What's Google Places?


“The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time.” - Henry Ford
Welcome SEO! Congratulations business owner!  Google Places is a free service from Google that, once you’re a validated owner, allows control the information about your retail store or service.  With the use of this toolkit you are setting yourself and your business to begin taking advantage of the massive growth of people using smart phones looking for and discovering local services that are visible and available.  Whether you like it or not, Google Places has a page for your business.  Citations about your business, good and bad, appear on this page and are sourced from many places on the web.  It’s happening whether you want it to or not.  Once your a validated owner of a Google Places page, you may begin answering customer comments, questions and complaints, upload all kinds of content, setup ads, and track results.  Before we get started improving your business using Google Places with a simple system of checklists, here’s some relevant Google Places history and context.

Starting off as Google Local Business Center as part of Google Maps in October 6, 2005, Google offered a way to get a free listing for your business.  Claiming your business listing was all it took to gain new phone calls and attention.  A few years later, Google unveiled Place Pages for Google Maps in September of 2009 [1] in an effort to better describe Google Maps data to all types of users; desktop and mobile.   

On April 20, 2010, Google Announced Place Pages for Google Maps would be renamed Google Places [2].  Google has mentioned there has been a steady increase in mobile users requesting local data [3] and Google is always trying to leverage every ounce of its search system to target mobile users in a growing mobile ads market.

While at SXSWi 2011, Marissa Mayer - VP of Consumer Products, spoke about how Google is surprised that Google Maps usage rose to 40% on mobile.  Maps and phones are becoming more and more a part of everyone’s daily lives.  In fact, on Christmas Day 2010 and New Years Day 2011, Google Maps usage on mobile devices surpassed usage on desktop devices.  It’s clearly redefining how we all interact with technology and search engines.  There are huge advantages to gain for your business by establishing a baseline of interaction with Google Places, if you have not already.  This book aims to streamline the process of getting your Google Places page setup and optimized so you can make data-driven decisions about your business from the data you can obtain from Google Places.  
Think of Google Places as a modern day yellow pages.  Here’s how Google describes it - Each business listing on Google is in fact a giant 'cluster' of information that we get from a few different places: Yellow Pages, for example, as well as other third-party providers. However, the basic information that you submit through Google Places is the information that we trust the most. [4] Google receives this information from it's normal spidering process, but due to special structured markup of the code, often called micro-formats, Google can pluck information directly from your site. This information is used in search queries.  See the image to the left. Selecting any one of the options like recipes or news, prompts Google to add new options. When I search for pizza, then click recipes, these are the results.

Places owners need to also realize that the cluster of information is fragile and must be coveted.  The Google Places support forum is full of angry retailers who changed information too frequently or added many keywords or games it in one way or another which resulted in smashed their own cluster.  Your business will be gone from the listings.  Be very careful.  Please make sure you follow the guidelines on http://www.google.com/places or in the Google Help Center for the most current information.  

Once you get your listing online, it becomes your Google Place Page.  There are many types of Google Places Pages including businesses, points of interest, transit stations, landmarks, and cities all over the world.  Here’s a sample Google Places Page for Oceans of Fun a water park  in Kansas City, MO.  The screenshot below shows just how much info Google has about your business.

Google has re-branded the system several times, but recently enhanced the business tools.  These enhancements include the ability to control hours of operation, photos, videos, define service areas, post updates, communicate with customers, provide twitter-esque 160 character updates, and offer coupons with product specials.  
But wait - there’s more.
With the addition of Google Places HotPot on February 2011 [7] , businesses can benefit from the new built in review system.  When customers who may have had a poor experience enter a review using Google Places, you’ll have the ability to make public corrective action.  In the future, Google could offer sortable, location-aware listings for those businesses that are highest rated which are in proximity to a given location.  

And then there’s Google Tags, a $25 dollar a month way to tag Google Places results with a yellow tag.  Customer can interact with the tag to reveal unique offerings or marketing blurbs about how your business differentiates itself.  Google Tags will set your listing apart from competitors which appear in the results.  

There’s also Google Boost, a new PPC advertising system Google is offering for heavy Google Places users.  

Last but not least, there’s an offering called Google Business Photos where Google sends out a experienced photographer to capture the essence of the merchant’s business interior.  
Google Business Photos, as of March 31, 2011, only includes the cities in the box to the left right now.  The list is subject to change at any time, so please check back.  

Here’s a link (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opB1nlkWw2c) to a cute video Google created to silently promote this new service.

If the merchant business is located in one the cities in the list on the left, it only takes a few seconds to sign up for this free service.  Google is offering to show off your Google Places page with professional photography and to stand out from the competition.
The sign-up form has only ten required fields.  See image below.

Google Business Photos Available Locations:

United States

Austin, TX
Chicago, IL
Dallas, TX
Los Angeles, CA
New York, NY
Orange County, CA
Orlando, FL
Phoenix, AZ
Sacramento, CA
San Diego, CA
Bay Area, CA
San Antonio, TX
St. Louis, MO
Tampa, FL





New Zealand


It’s increasingly important to obtain your Google Places business listing as soon as possible.  Even if your site does not rank well, your Google Places business listing will.  There is evidence that most Google Places business listings outrank the “organic” results we see most often.  It does not hurt that Google is also emphasising Google Places results when it can covering the search engine results pages (SERPs) with local search results.  Following this checklist in this toolkit will ensure your success.

Your Google Places page is an interactive marketing extension for your business that only takes a little time to setup, and with our proven system, only minutes a week to manage.  All of this for free, but without this Google Places Toolkit, setup would be confusing and there is certain possibility you might fall short leveraging all your potential.
As a business owner, simply taking a few moments to setup your Google Place account will result in increased conversion and new revenue opportunities.  The purpose of the Google Places Toolkit is to simplify and guide you though the process of setting up your Google Place page, how to setup offers, track the results, and much more.  There are several checklists and worksheets that will automate and streamline your Google Places setup tasks and to ensure your Google Places account is setup properly to maximize benefit.
To validate you as the business owner, Google offers a secure method of ensuring ownership of your Google Place account using post cards.  This interesting method not only ensures the card will get to its destination, but it not the standard low-tech solution engineered by the Google Team.   Once your account is setup, you’ll need to get the data entered using your Google Account.  All of this will be done with the assistance of the Setup Checklist.


“Bringing the power of Google to you and your business.” - Google

On your quest for learning how Google Places works, you’ll need to get familiar with some terms before you proceed with the remainder of the toolkit.

Terms Definition

Google Places business listing

The location of your business listing on Google.com


Search Engine Results Page


The number of clicks a user makes to interact with a listing, including requesting more information, viewing photos, or getting driving directions.


If your account displays your listing as 'Active,' your listing is publicly available by searching on maps.google.com and through Google.com.
If you're unable to find your business right away, we recommend you perform a search for [ your business name in your city, zip code ].


Online mention of a business.


You can edit your listing at any time. As long as you've verified your listing, your edits will be live within approximately one hour. However, if you edit your business name, address or phone number, you'll need to verify again before these changes can go live.


Your 30 day statistics include the number of Impressions. This number denotes the number of times that your business listing has appeared in search results. You can view the number of actual clicks to your listing by selecting 'Views'.

Needs Action

If your listing appears with a Needs Action status message, you'll be provided with additional information on the next steps to get your listing to appear. Next steps may include editing, entering your PIN, or verifying your listing.


Near Field Communications is a set of short-range wireless technologies.  It’s that anti-theft stamp-thingy in books.


If your listing appears with a Pending status message, that means that no further action is required on your end.


We have received your feed upload. We are now reviewing the content of your listings. Please check back in a couple hours to see the updated status.


You've verified your listing and chosen for it to no longer appears on Google. If you'd like for it to appear again, please select "Resume Display."

Invalid Pin

If your PIN number is invalid and you're unable to provide the accurate PIN number, you may wish to request another PIN number in the mail by selecting 'Request another letter'.

Validate By Email

If you'd like to validate your listing by mail, within two weeks, we'll send a letter (containing your unique personal identification number and activation instructions) to the address in your listing. Please follow the instructions in the letter to validate your information and prevent unauthorized edits to your listing.

Validate By Phone

If you'd like to validate your listing by phone, you will be called at the phone number of the business listing.
Make sure you're prepared to take a phone call at the number you specified in your listing. Keep in mind that if you choose to 'Edit' the phone number at which you would like to be called, you will be prompted to change the actual phone number of the business listing as well.

There are many reasons why, as a business owner, you would want to manage your reputation online since it going without whether you care or not, but why not leverage every opportunity for business growth.  Here’s a list of important factors that are part of the Google Place Toolkit which will help you focus on maximum benefit:
  • Communication - Provide small (160 character) updates about certain special events or sales.
  • Differentiation - Google Tag and Google Boost can offer unique SERP opportunity.
  • Find-ability - Your website might be the best ever, but having a condensed view on Google Places with your hours and a map will give other / mobile users another way to find you.
  • Emphasis - Google is increasing the value of Google Places pages.
  • Leads - Offer specials on your Google Places page
  • Reputation - Monitor your online reputation though testimonials.
  • Tracking - You’ll be able to track the results

Chapter 1 References -


Google Places Historic Dates:

March, 2005

Started as Google Local Business Center 
September, 2009
Renamed to
Place Pages for Google Maps  
April, 2010
Renamed to Google Places
February, 2011
Google announces advertising programs for Google Places merchants
For a more detailed Google Places Timeline, please see David Mihm's research.