Not many people know that Google have given them a free webpage for their business – and will provide one if not already there.

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If you type in a type of business (or actual business name) and your town in Google search box, for example “hairdressers Walsall”, you not only get your ‘normal’ search results of websites, but notice the list of actual real-life businesses at the top (or side) with a red flag next to them, and then a map to the right with these flags on it.

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Now click on either a red flag or link below each one called “Google review” or “Google+ Page” and you’ll come to a page of information about that business on Google, including contact details, description, location map, and maybe even photos. You can also search under the “Maps” part of Google, and click the “more info” link on the pop-up box on the map.

This is Google being very clever – over the last few years it has collected data on every real offline business in the world with an address, and given them this opportunity to be online, whether or not they already have a website.

Even if they already have a normal website, it’s critical for every business to make sure they have their free Google Places page claimed and setup. One example of how useful this is. is when people search for your type of business online, and this Places page coming at the top of search results above the normal websites.

Another reason is that your Places page links to a Google Plus account, which is Google’s version of a social networking site like Facebook or LinkedIn. It can then help any social-media strategy you have.

Anyway, back to the Google Places page – here’s 5 critical things you need to do to claim and improve your free opportunity to be at the top of the world’s most popular online search engine:

1. Try and find your existing listing – then click the “manage this page” link on the right at the bottom near “Is this your business?”  to go through a procedure with Google to validate that this is really yours (this involves Google actually phoning you or sending a ‘code’ in the post to your address).

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2. If you can’t find your business, click www.google.com/places to create a new one, and go through a similar procedure with Google to validate that this is real.

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3. Once you’ve claimed your Google Places page (by this time you’ll have needed to create your own Google account), then edit and update it, like your own profile on say Facebook. Add descriptions, new pictures, check contact details, even upload video clips of your business.

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4. Keep an eye on who actually visits your Places page – there is a section of your page where you can see behind the scenes how it performs.

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5. Keep updating it every so often, for example some new photos, and adding special offers you have on at the moment or ‘coupons’.

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If you’d like any help and advice on this, then do contact me. I offer the ‘Google Place Pudding’ dessert from The Website Waiter ‘menu’ of services, which will help claim and correctly setup your Places page, and make sure that it is not only updated for people to look at but to be ‘optimised’ with Google so it appears more and more in people’s searches, and links nicely with any existing website or social-media profile you have.