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Google Revamps its Local Business Center

By Mikal E. Belicove

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Google, which currently owns 65 percent of the searchmarket, has just renamed its Local Business Center
'Google Places'and added a host of new features, demonstrating the behemoth's ongoingcommitment to letting business owners manage their online presence using the world's No. 1 searchengine.

As I've written before, you can add your business to the GooglePlaces directory (if it's not already listed) for free. Whenever someonesearches for a product or service that your business provides in that person'sgeographical location (zip code or city, state), your listing will beincluded in the search results.

After validating ownership of your business, you cansupplement your business listing with additional information,including a website address, e-mail address, description of your products and/orservices offered, hours of operation, payment options, up to 10 photos andmore.

Google Places also enables you to communicate with your customers and gain insights that can help you make smarter business decisions.

  • Service areas: Now you can show which geographic areas you serve.
  • Tags: You can tag your listing with descriptive keywords, in addition to choosing one or more pre-determined categories, to help Google position your listing more precisely in search results. (Tags aren't available in all areas, but Google's working on it.)
  • Business photo shoots: Depending on its location, you may be able to request a free photo shoot of the interior of your business.
  • Customized QR codes: You can place a QR code on business cards or other marketing materials, and customers can scan them with certain smartphones to go directly to the mobile version of the Place Page for your business. Not familiar with QR codes? Learn more here.
  • Favorite Places: Google is launching the second round of its Favorite Places program and mailing window decals to 50,000 U.S. businesses. The company identifies businesses as "Favorite Places on Google" based on user interactions with the local business listings. Each business deemed a Favorite Place receives a window decal with a QR code that customers can scan with their smart phones to read reviews, star the business as a favorite and more.

More than four million businesses have already claimed their Place Page on Google. Since one out of five searches is related to location, if you want your business to be found online put your best foot forward: Create a Google Places listing or supplement your current Google Places listing today.

Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. 

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