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Get a free search engine boost for your business with Google Places

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Google is about more than just a search engine, the web giant offers all kinds of cloud services, email and their stunning Maps and Earth systems as well. One of their lesser known products is Google Places, which combines elements of search and Maps in a way that can really benefit small businesses, plus it’s free and takes just a few minutes and some simple form filling to set up!

Have you ever searched on Google for something like “restaurants” and found a batch of results for restaurants local to you highlighted in the results and even plotted on a map to the side, as in the example below?

These results are drawn from Google Places, it works best when someone is logged in with a Google account so the system knows exactly where they live, but even when not logged in it figures it out from your Internet IP address which has an area code system similar to phone numbers. If your search includes a specific place, “restaurants in London” for example, the results are for the location you state.

Besides getting businesses top billing direct to their local market, you also have the option to pull up reviews left by system users with positioning ordered according to the best quality reviews, you can see an example below including a photo of the restaurant, directions and a more detailed map; pretty cool!

So, it’s a great way for web users to find services in a specific location and get feedback on the quality of service, how can your small business take advantage?

Places is completely free, just head on over to www.google.com/places, click “Get started now” and then “Get your business found on Google”. You will need to have a Google account set up, but that’s also free, it just takes a couple of minutes of form filling and you’re done.

Getting set up in Places is similarly simple, just prepare a good description of your business, a nice image or logo, essential contact details and anything else you might want to add, Google even let you place special offer coupons.

There are a few pages of details to fill out including things like opening hours and geographic location, if your service is offered across an area, such as a tradesman or pizza delivery firm you can specify an area rather than a single location.

You’ll be all done within minutes and the only time you’ll need to do anything again is to validate your details and update anything important like contact details if they change. Google is already integrating the whole thing with their social network Google+, which means small local businesses can get even more visibility directly to people in their catchment area, a great free feature for small businesses in the biggest and busiest business directory in the world.

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