How many of you spend time and effort promoting your business online through your website, or in newspaper ads, on TV, and Radio? Are you on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn? Are you doing everything in your power to get the word out about your company? What else can you do to promote yourself without breaking your budget? Did you know that Google gives you a free local listing? Google Places provides a free landing page for your business and all you have to do is claim it. In fact, many of these pages have great ranking and remain unclaimed by their owners.

By now, you may be wondering if you have a Google Places listing, and you may wonder how to access it. First, let’s discuss how to discover if you have a Google listing page. Go to google.com and type in “air conditioning, your city” then click the maps link on the left hand side of the page. You will see a map appear on the right and on the left is a list of names lettered “A” through “J” depending on how many listings are available. Scroll through the list. If you don’t see your name in the first page, click the link at the bottom of the section and search the next page. Once you find your link, click on the heading and it will open a listing in the map area. Click on that heading and it will take you to your Google Places page. If you don’t have a Google Places account, it will take you to a page that will let you create one.

Once on the Google Places listing page, look just above the map picture on the right. If you haven’t claimed the page it asks, “business owner?” Once you click on that link it will take you to a page where it will let you verify that you are the owner of the business. You can change your basic information on this screen including whether customers come to your location to conduct business or if you go to see them, your hours of operation, payment options, upload photos and videos, and provide any additional details that you want to include. One of the reasons that you want to claim this page is because if you naturally have an “A” placement a dishonest person can usurp your “A” position by claiming it as their own and changing your name and address. You definitely don’t want anyone to do this to you.

The process takes about a month to complete because Google will physically mail a post card to your registered address with a confirmation code that you will have to enter into a box on the page to claim the listing as your own. Once you have entered the code, you can set your search categories. Don’t neglect this important step. Google finds your company based on the categories you set and it also gives you control of how you drive traffic to your website. If you haven’t set your trading area do so now, if you work from your home or don’t have people come to your place of business you can just list your city and give a radius around your city that you cover. That’s the basic information for Google Places.

Let me reveal some of the secrets that I have uncovered about Google Places. Google boosts the score of your Places page based on the completeness of your information. Make sure to provide information in every section. Holes in this information will result in lower rankings. You can add up to ten pictures to your Google Places page. You should add ten pictures and each picture should have a keyword friendly name that helps boost your rating. In addition, you can upload up to five videos. You must upload five videos if you want to get the best rating. Post the videos to your YouTube page and link them back to your Google Places page. Make sure you give the videos search friendly names that contain your keywords, which will increase the position of your listing in Google Places local search. If you don’t have any videos, there are low-cost solutions, available on the web where you can pay somebody to create the videos for you.

Google Places allows you to make special offers to customers who land on this page. Make this a special offer that you don’t offer anywhere else. The more fields that you fill in the better score you get from Google. Another thing you want to do is get reviews from your customers. Reviews are very important and given identical profiles, Google will place the one with reviews higher on the list.

The last thing that you want to pay attention to is citations. Citations are referring sites that Google finds and links to your page. These citations boost your Google score, which allows Google to list your Places page higher in the local organic search ranking. As in anything related to search engines, the higher your organic search listing the better your opportunity to attract customers. If this is something that you are interested in doing but don’t have the time or the skills, we can do the heavy lifting for you.

My website contains links to all the marketing articles I’ve written for the HVAC-Talk Newsletter. If you want your marketing efforts pay big dividends, contact a marketing professional. I’m available to assist you in all of your marketing efforts. If you need a branding consultation, a complete strategic marketing plan, help with marketing strategy, or management services, call or send an email to discuss your needs.

Andy Fracica is president and CEO of Fracica Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in marketing, PR, social media, and lead generation strategy. He has over 30 years of sales, marketing, and product management experience in the heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. He concentrates on helping companies deliver their message in an ever increasingly crowded market by teaching businesses to do more with less ($). Contact him at 260-338-4554, andy@fracicaenterprises.com or visit the Fracica Enterprises, Inc. website.