Google Places allows you to adjust your business Maps listing marker, add a short description for your business (and this can be crucial for listing you top of the list amongst your competitors), choose some categories for your business, add opening hours and images and a web address, etc. It is the area of Google responsible for choosing whose business gets listed at the top of the page with the map next to it, like this:
So whether you are just concerned with listing for your company name, or you want to list top of that list of local businesses for keywords and a location, you need to claim and adjust your Places listing.
From a very basic brand management perspective, when someone clicks on your Place Page they see this:
… a page containing information on your business, reviews others have posted for your business, plus below that an area listing other businesses Google thinks you might be interested in. Meaning, basically, that even on your own Places page you are competiting against your competition. Sure, someone has clicked to view your Page, but if you have no helpful or appealing information in there they may well see something they like the look of better in that ‘Nearby places you might like’ section.
From a more general Search Engine Optimisation perspective, the words you use in your Places Page will actually influence how far up the list you appear when Google decides to list several businesses next to that map at the top of the results page. How well you list is based on a mix of your location (ie: how close you are to the area the person searched for) and the keywords in your categories, description and company name. So you need to carefully optimise the text you specify (while ensuring it reads well, of course, and is not spammy).
So go to http://places.google.com and start by either logging in to your Google account or creating one. You then need to find your business listing, by searching for your company name in Web or Maps search, clicking through to the Places Page and then clicking the ‘Business Owner?’ link at the top right. Google will then take you through the steps for claiming your listing (which will involve proving you own the business or represent it, by having a phonecall come through to your business number of a postcard sent to your business address).
Once you have access to your listing you can adjust and re-adjust (if needs be), so add as much helpful information as you can, encourage customers with Google accounts to give you reviews, make the Places page relevant and take advantage of the chance to list top for offering services in your specific area.
About The Author: Camilla Todd manages Search Engine Optimisation, social media campaigns and brand awareness for WNW Design SEO clients. You can follow her on Twitter @camilla_wnw, email her at email@example.com or phone on 01395 542569. You can also follow WNW Design on Facebook here.