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You may have heard of Google Places or Google Local before — this is now called Google My Business. Microsoft has their own version called Bing Places, which is also worth setting up, as Bing’s market share is rising.

Here’s some tips, focusing more on Google:

1. Whatever you do, don’t rely on Google My Business to keep your business afloat. Sure, you might have a nice ranking today…

Google changes everything. All the time. Without stopping.

(Author’s note: within 48 hours of writing the above, Google released a major change to their search engine affecting Google My Business.)

2. Ensure that your details are correctly listed everywhere on all directories and websites. If Google gets confused as to the details of your website, it’ll hurt your rankings. This means that if you change location, you need to go back and find all the places you listed yourself and update those details.

3. Encourage people to leave reviews. This isn’t a magic pill to success but is an effective method to help you. It needs to be an ongoing process, too. Google is maddeningly inconsistent with this, but businesses receiving more reviews(opens in a new tab) are more likely to rank better.

4. Get your phone number and/or address mentioned all over the place, alongside your business name. Google looks for mentions of your business around the internet, and this plays a part in helping you get rankings. These mentions are known as local citations and help your ranking on Google.

5. Link to your listing from your website(opens in a new tab).

6. Verify your listing. It’s crucially important to verify your listing as fast as possible. It’s normally a phone call, but Google may well send you a postcard with a pin code. Tell your staff to keep an eye out as that postcard is worth big money to your business. It’s mind-blowing how many times staff members just throw this stuff in the garbage as if it’s junk mail. Communicate to your staff the importance of this card.

7. Input as much information as you can. Opening hours, contact details, payment methods accepted, your website. Go as far as possible.

8. Upload a stack of photos. Listings with more photos(opens in a new tab) get more engagement.

9. Don’t spam your listing with keywords. This is the quickest way to end up at the bottom of the Google pile. They hate it when local businesses try to spam their profile with keywords, so just don’t do it. You can, however, put a little bit of juice in your description. ‘We offer Pizza Walking Tours in San Francisco CA’ is acceptable as a sentence. Just make your listing appear natural.

10. Design a cover image. As with all social profiles, it’s always worth having a cover image designed just for your Google Plus profile(opens in a new tab).

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