Google Places Listings and The Car Dealer Search


Google Places Optimization

Google Places formerly known as Google Maps has been going through many intense changes in design and functionality in the very recent past. These changes are affecting car dealerships and many other types of businesses around the country, many of them don’t even realize it yet. In this post we would like to go over the basics about signing up and optimizing your Google Places Business Listing for better search engine traffic. Before we get into understanding what it takes to optimize a Places page for an auto dealership we must try to understand Google’s reasons for making these recent changes in the first place so lets look at two important facts to consider:

#1) Google is an online advertising company and makes the majority of its money from PPC (Pay-Per Click) ads that show up on a Google results page tagged under the “Sponsored Listings” area and in many other forms of online ads such as on individual websites like Adsense and also in the ad agency’s highly popular Gmail free email service.

#2) These changes made by Google Inc. have indeed manipulated the way the search results are displayed to the user which gives Google the ability to use a completely separate algorythm than their current web search.

Google Places Search Engine Results Page (SERPs)

Google Places Search Engine Results Page (SERPs)

You can see the changes in the above screenshot where results from Google Places are taking up the majority of the front search results page leaving very little room for organic search. Now the question remains why would they want to do this? We will provide our educated guess in the bottom of this blog post but next, lets get listed!

Get Listed on Google Places

If you are already listed then Great! If you are not then getting listed on Google Maps aka Google Places is fairly easy and can be a huge benefit to your auto dealership. If you are not already listed then make sure to add your dealer listing to Google Places and create an account so that you can easily manage your listing and make the necessary updates and changes in the future.

Google Places - Add Listing

Add and Verify a Listing

In order to add and verify your map listing you will need to have filled out and completed the basic listing required fields and then taken the steps to verify your listing. The best way to complete this in a timely manor is by choosing the “Verify by Phone” option and record the verification pin that Google provides you on the phone call to the desired business phone number, swiftly entering the pin in your Google Places account for validation. Once this is done you should see your map listing appear within approximately 12 – 24 hours. If for any reason you are not able to verify by phone you will have the option to verify by mail in which you will need to wait approx 2 – 3 weeks to receive a postcard in the mail from Google with your verification pin.

Add Images To Your Listing

You are allowed to add up to ten unique images for display on your Google Places page. It is best to use images that can give people a better understanding of the services that your company offers and how it may help them. Because of the very nature of search engines it is best to renameĀ  your dealership photos in a descriptive manor prior to uploading the images to Google (example: bob-harris-car-dealership.jpg).

Add Videos To Your Listing

As a verified map listing owner you are allowed up to five video uploads. Due to the fact that Google owns it is required that you upload your video to YouTube, if for some reason you do not have an account then you can sign up with a YouTube account, upload your video’s and then paste the video url into the field on your edit Google Places page. Your videos will show up in the order that you uploaded them. It is a good idea to update these videos often as they do get traffic from various sources on a constant basis.

Google Places Maps ListingAdd Descriptive Business Information

With every Google Places page you are allowed to add descriptive information about your business such as hours of operation, phone numbers, contact email addresses, parking availability, company photos, payment options, corporate videos and more. It is best for your Places page to be as filled out as possible with the most descriptive information about your dealership as possible. This will ensure your listing as being seen as a high quality listing and not one that gets marked as spam or for keyword stuffing.

Google Places Categories

Choosing the categories for you business listing should be fairly easy and should not be “spammed” in any way shape or form as this may reflect negatively on the listing’s results in the future. Make sure to select the categories that actually fit into your business profile and could bring you some relevant search engine traffic. There is a post worth reading on the Search Engine Roundtable blog that explains reasons to focus on getting business reviews instead of spamming Google Map categories.

Add Coupons To Your Listing

Google Places offers a wonderful way to share your new and used car specials and discounts with target Googlers by utilizing their Coupon feature in the Google Maps dashboard where you can offer freebies or discount items/services in order to generate traffic at your dealership whether it be for Parts, Sales or Service you can always come up with a great idea to get people excited.

Google Places Mobile CouponsMobile Coupons

There are over one billion mobile internet users and with the introduction of the tablet pc’s and other iPad like models it is always worth the effort to make your content available to the mobile web surfer. This is already put into place and all you will need to do once you have a verified Google Places listing is check off the Share mobile coupons link and any coupons that you have created for your map listing will automatically display to mobile web users that find your Places page.

Google Tags

Google Tags for Google PlacesTags are yellow markers that show up on Google’s search results pages and they allow automotive dealers owners to promote the most important aspects of their dealerships. You are able to set it so that when users scroll over one of your tags on Google or click on the sponsored link to view current offers, dealer photos, add videos or photos and other select features.

Google Places with Tags

Manage Reviews For Your Dealership

When you have a verified Google Places business listing you will have the ability to respond to every review about your company. This is probably one of the most important features in Google Places as the reviews of a listing have been stated to have a direct reflection on the rankings of that very listing. Replying to all user reviews is high quality content that makes a dealer actually look like its run by real people who care about their customer’s automotive experience’s and as a company whom wants to remain transparent.

Reply to Customer Reviews

Reply to Customer Reviews

Google Boost Ads

Google Boost is a location-based advertising product that the 800 pound gorilla has chosen to roll out in select demographics around the country. Boost ads were designed to help small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners find their customers online using a much simplified pay-per click (PPC) platform with what is “probably going to be the fastest, easiest and cheapest way to reach actively interested consumers in your immediate area” – Quoted from Jolie O’Dell @Mashable. You can learn more about Google Boost Ads on their help page or just ask us!

Google Boost Advertising

Google Boost Advertising

Google Hotpot Reviews

Google Hotpot is a business reviews site similar to that of a or equivalent website. This gives everyone the ability to place their review of any business listed on Google Places whether it be good or bad. This can be a great thing because of the fact that user reviews can be some of the most important feedback that any car dealer can ask for when looking to improve their business practices and internal processes. Most automotive dealerships spend enormous amounts of money to find out the information that our dear friend Goog is going to give to us for free, well at least “free” for now :) The main thing you want to do is become conscious of the reviews that users are leaving about your car dealership and become proactive in your responses with them.

Google Places Hotpot Reviews

Google Places Hotpot Reviews

How Our Research Started

12/02/2010 – I received a voice mail from a Google rep trying to sign me up with one of Google Places new “Tags” that allow for a link to be place under your Google Map listing in order to highlight a certain aspect of your Google business listing. Owning an SEO company that relies on Google everyday I had to return this call and find out the scoop! The very next morning I placed a call into Google HQ and ended up leaving a voice-mail for my Google rep, 5 minutes later the phone rings and its Google! I slowly grab the phone and answer it nonchalantly as if I don’t know who it is… After about 5 minutes of chit-chat I can tell that I am speaking to someone who really loves their job and enjoys bragging about the company they work for. After speaking about the fact that Google has their hands in just about everything she happily responded with “Yeah, were going to take over the world soon!”. This statement speaks volumes about the feeling of self-righteousness that has been embedded in the brain of the average Google employee.

Now if you haven’t noticed lately there are no longer 10 organic search results on every local business search, there are only 3 – 4 on most and the top 50% – 70% of the results page is completely devoted to Google Places results now. This is a definite bold move for Google and says just one thing: “This is our website and we will change the way results are displayed on it as we damn well please!”. Google obviously doesn’t care about the time and effort that many businesses have placed on making websites that are deserving of front page organic rankings. Now they are making us all start over just this time it is with an algorythm that we are not familiar with. While I was picking the brain of this Google rep I asked her what their plans were for Google Places and what direction it was headed because after all I knew it was not all set up just to get a $25 per month Tag sold to every map listing owner. This Google rep told me that she was not allowed to answer those questions but what she could tell me was there was going to be more changes to roll out in the near future. She said “Let’s face it, SEO is a dying industry”. I found this statement interesting considering the fact that SEO today is based on who has the best content and who can get it linked up with some relevant websites in a timely manor. This search for the best content is never going to end as it is what Google thrives on.

What do you think this Google rep was really trying to say?

Our Conclusion

We think that Google is preparing to launch their most successful PPC platform ever and it is going to take place from within Google Places, which will now own 80% of web searches (local search). We believe Google has their employee’s calling all active map listing owners and trying to get them signed up with a very cheap and very easy option, Tags for $25 a month, once everyone is signed up with this Tag system and has current credit card information they will continue with their rollout of their new location-based ad system for small budget businesses that have not been able to grasp their current PPC program. As this rollout continues we will see Google trying to intrude as much as possible on the organic search results space where the bulk of Googlers click, as this battle continues over the landscape on a search results page we have a feeling that Google will win for now but competing search engines would be smart to lessen the intrusion that their sponsored ads make on today’s savvy searchers in hopes of gaining some market share in the search industry.

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One Comment

  1. Posted December 29, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    The most in depth post I have seen on Google places. You have obviously done your homework. Thanks for the info.

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