Schmarder: 'Maximize Local Search Marketing'
Evanne Schmarder is the principal at Roadabode Productions, a firm specializing in digital marketing strategy, consulting, and education for the outdoor recreation industry and is the co-author of “Unconventional Wisdom Works.” She’s also the host and producer of the RV Cooking Show. She writes a column for Woodall's Campground Management. Evanne gets great satisfaction out of helping business owners maximize their marketing potential and can be reached at email@example.com or (702) 460-9863.
Founded in 1998, Google is a very savvy company – a business that has made it its business to become invaluable in our daily lives through a number of tools. That especially holds true for businesses large and small. In fact, industries have been built on helping business owners get found online, listed on the first page of Google’s search results. Fortunately, in this ever-contracting world, smart business owners can themselves play a very large role in search result success by taking advantage of a free Google tool – Google + Local Place Pages.
The emergence and popularity of local search is certainly the driver of – or perhaps brought about because of – Google’s Local Place Pages. Conduct a basic Google search for “RV parks near Disneyland” and the search results page will deliver a couple results, then a listing of parks with letter bubbles that correspond to a map on the right of the page. Do that same search in the Google Maps tab and again you’ll see the map and letter bubbles but full-screen this time.
Why You Should Play Along
If you believe that your business is “local” or in other words, camping consumers are making booking decisions based upon a specific location, you would be wise to maximize your local search page on the world’s No. 1 search engine’s free marketing tool – Google + Local Place Pages. Doing so will help your park appear in Google searches for your keywords and phrases and connect with several other Google tools including maps, mobile search, Google Earth and more. This free listing can be a very valuable and effective modern marketing technique if you follow a few easy steps in claiming and optimizing your Page.
Still not interested in being listed? Too bad. It’s likely that your business is already listed as a Local Place. You see, Google curates data from across the Internet – directories like GoCampingAmerica.com, review sites, your website and more to create a Page. So there it sits, representing your business and, as the park owner/operator, you have the option to leave well enough alone or take the time to claim your listing and build it out.
Claimed listings, also called owner-verified business listings, allow the business to present their offerings in the most flattering light. Page owners can add details and descriptions about their park, photos and video, list events and specials, offer e-coupons and deals, respond to reviews and flag as inappropriate when necessary as well as take advantage of a stat dashboard for an at-a-glance look at search results and top queries.
Convinced? Then let’s get started. Begin your Google + Local Place Page digital marketing by searching Google for your park’s name. If you find a listing for your business, click on the letter bubble then the “more info” link beside the business name. Next, click on the “Manage this page” button and sign in with your Google account (if you don’t have one, create one – it’s free but first see my tip in the Supersize It section below). Follow the prompts to develop your Page and when finished Google will provide you with a verification PIN via mail, text, or telephone – your preference. You will need to enter the PIN to verify and activate your listing.
If you do not find a Place Page for your park visit http://www.google.com/places,
sign in with your Google account, add a listing and follow the prompts to add your park’s information. You’ll be required to verify your listing in order to activate it.
While not difficult, there are a few lesser-known but critical tips that should not be overlooked when optimizing your Place Page:
• When you create a new account or claim your listing, make sure you use a Google account that can be shared – don’t use your personal Google account.
Why? The Place Page is not transferable so if you sell or transfer your business or change jobs the Google account that is associated with the page either goes with the business or the page becomes stagnant because it cannot be changed.
• You must use your exact business name, address, and telephone number (known in the tech world as NAP – name, address, phone) and they must exactly match those on your website.
I’ve seen Google + Place listings where the owner verifies a Page with the office or store mailing address while another Page exists based upon the business address published on the website. Two different Pages create plenty of confusion for the customer and extra work for the Page owner.
• Use categories – you can have up to five. The first category must be selected from a drop down list but the remaining four can be customized. Think about your search terms when adding categories.
• Your Webmaster can embed your Google + Local Place Page on your website. They probably already know how but can look to the help page if necessary.
• Google + Local Place Pages can be integrated with Google AdWords Express if you are using an AdWords program to advertise your park.
In today’s climate, local search is a must-optimize tool. Take the time necessary and maximize the benefits of local search by including plenty of details and interesting information for those searching terms or keywords that match your business. As the world around us shrinks and all business becomes local business, it’s that important. Really.