Note: Google now puts the Google Places into the Google+ category. You will need to look at the Google+ area to find your place.
At one time, the Yellow Pages served as the primary place to look for services or products. Today, 82% of people looking for new products or services use online searches to find what they're looking for.
The two major search engines, Google and Microsoft/Yahoo (Microsoft now powers Yahoo's search with Bing), are fighting it out to provide a better search experience for users. This is good news for your practice and your marketing. Google is offering a free service called Google Places that provides a free business listing on Google.
Google Places are location-based pages that offer a free basic description of your practice, a photo, information about hours, location, your website URL, payment options, email address, and phone number. The information is displayed based on keywords used in your Google Places description, your actual office lo-
cation(s), and the location of the person who is doing the search.
It's almost like getting a free full-page ad in the equivalent of the Yellow Pages. It's important to get your page up on Google -it's an ideal way to market your practice. And, those therapists who act quickly, will have some advantage. Let's look at how to get started.
Step One: Gather Your Information
The most important item in the Google Places is the description. Use keywords that people who are potential clients would use when searching for your services. Stay away from "jargon" or terms that are unlikely to be used by a client. List your specialties and your expertise. Tell users what makes you special. List your payment options. List your hours.
Take time to create a well-written description. If writing isn't your specialty, use someone who is familiar with search marketing, and have them help you write a good description.
If you have a website, you can link your Google Places page to your web-
site. You can add a photo of yourself, or of your office location, or both.
Step Two: Claim Your Place
If you already have a Google Account, you will want to sign up for the free Google Places service. Then, search for the name of your practice or business. When you've found it, you can click on the “Edit” link and then click on “Claim your Business” to verify that you are the owner. If you don't see an “Edit” link, then click on “More Information” and click on “Add or edit your business”.
Don't have a Google account? It's free, offers "free" email, and also a group of other features. Just go to www.google.com/places and sign up for an account.
Once you are logged in, you can edit the listing information, suspend it to stop it from appearing, or add your business as a new listing. Google will verify your listing, and once they verify that you are the owner, your changes will appear.
If you are not already listed, you can add your listing. If you have multiple offices, Google Places provides a way to add your multiple locations.
Step Three: Check Your Dashboard
I've often used the phrase, "do, sense, learn" in my marketing seminars. You do something, you sense what's happening, you learn from that, and then repeat the sequence. To sense what's happening in the online world, there are "dashboards" and
“analytics”. With Google Places, your dashboard will show you how many people viewed your page, how many people clicked into your website, and will also give you information on the status of your listing.
Also, you'll see the "Search Query" -the terms that potential clients use to find your business listing and the zip codes from where driving directions are requested. It's a great way to see if there are terms that might help you better market your practice in other online means. You'll be doing something to move your marketing ahead; you can check your dashboard to sense what's happening, and ways to improve what you're doing.
There are many pieces to any marketing plan that will help bring you new clients. This is one that should be on your "must do"
list. Next month, we'll discuss some paid and low cost options for building your practice.
Disclaimer: I do not get anything from talking about this service and I will be talking about other services from other search engines and sites that you'll want to explore in the coming months.
For more information, visit
www.betterwebsitesnow.com/places/ to learn about Google Places and how to take advantage of this free marketing.
Michael Jaret runs one of the most highly regarded digital agencies, Jaret Media, with offices in Palo Alto and Denver. Formerly, Jaret was a marketing executive at Apple Computer, IBM, and a startup purchased by Microsoft. The Chapter is very happy to have Michael's expertise and forward thinking to help members build and maintain successful practices.