Google Places Citations – Why Format Matters

Google Places Citations – Why Format Matters

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Google Places Prominence in Search Results Page
Google Places Prominence in Search Results Page

Everything you wanted to know about Google Places citations but were afraid to ask.

When it comes to Google Places citations, there are three factors to consider: format, consistency and volume. We’ll be talking about all of these but the first thing to get right is the format. After you have the right format for your business listing you can begin to focus on maintaining consistency while increasing the number of citations for your business on the internet.

Once you’ve claimed your listing, you need ensure you have the properly formatted business listing citations for Google Places optimization. What is a citation and why is it important to local search? Glad you asked.

Let’s look at how Google Places shows up on local-centric search engine results pages (SERPs) using our search for a yoga studio in Norfolk, VA.

Google Places Citations - Maps Prominence in Search Results Page
Google Places Citations - Maps Prominence in Search Results Page

In this screenshot, our client Satya Yoga Norfolk is not showing up in the Google Places listings. What you can’t see from this screen capture is that Satya Yoga actually did rank highly at the time of this search but in the organic results, which appeared below the Places and Maps listing. So even though Satya Yoga has done a nice job of providing organic – or natural – content for Google to index, the studio has not begun to optimize for their Google Places ranking.

Note: At the time of this article they had just opened their studio but still had not claimed their Places listing. They have since begun their local business SEO efforts with us.

Google Places optimization is different from other SEO techniques used for ranking efforts in the organic search results in many ways. One of the largest differences is the use of citations.

A citation is more or less your business name, phone number, and address. There are a lot of other parts to a citation, but at it’s most basic it is nothing more than a listing of these three elements.

Put yourself in Google’s shoes for a moment. You’ve got millions of businesses trying to rank for local SERPs using Google Places listings. How are you going to know which businesses are real and which are spammers? A good indication might be if you scour the internet and see a business’s name, address and phone number – in the same format – in a lot of different places. It would most likely give you a better indication that the business is indeed real and established.

Disclaimer: Of course that’s an over-simplification of Google’s reasoning behind using citations. We’d also like to add to this disclaimer that there are a lot of things that Google does that we’re not really meant to understand. And to make it even more fun, any of this can change at any time. 🙂

Proper use and format of citations for Google Places optimization

Without further ado, we offer the following advice when it comes to the proper format of your business citations:

  1. Claim your Google Places listing. We mentioned this in an earlier post. In some cases it could take weeks before your listing is claimed.
  2. Go claim and fill out your Manta listing. Also mentioned in an earlier post. This step helps you work on crafting all of the text/copy that you’ll need for this optimization process because the process that Manta has set up forces you to think through many aspects of your future business listings. Once you create it there, it can be saved to a word document and copied/pasted repeatedly throughout this process. Trust us, there’s a lot of repetition involved with submitting your listing to various directories for citations and this step will save you time and sanity!
  3. Once you verify and claim your Google Places listing, go view your business on Google Maps. Use the link from the Places Dashboard. Write down whatever address format is used in Google Maps. Yes, it can and most likely will be different from what you’ve submitted in Google Places. For example, this address:

    123 Main St.

    Could end up as:

    123 Main Street

    This example is from our own address listing:

    5007 Victory Blvd.

    Was listed in Google Maps as:

    5007 Victory Boulevard

    Yes, it makes a difference. Defer to the Google Maps format! Go back and edit your Places listing and your Manta listing and anywhere else that the address is written online, including your Facebook page and website if you have it there.

    Note: You might be wondering why you shouldn’t just start with adding your business on Google Maps? Because you’d just be directed back to Places to claim/add your google local listing.

  4. Do your keyword research and competitive analysis. This part can be done while you’re waiting on your verification code for your Places listing. Although the basic elements of your citations (name, address and phone number) are important, there’s also a lot of opportunity to write keyword rich content in your business description, product and services lists, etc. If you need help with this step, Bossa Nova Interactive offers introductory reports to help get you started. Drop us a line for more information.

This is the MOST IMPORTANT part of the process!

Make sure these parts of your listings are always the same in every citation:
Business Name: Use your actual business name, and don’t try to keyword stuff here. Example: Joe’s Plumbing is okay but Joe’s Best Affordable Plumbing in Yorktown, VA might get you banned from Google Places. Just read over their terms of use carefully so you can avoid getting de-indexed.
Address: as mentioned before, try to use the address format that is found in Google Maps and make all other citations, including your Places listing, match that format to the letter.
Phone number: You’ll typically find that the area code is in parenthesis and the rest of the number has dashes like this: (800) 123-4567. Just as with the note about addresses above, whichever way your phone number shows in Google Maps, use that format in Places and everywhere else.

Now that you have your listing correctly formatted it is time to submit it to various sites. Check out this post for a list of where to get the best citations for Google Places optimization.

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