Yellow pages may care to disagree with that statement but Google have taken away the need for services like Yellow Pages, especially in the physical form but also in the on-line world.
More and more people turn to the web to find instant solutions to their problems and in its basic form, as a search engine, Google has hit directory businesses hard. To rub salt into their wounds they have also taken over the typical directory function by giving web users Google Places.
The future is Google Places
Google Places, which was formally Google Local Business Centre, enables business owners to provide location details, opening hours, photos, coupons, web site links and logo to name a few. Customers can also add reviews and the business owner can promote things like special events. It is clear to see that paper directories can not compete with this type of exposure. Couple all this with Google maps and customers can see exactly where you are and what your business looks like.
Yellow Pages are fully aware that they are no longer relevant, even the strategic communications manager at Sensis, who owns Yellow Pages, said that Yellow Pages is really for:
“small businesses who may be time-poor and don’t always have the necessary expertise in marketing and advertising”.
Stephen Ronchi — Sensis
Pretty clear that they are trying to pitch to businesses that are not that technically aware. Google makes this so easy that that is no longer a barrier.
Smarter directory operators, including the likes of a client of ours dLook.com.au realised long ago that their service is effectively to create mini websites for clients that rely less on their traffic inside the site and more on pulling traffic from Google and to their customers. Indeed, it is the self service or low cost service of dLook and others in the market that make them competitive.
Interestingly Google pulls information from third parties, including Yellow Pages to create a basic profile. They want your input though and any information you give to Google will replace data from third parties.
The best bit is that Google Places is free. You can pay to get a featured ad but the free option puts you far and beyond what you would get from a traditional directory, in print or on-line.
Registering your business with Google Places is a few simple steps but it is best to compile all your business information for your profile before hand. If you need help with registering your business, we can easily provide that service.
There is one thing that I haven’t mentioned yet and I think this is a big deal. Google Places also gives you stats! If you use Google Analytics then you will understand how much of a leap this is for the simple business directory. Having stats enables you to see exactly what people are doing, what they are clicking on and what they searched for. Admittedly these stats are not very full featured but they enable you to refine your business listing around the keywords that people are searching on.
If you offer wireless internet at your café and see that people are searching for “Internet Café Wireless” and viewing your profile but not converting then you know you need to add that information to your listing. You could also create a coupon, give specials and target specific groups.
Google also seem to be expanding the analytics feature as some countries allow you to see where people are searching from, how many are coming from those regions and allow you to define service areas, great for small businesses.
Gone are the days of a small ad in a directory, this is a fully featured, interactive profile that customers can rate and comment on and that you, as the business owner, can at any time change and refine.
Getting the Best from Google Places
This is all quite new from Google so it makes sense that they want to be able to promote this service with fully complete business profiles. It appears that Google is giving preference to businesses that complete their profiles so it is in your best interest to give as much information about your business as possible.
Encouraging your customers to provide reviews also enables you to get the best exposure. This is two fold because people find more value in reviews that are relevant to them and because Google will want to put forward richer profiles.
At the moment business listings are found through maps.google.com or locally through local.google.com. A smaller result can show up in the main Google search results. In these cases the phone number and contact details are prominant, along with a small amount of descriptive information. Listings in the main Google search engine are triggered by location keywords. For instance the term “Alliance Software” would not show our business listing but “Alliance Software Melbourne” would. With each listing you can click the link More information and it takes you through to your full profile.
Again, registering is easy. Give it a go.
Help and Information
It is important that you do not try and add information where it is not supposed to be. If in doubt, Google has the answer. You can read the Google Places quality guidelines to ensure that you will get your business listed. They are clear in what they allow and what they won’t. There is also a comprehensive help section in the Google Places User Guide