In the last couple of weeks, Google Places was supplanted by Google+ Local and Google has been publicizing the changes and opportunities on their blog. They plan to keep adding more profile dimensions to help users refine the quality of the information they receive and eventually Google Places will disappear. For the meantime, Google recommends that businesses have both listings.
Google says that their changes will continue to increase the reach of businesses beyond their websites and other marketing initiatives. They assert that 20% of search is related to location and that 97% of local customers search for locations online. Google Maps and Places are great assets for brick-and-mortar establishments and help level the playing field that is dominated by your big competitors.
SEO experts understand the value of having map listings for search rankings because many customers are loyal to businesses in their neighborhoods and expect to get more personalized service at mom-and-pop stores.
Google Maps and Google+ Local also provide additional links for customers to use to find you. These programs can give clients a link to your website, ratings by customers, and help them to find mentions of you on other social media. This can make a big difference in your online search rankings. It is a great way to provide you with even more avenues for business access.
Listing on Google is free. All you need to do is create a new profile or verify a listing that already exists. It may take you a few minutes if this is all new to you, but the internet is full of step-by-step instructions.
If you are not using Google+ you will want to add it to your social media networks because Google dominates search and Google Maps and local search are so important. This is an essential and relatively easy resource with rapidly expanding reach. You owe it to yourself to develop these connections to your customers and prospects.