I’ve always been curious about how businesses put themselves on the map. And by map, I mean to say Google Map. In this article, I’ll be taking a deep dive into how your business can use the Places for Business service that Google provides to polish up the business listing that gets displayed on Google Maps.

I just have one problem – I don’t own a retail business. But as it turns out, and in the name of science and hopefully a decent article, it wasn’t difficult to find a retail business owner that would accept my pro bono tech advice. All I required was being able to document the process and take screenshots along the way. The deal was made.

Meet Soria’s Closet, a contemporary women’s boutique in Alexandria, VA, that has a single store and doesn’t do any online transitions. It’s a brick and mortar business all the way. They get customers the old fashioned way – by focusing on service and getting word of mouth traffic. That still doesn’t mean they shouldn’t care about the online world and my first task was to see what Google knew about the business. (Figure A)

The listing was pretty bare. At least Google provided the correct address and phone number, but there wasn’t much else other than a photo that a Google Street View car took while zooming past it. I think we can do much better than that. Let’s see what options we have to improve this listing.

Making a better place

The first place to go is called Places for Business which allows you to edit business listings found on Google Maps. (Figure B)

I was a little shocked that you could just edit any listing on Google Maps. Yes, anything you find allows you to tap an edit button. The havoc one could wreck on this world, right? Well, it turns out you have to go through a verification process to submit updates. Expect a postcard to the address or a phone call to the business number to approve these changes. Dr. Chaos will have to wait another day.

Getting back to fixing up the business listing here are a few options that allow editing. (Figure C)

Notice that the e-mail address, website, description, and category (up to five) were never filled out. I’m no stranger to the world of SEO and I think it’s safe to say that having more is better. In fact there wasn’t even a category filled out which is now a required field. I made sure to enter all that information and submit five related categories.

The hours of operation were not filled in either and that just happens to be the most common question the store gets from calling customers. Adding that data to Google Maps means they won’t have to field those types of calls and have more time to focus on people in the store. I also filled in the payment options, uploaded 10 photos, and added a few additional details.

The additional details allow you to provide information specific to your business. This initially confused me until I realized it was a series of name/value pairs. You create custom fields like “Parking available”: “Yes” or “Brands Carried”: “Coach, Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade”. So I asked the store owner what other questions customers had when they called. I found out it was “Do you have dressing rooms?” I thought that would make a great custom field and added “Dressing Rooms” with a value of “3” as an additional detail.

Once all the details were submitted, we selected to have Google verify the information by calling the store. It happened almost immediately and the update was verified by typing in a 4-digit code. The new business listing appeared in a few days. (Figure D)

Google Maps now includes the store website and it even lets you know if the store is currently open. There are 10 photos that can be clicked that take you to the Google+ company page which no longer looks like a blank canvas. It’s alive with great photos of happy customers. (Figure E)

I’m happy to report that Soria’s Closet has had an increase in new customers in the two weeks since the business listing was updated. So if you own a retail store then you should definitely check your Google Map listing for completeness. It only takes a few minutes to verify the information, fill in anything missing, and upload some great photos. Hopefully that little bit of effort will bring in a few more people which will lead to even more photos of happy customers.

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