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    An exciting (yet strangely creepy) union took place a few weeks ago. Google took its entire Places database and dropped it into the Google+ platform, allowing businesses to have a Google+ page of their very own. It’s now easier than ever for people to find, share, review, and recommend your business  through their Google+ profile. Get started by checking out step-by-step instructions here.

    If you haven’t signed up before, it’s important to note that you will have to verify your submission with a phone call or postcard. While this may seem “Big Brother-ish”, it’s an important step to make sure that only the right people are able to change any public data about your business on Google.

    After that, follow these four easy to remember steps to make sure you are getting the most out of your free listing:

    STEP ONE: Customize

    After verifying your listing, you can enhance it by sharing more detailed information about your business. Include your hours of operation, payment methods you accept, photos, videos, and multiple categories to make it easier for user to find your business. You can also add custom fields to your listing such as products you carry, special parking instructions, or if you welcome pets.

    STEP TWO: Analyze

    A few weeks after completing your listing, the Google Places Dashboard will help you examine how users are finding and interacting with your listing.

    You can discover how many users are searching for you and what keywords they used. You can look into the number of times your listing appeared as a result of a search and how often they clicked through to your website. You can even see what zip code was used when a user requests driving directions from Google Maps.

    STEP THREE: Optimze

    Once you’ve become familiar with the Dashboard, you can take your listing to the next level by optimizing it for search. To learn more about helping Google crawl and index your site, take a look at the Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.

    Since Google uses information from your website to help improve search results, list your official business website on your Places listing. Google will also aggregate info about your business from all over the web, so make sure information about your business on third-party sites is accurate.

    One of the most important things you can do to improve your listing’s ranking is to encourage customers to review your business. Keep a look out for a blog post about interacting with customer reviews in the next couple of weeks.

    Step Four: Advertise

    Using your Places page is a great way to provide special discounts and deals to attract new customers who view your listing. You can choose from three types of offers: amount of money off, percent off, or a buy one get one free offers

    To redeem, customers can show you the offer on their mobile device and you can apply the discount at checkout. Google will keep track of how many customers have redeemed or saved your offer.

    Search is more local than ever

    One out of five searches on Google is now related to location. Use Google Places to gain new customers, connect with your current ones, and establish a strong and accurate presence on the web.