With more and more people searching the Internet for local information it has become crucially important for small businesses to maintain a Google Places profile. If you want to be on the first place of Google Places though, you need to follow the rules. Breaking any of Google’s rules could result in your listing being demoted in the rankings or worse yet, de-listed from Google Places completely. Making sure to avoid these 5 deadly Google Places mistakes will give you a better chance of a page one listing.
Keyword stuffing is when someone puts extraneous keywords into fields that aren’t supposed to have keywords. For example, lets say your business name is officially Smith Piping, but rather than putting Vance Piping as your business name, you put Smith Piping Houston Plumbers Fixing Leaky Faucets and Broken Hot Water Heaters Since 1952 as your name on your Google Places profile. All those other words beyond “Piping” would be considered keyword stuffing. Unfortunately, many businesses end up unintentionally keyword spamming their profile. Whether you intend to keyword stuff or not, the result is the same. You will eventually get your profile deleted. Google is particularly persnickety about keyword stuffing in your name and your category. When filling out the category field always describe what your business is rather than what it does. Returning to the Smith Piping example, the category should be “plumber”, not “fixes hot water heaters”, etc.
Google needs to rely on other directory websites and public information sources in order to verify your business is actually relevant to searchers. If Google didn’t compare information it would be easy for unscrupulous business owners to game the system into believing a business had locations in communities it didn’t serve. The problem with Google checking their information against other data sources is that the information is often presented differently across different sources. For example, in one source your address may be listed as 321 Main St Suite 2 Houston USA while in another source you list it as 321 #2 Main St Houston USA. This can lead to Google deciding to eliminate your information all together for fear of it being fraudulent. Be sure to pick out a common name, address, and phone number format and use that across all directory services.
Using a 1-800 number for your contact number
Google looks for clues in order to verify that your business is really located in the location you claim. One of the biggest clues Google looks for is your company’s area code. If you list your phone number as a 1-800 number Google won’t be able to verify your area code. In their Quality Guidelines, Google also states that you should not use a referral or tracking phone number. As previously discussed, the number you do use should be consistent with the number available on public information sources.
Not including photos and videos in your profile
Google Places gives highest ranking priority to businesses with fully filled out owner-claimed profiles. For the best chance of ranking in the top spot in Google Places you should make it a priority to fill out your profile 100%. Unfortunately, you can not have a 100% complete profile unless you submit 10 photos and at least one video to Google. Don’t be intimidated by this step. Although it can be nice to have, you do not need studio quality photos and videos. A couple of snapshots taken with a point-and-click digital camera and a slideshow video of those photos should be sufficient for getting your profile 100% complete. Depending on the type of business you own, you may want to consider including photos of your staff, your interior, and your exterior. Even shots of your menu or service listing are acceptable. Don’t be afraid to be a little creative here, but keep in mind that these photos are highly visible on your Google Places page and should make a good first impression to prospective customers.
Leaving Fake Reviews for Your Business
One of the easiest ways to get banned from Google Places is by pumping up your listing with fake reviews. Google has a sophisticated system in place for detecting fake reviews and chances are you will get caught if you try to game the system in any way. There are so many ways to get legitimate good reviews from real customers, do not fall prey to fake review generation companies who promise the sky, but in reality get your listing permanently banned from Google. If you’re having trouble generating reviews naturally, you should actively encourage your best customers to leave reviews. You may want to consider training your staff to ask for reviews or you may want to create some signs or business cards that instruct people to leave reviews. Whatever your strategy though, always make sure that your reviews are legitimate and left by real customers.