In a move that will benefit small businesses having a brick and mortar location, Google has made some improvements to its local listing capability.
If you go over to the Local Business Center, you can create a free listing for your business and have it displayed on Google Maps. On that listing you can include a substantial amount of information, including a description of your business. street address, website URL, telephone number, hours of operation, payment methods accepted, and many other details to help prospective buyers. You can even offer discount coupons for customers.
A really helpful feature is that you now can load up to ten images with your listing. For instance, you could include pictures of your premises, photos of the team, your company logo, even products.
If this is your first time listing your business in Google Maps, your listing will not be activated until you receive a mailing (snail mail) from Google. You must activate the listing with a special code Google provides in the mailer. This is obviously intended to prevent third parties from hijacking listings.
In an especially interesting feature you now will be able to see statistics about how many people view and click on your business listing. So you will be able to tell how much visibility you are getting from your local listing.
What this all means is that you now have much greater ability to manage your business’s online presence in Google Maps. Your local listing has its own page and functions like a mini website. In fact, you don’t need a separate Website in order to be listed in Google Maps — just a street address.
During the 1990s and early part of this century, if you wanted to be found in search engines you submitted your website to the engines. Today, most search engines including the main Google search engine will find your site on their own as long as some other site is linking to it. In 2007, for small businesses, the trend instead is to create listings in the new crop of “local” search engines, starting with the Mother of Local Search Engines, at Google Maps. Go here to start listing your business.