Small Town Chambers of Commerce, Mobilize Your Businesses and Showcase Your Town For Free On Google Place Pages

by Joanne Steele on February 9, 2010

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I’m trying to stick to a consistent strategy of writing about issues for towns on Tuesday. For rural communities, individual local business listings with the Google Local Business Center is a small town-wide issue.

Free Google Local Business Listings

If someone is driving by, for instance, Clinton, Indiana, and uses their mobile phone to look for a local restaurant or lodging, think of what it will do for the whole town if one or many listings pop up. The visitor pulls off the highway, stops at a restaurant, likes what they see, searches for a local motel, discovers a whole bunch of other listings for shopping and recreation, and stays.

Not only that, they have such a nice experience, they leave a positive review at City Search, Yelp and Travel Advisor. Bingo! The whole town scores, and the cost to each of the participating merchants is NOTHING!

My suggestion to every small town or rural regional chamber is to encourage every business in your membership to sign up for a Local Business Listing today at the Google Local Business Center. Even the garages, real estate agencies, insurance agents and grocery stores.

Here’s how: In a past post, Another FREE, Powerful Tool to Market Your Business or Visitors’ Bureau Online I gave you step by step directions for signing up for a Google Local Business Listing. Please feel free to copy these posts into your online or print chamber membership newsletter.

Google Favorite Places

Here is the newest reason to have every business in your town sign up for a Google Local Business Listing. Google has just started to reward businesses that are getting lots of attention with a special “Google Favorite Places” window decal.

Google determines which businesses are getting the most attention through the local listing program, and sends out the decals.

The business prominently displays the decal, which also has a cool new feature that will become more important in the next few years, the QR code. That is the little square box with black squiggles in the illustration to the left.

When a potential customer passes by a Google Favorite place, they can use their IPhone or Blackberry to scan the code to get all the information the business has posted on their Local Business Listing. This could include coupons, specials and specialities. Reviews are also included.

The numbers of phones supporting the special Android operating systems is growing exponentially every month. Google, as usual, is not only on the cutting edge – They’re creating it!

Think about it. No small town has much of a marketing budget these days.

What if you did the work of getting all your businesses listed at the Google Local Business Listing, and let Google help you market your town!

To see just how powerful this is, go to Google and click on Maps. Now, enter your town in the search box. Next to the name of your town on the left, click, “more info.” If you’re like Clinton, Indiana, nothing much appears. If on the other hand, you are like Ashland, Oregon, enough information and reviews pop up to plan a whole week’s vacation!

NOTE: The reviews you see on the Google Place Pages are aggregated from reviews all over the net, there isn’t a Google review site.

So, for your 2010 town-wide marketing plan, include Google Local Listings, and you might be able to make up for a dismal marketing budget this year.

Let us know what you found when you searched for your town on Google Maps? Were you surprised?

1 Melih Oztalay February 9, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Hello Joanne,

I do agree that Google’s local listing is something that a local business needs engage and embrace. The fact that it is free advertising and marketing to the local consumer is probably the first time that the Internet is actually become a benefit to the local business.

What I am most concerned about are small and local businesses having to contend with multiple local listing websites when it comes to their local listing.

Afterall, there are over 60 websites in four different categories specifically geared towards local listings. How can a local or small business have the time resources to cover this space.

Even if you made a conscious decision to not manage all 60, there are well more than Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Ask. The space goes to Local.com (they went public), Yelp, Merchant Circle, and many others.

Consumers will be the ones deciding which of these local listing websites they will go and post their experience through consumer reviews. This adds to the burden that no one single local listing website will do the trick.

Something we recently read at KillerStartUps are companies that are offering a low cost service to update then manage these listings for companies. You can read about this at KillerStartUps here:

http://www.killerstartups.com/Search/smartfindslocallisting-com-be-found-online

It is a changing world and the local business will benefit. There will be some adjustment to this space needed.

Good information from your post and hopefully this helps to raise the awareness of this marketing tool.

2 Joanne Steele February 11, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Thanks for the additional information Melih. The vital thing for most small town tourism businesses to remember is that it’s all about their customer. Every business should take the time to set up and manage a local listing on the biggies. But what makes decisionmaking about the other 54+ sites manageable for the microbusinesses that my blog focuses on is Google Alerts. These little tourism businesses know their customer niche intimately, and can keep track of where their customers are showing up online. Those are the additional places where they need to add their information.
For larger more diversified businesses, the services you talk about will be big time savers.

3 Joanne Steele February 11, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Thanks for the additional information Melih. The vital thing for most small town tourism businesses to remember is that it’s all about their customer. Every business should take the time to set up and manage a local listing on the biggies. But what makes decisionmaking about the other 54+ sites manageable for the microbusinesses that my blog focuses on is Google Alerts. These little tourism businesses know their customer niche intimately, and can keep track of where their customers are showing up online. Those are the additional places where they need to add their information.
For larger more diversified businesses, the services you talk about will be big time savers.

4 Joanne Steele February 11, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Thanks for the additional information Melih. The vital thing for most small town tourism businesses to remember is that it’s all about their customer. Every business should take the time to set up and manage a local listing on the biggies. But what makes decisionmaking about the other 54+ sites manageable for the microbusinesses that my blog focuses on is Google Alerts. These little tourism businesses know their customer niche intimately, and can keep track of where their customers are showing up online. Those are the additional places where they need to add their information.
For larger more diversified businesses, the services you talk about will be big time savers.

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