You’ve heard of Google Places right?

If not, and you are a local business, then you need to contact us ASAP!

Seriously though, Google Places pages are the primary search results showing up in local searches on Google, both on regular desktop and laptop searches, and also in mobile searches.

Key factors in top Google Places search results

So let me just assume here that yes, you’ve heard of Google Places and that if you are a local business owner, you already have your Google Places page built and launched (again, if not, stop what you are doing and contact me).

Now that you have your Google Places page built, verified, and live on Google, it’s now time to find out exactly what you need to do to get your Places page to show up at the very top of the search results for your most profitable keyword search phrases.

This means – if I own a tire shop in Athens, Georgia, then what are the main areas for me to focus on to ensure that my tire shop appears at the top of Google search results.

Here’s the top 3 factors that determine Google Places rankings

This is all about what’s called Local SEO.  You’ve heard of the long standing practice of SEO for standard Google search results.  But when it comes to local businesses, Google Places rules the day and there are things to focus on that will directly impact your rankings in the search results.

1)  Physical Address In City Of Search

The number one most relevant signal that will drive top rankings in Google search results for your Google Places page is ensuring that you have a physical address in the city from which the search is being conducted.

Let me put it to you this way – if you own a business in Roswell, Georgia (a suburb of Altanta), then ensure that your website and your Google Places page references your actual city location (Roswell, Georgia) and not something like Atlanta.  I realize that being so close to a huge city like Atlanta could be tempting, but having the accurate physical address (street, city, state, zip code) will dramatically improve the search results for your Google Places page.

2)  Manually Owner – Verified Google Places Listings

As it is with Google Places pages, any business can have a “Places Page” for their business name and / or location.  After all, people add business listings all the time in an effort to leave a review, make a comment, or in simple passing or searching.

But the big difference here is that with Google Places listings, a business owner can physically verify their Google Places listing.

This is done by simply creating or updating the Google Places page for your business, and the following through the process until your get to the point where you see that Google now needs you to verify your local business.  This is typically handled by Google mailing your a post card with verification code on it.  Once you get the card, simply head back into your Google Places listing and enter that number.

Once you’ve entered the correct number and your Google Places page is now verified, you just completed one of the biggest steps you can take in optimizing your Google Places listing.

3)  Proper Category Association

You could have done everything perfectly while setting up your Google Places page, but if you screwed this one thing up, then you’ll continually struggle with getting top search rankings.

You must, must, must ensure that you select the proper category for your business.  In other words, ensure proper category association!

When you are filling out your Google Places page, you’ll come to a section that is all about selecting the proper categories for your business.  These are mostly handled through the pre formatted category titles that Google provides.  However, these are not always 100% accurate.

So what I do is define the top level category of my business as a category, but also the drilled down category for my business as well.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say I’m a veterinarian.  But in my practice, I specialize in treating and caring for cats.  I can, of course, see other animals, but cats are really my primary area of focus and practice.

So in my Google Places page under the category section, I’m going to put “Veterinarian” as a one of my categories.  But along with the top level category name as “Veterinary”, there are certainly other categories I can use to now tighten up my keyword categories.

In the deeper category levels, I need to ensure that “cat veterinarian” and “cat doctor” are annotated in the additional category levels.

Now how about you?

These are three factors that I see having a tremendous impact on your rankings in Google’s local search results (aka, Google Places).

What are some other strategies you’ve seen work in achieving top search results for your Google Places page?