Milestones in a Google Places Campaign That’s Working

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Progress in Google Places rankings is non-linear.  If you’re #6 for a given search term, the next ranking you achieve might be #2 or #19, but it probably won’t be #5 and then #4.

Your business is unlikely to inch up or down in the local rankings.  The problem is that can make it very tough to tell if you’re doing things effectively or back-asswards. You need some indicators that you’re at least headed in the right (or wrong) direction.

Here are a few milestones you’ll probably pass if you’re on your way to better Google Places rankings:

  • Milestone 1:  Everything you see when logged into your Google Places “Dashboard” reflects what’s “live” on your Places page (the stuff customers see).  If you make edits, it may take Google a while to process them, but if you see discrepancies that don’t go away after a couple weeks, you may have duplicate Google listings, which you’ll need to get removed.
  • Milestone 2:  Your GetListed.org score is 90-100%.  It takes a little work to achieve this, but it’s worth it.  It’s also a good indicator you’re listed on the major third-party sites, and accurately.
  • Milestone 3:  “At a glance” snippets appear on your Google Places page, and they’re at least semi-relevant to your services.  These snippets often tell you what services Google associates with your business—that is, what it thinks you’re “about.”  Get them by beefing up your listings on third-party sites with detailed info on your services and business.

Does your Google Places page have "At a glance" snippets, and are they relevant?

  • Milestone 4:  The green bars in your Places “Dashboard show that the search terms people are currently finding your Places page for are roughly the same terms you want to get visible for.  These stats aren’t always reliable, but they can help tell you whether you’re on the right track.

Check your Google Places "Dashboard" for which terms you're found for

 

Your trek up the Google Places rankings may be a bumpy one.  But it’s less disorienting if you know which milestones to look out for—and how to reach them if you haven’t already.

Can you think of any other “milestones” you’ve passed—or would like to pass?  Be a sport and leave a comment, will ya? :)

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Comments

  1. A truly great list, Phil! These are some things I myself believe are one of the most important milestones. However, as the phrase goes (I forgot who was the first to say it, please, if you remember, correct me): “Number of purchases trumps any other metric.” In the spirit of that statement, probably increase in conversion, especially ones that are coming from Google Places (it could be a nice article itself on how to track where your leads come from), could be the ultimate milestone :)

    Just my couple of cents.

    • Hey Nyagoslav, thanks for weighing in and for your compliments! I completely agree that conversions are most important, though (to me) they’re the ultimate goal, rather than something you might see on the way to reaching the goal.

      Obviously you’re probably on the right track if you know for a fact you’ve got new customers as a direct result of Google Places visibility. As you said, that’s an unmistakable (the “ultimate”) milestone. But if you’re not at that stage yet, it’s tough to know if you’re doing things right (as we both know). Hence my short list of milestones, which can help if one doesn’t yet have any insights into conversions.

      I kind of think of it as a game of Marco Polo. If you’re “it” and you’re able to tag someone, you know you’ve won that round. But you know you might be getting close if somebody yells “POLO” right in your ear and you feel a bunch of splashing that isn’t coming from you. It’s something to go on.

      Btw, I think you could write a great post on conversion-tracking in GP. It’s a nagging question for a lot of people, and I certainly don’t want to steal your idea :)

  2. Hi Guys,

    We all know about the possible pitfalls if you are trying to implement conversion tracking for phone calls. There are actually some solutions by using JavaScript to show a tracking phone number and the googlebot will just see the real phone number “below” the tracking number so that NAP consistence is not endangered… but this solution could be too complicated for local SMBs.

    The easy way… as in “conversion tracking light”:
    If I would start a new local business right now, i would just get myself two local (!) phone numbers. One for Online and one for offline. So that you can at least compare those two different marketing channels by just logging your incoming calls.

    Would be a nice start to gain better insights where your customers are actually finding you…

    Regards,
    Sebastian

    • … and even that can get complicated if your “offline” phone number gets transferred to online by bloggers, customers, etc… it’s a pain in the *** actually.

      • Hey Sebastian,

        You pretty much hit the nail on the head, regarding the ins-and-outs of trying to track calls in GP. As you know, it’s been an issue for a long time, and doesn’t seem to be getting more practical.

        Thanks for the info on how to avoid messing up the NAP with the extra number. The other way to do this, of course, is just to make the number into an image.

        However, the other big issue has been: how can you use your call-tracking number as the main number on your Places page? It’s against Google’s rules, although there is a wiggle word in the Google Places Quality Guidelines, which states that you should avoid using one “whenever possible.”

        I’d certainly like any further thoughts you have on how people can track calls practically and without fear of Google’s wrath.

        • First and foremost awesome discussion you have started here. We are in our infancy stage of offline marketing. Been in the business for a while just never public. Anyway tracking is the key and as you just mentioned while a tracking phone number is great it certainly can get your clients into some ranking issues.

          Outside of some link tracking your best option would be incentive tracking. Producing some incentive for the customer if they tell you they were there along with a review portal. Things such as “Mention our website and get some discount” and encouraging review / feedback is another indicator of your marketing. It still is a very fuzzy area that needs to be addressed if only for the simple fact of gauging the effectiveness.

          • Hey Nate,

            Thanks for weighing in.

            I couldn’t agree more about incentive-tracking. Also, the more granular, the better: if you have an offer that only people who go to your Places page will ever see, and a separate offer that only people who go to your Adwords landing page can see, then that’s great. One way I’ve seen – and I’m sure you’ve seen – people do this is with photos. Occasionally I’ll see a Places page with a prominent photo that says “Mention this page and get 10% off” or something.

            Obviously, this isn’t quite as good as call-tracking, but it’s better than nothing.

            Another way to do this is with KISSInsights. You have an unobtrusive pop-up survey in the corner of some of the pages on your site, which asks “How did you find us?”, with a few options people can choose from.

            But, as you said, it’s still a fuzzy area. Let’s just hope Google eventually makes some provision for honest business who just want to learn more about their customers rather than game the system.

  3. avatar Josh Nelson says:

    Great post. I really like that you broke the steps down into milestones. The duplicate listing consolidation process is key and your right…your going to be stuck till that milestone is passed.

  4. Hi Phil,
    One item in this list can also be “Visibility” of the Google Places Local Listing on various keywords, in a location.
    As an example Financial Planner, Addison TX (or) say “Retirement Planner, Addison TX” and so on…
    We had the opportunity to work with one gentleman and before we worked for him his Google Places Local Listing never appeared on “Google” or “Google Maps” and after the execution he his listing is seen for different keywords in his location.

    • Hi Nikhil,

      True enough, although because visibility for search terms (like the ones you mentioned) is the goal, it’s not really a “milestone” per se. Although I do agree that ranking well for city-specific search terms (“retirement planner Addison TX”) is usually a good sign that you’re on your way to ranking well for broader terms (“retirement planner”).

      • Yes, true Phil.
        What I mentioned was more of a “positive sign” more than a milestone which shows that efforts taken have visible outcomes.As Nyagoslav mentions in one of his comments “Converison Tracking in Google Places” will be a a great topic & I will await eagerly for the analysis :-) from him or you…:-)
        Eagerly waiting for the post.

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