A recent review of Google webmaster tools for my church’s website (cinderford-churches.org.uk) raised a point that I’d previously not realised. Registering with Google Places can have a big impact on your search ranking. Obviously I knew that it was a useful tool in picking up local interest which is why I’d registered our churches but it was only this week the extent of this advantage over other “competition” was shown.
While reviewing our Christmas paper marketing campaign which I’ll write about later, I noticed that we received three times the number of search impressions for the term “Westbury on Severn Church” than for “Cinderford Churches”. Westbury is five miles from us and the church there has it’s own church website however the church is not listed on Google Places. Their page comes up top of the search results, straight after two of our churches and one other local church are listed in the places section at the top of the search results.
Our website only contains references to Westbury in linked PDFs and is not optimised to rank for Westbury or the church there. I can only assume that our website ranks higher purely based on the location data stored in our Google Places account. Google picks up on the place name “Westbury” and the category “Church” in the search query and returns the three closest churches listed on Google Places.
What is Google Places?
Places is a product from Google which they describe as the following:
Google Places for Business gives you access to free tools that help your business get online, be found on Google Search and Maps and get closer to your customers. It’s the easiest way to manage your business across Google – and it’s free.
Basically it allows you to add your business to a Google map and be found by people more easily.
Do Google Places really matter?
So does it really matter that we come out top? Surely people will realise our site isn’t what they’re looking for and go through to the correct website listed below?
I’m not so sure. Screen sizes are changing and often browser height is smaller on netbooks or 13″ laptops that are becoming popular, also phones and tablets might not always display the fourth search result above the fold. Also, if you’re new to the area or are searching for something general like a church in an area, then you might not realise the location results at the top of Google aren’t what you’re looking for.
If you knew the church in Westbury was called St Mary’s, you would have likely searched for St Mary’s Westbury or similar and therefore discarded the top three results or got a different search result closer to what you’re looking for.
People are so used to searching now and expect what they’re looking for to be well indexed. If you’re looking for a church in Westbury and the top result is titled St Stephen’s, that sounds like a church so you’ll probably click on it. People are also more mobile now and so driving 5 miles to visit a church, shop or business is worth it if they’re impressed enough by the website they find. If your business is top and your website impresses, you’ll get the business whether you’re closest or not.
Quickly boost your search impressions?
Do you have a website for your church, business or organisation that has a physical location? Have you spent hours on SEO and producing good quality content to attract business and gain search results? Have you registered with Google Places?
If you answered yes to the first two and not the third then I suggest you register quickly as it’s a free service, doesn’t take long and can quickly boost your search impact. If you’re the only local butcher, builder or hairdresser listed on Google Places, just imagine what an impact that will have on your search traffic against your competitors.
Get help with Google Places
While Google Places is relatively straightforward to setup, as a small business owner I recognise that time is precious and sorting out your website can just be one extra thing. If you’re convinced (and I hope you are) that you need your business on Google Places but don’t have time, I’d be happy to help you out. Just get in touch through my company.
I’ll also try and post a follow up article on how to setup Google Places yourself.
Other map providers
While you’re at it, you should probably also register with the companies below as they don’t share data and different users will search different sources.