every listing your company appears in, and then, claim it or correct it. All directories have different procedures, which is time consuming to keep up with.

Randomly Found Directories

It is imperative that random directories on the web match the information in your Places for Business listing. Have you changed locations? Changed your business name, but still use the same physical address? Used a 1800 tracking number that is spread about the web? There are many other reasons why your citation NAPs may not match.

Have you ever found your company name in a directory you know you did not submit data to? Some directories scour and scrape the web to build their directories. Previous SEO’s may have entered your name in the directories for a back-link. In order to correct or add to the data, businesses must register to claim their URL. Some of these directories look very professional, but may just be a waste of your time. Some end up being paid directories, they may charge you for registration, make promises, brag about their special relationship with Google, or tell you how popular and high ranking they are. Some generate money off the ads they show; along with your link in these directories, so are ads on the same page for a similar business using your keywords.

Some paid directories are valuable, but it pays to research them first. Searches for high-ranking directories will no doubt produce lists upon lists of “the best directories” to use, but what is most important is that they bring targeted traffic and are relevant to your industry and locality.

Jezweb has put together a list of places to obtain citations for our Australian clients. We do not make this entirely public but there are many popular directories that are well known. We aim to place our clients in relevant niche directories as well as widely used Google approved directories.

Being thorough and 10 steps ahead of Google is time consuming. As Google rolls out the second update to Places for Business platform across Australia, SEO’s are concerned for their clients. Apparent in the Google webmaster forums, the mention clients who have Places listings (voluntarily placed, added by Google themselves or someone else) who are getting warnings to clean up their listings or lose them. This is significant, as these warnings first occurred in the USA resulting in dropped rankings. Those businesses who did not take the time to claim or clean up their places and citations had a lot of catch up work to do.

Searching “Google places listing dropped “ reveals thousands of results of Places and Maps listings dropped to lower rankings in both organic and local searches, some were de-indexed from all Google searches, but we gather those de-indexed had other issues as well.

With attention to the most important, most relevant directories that we think Google trusts, Jezweb will create optimised NAP citations using the best keyword and exact citation data.

Customer Reviews Help your Google Local Places for Business Listing

Besides citations, positive reviews prove to Google that you are a viable business. Initially, Google relied on review websites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, Yahoo Local, City Search, Four Square, Health Grades, and many other places, however, now Google relies on their own Google Plus Platform or Google Places for Business for reviews, all others are secondary. External reviews are shown on the Google Places for Business Dashboard, so it makes them easy to track.

While Google may not rely heavily on external reviews in determining Places list position, they do help your click through rate; click through rate does matter in Googles’ algorithm in the listing position.

Can Jezweb Guarantee Our Position and Time it takes to Rank in Google Places?

The question we get most often is, “How long will this all take, and can you guarantee my Places listing position?”

The short answer—No SEO can guarantee results. But we can estimate and we promise you that we will work our best efforts to get you to the front page.

In our experience, the path of a citation is not direct. Briefly, there are too many factors to mention here; it depends on the size of the directory, how deep that interior page is, how often that particular directory updates, when the local directory adds the changed data into their main index, including when Google scrapes it and rebuilds their Places and Maps index.

Eventually, local positions are re-ranked based on the current listings. On top of that, new listings occur daily from all over the web. A quick turnaround takes 1 to 3 months for Google to correlate the data. Larger directories take longer, like Google; many directories rely on verification of listing claimant and this can add additional time, maybe even 9 months of a year. Any SEO company that tells you different is not leveling with you—they are hoping you do not want to know the boring details, make unrealistic promises and string you along. We can guarantee that we do not work that way.

Additional Factors to Help you Rank your Local Google Places for Business

We hope we have helped you understand the importance of citations and reviews in addition to your Google Places listing. While there are SEO’s that claim Google Places is all a small businesses needs to reach the front page of Google, this is very short term thinking. It’s a given that your competition will not stop SEO efforts. At its best, SEO is an ongoing effort.

In addition to Google Places, citations and reviews, a business needs to tend to their website SEO factors on and off page. Regular changes to your website can help boost your rankings; update your images and descriptions, re-edit pages, and don’t forget your social media efforts.

Like any other profession with variables, no SEO can realistically guarantee an exact outcome.

Depending on the niche, there are many layers of SEO methods to try. Some keywords are easier to rank than others, so we try many. Facebook may work for some types of industries, where Pinterest or You Tube work better for others. The important words to remember in marketing your business on the web, is experience and experiment. Properly implemented, safe SEO methods, will help you to improve your website ranking and a Google Places for Business with citations and reviews can be a key aspect of that SEO process.