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Photo: Google Places
Google has a number of incredibly useful small business products, including Google Docs, Google Calendar, and Google Alerts. They also have produced some duds, like Google Spreadsheets. In 2007, they released a promising new business tool: free virtual storefronts for business owners. Since then, they’ve dubbed these storefronts Google Places.
Google Places is the online version of yellow pages. It is a virtual hub for small business listings, free of charge for participating companies. These listings are customisable by owner with multiple image options and editable text fields. Google boasts their product helps businesses “be found, stand out and get insights.”
Some of their features include coupons, flat fee advertising, business photo shoots (Google will come and take photos of your business’ interior for your listing), and mobile codes. Google Places is based on localised search, so only appropriate, near-by businesses appear.
There are literally thousands of products that sound like good resources for entrepreneurs, and it’s hard to tell which are really worth spending time on. No business owner wants to waste the little time they have creating a listing that won’t yield a decent ROI. We’ve weighed the pros and cons of Google’s virtual storefronts so you can make the call.
Here’s the good:
Free. Most entrepreneurs are strapped for cash, and Google’s virtual storefronts don’t cost a thing. Consider it free advertising.
customisable. Businesses can upload pictures and videos, list their product in multiple languages, get reviews, and customise colours.
Easy to use. Google is pretty good at creating products even tech illiterates can navigate. Google Places is no exception. Information can be saved and edited later, so you don’t have to create a listing all in one sitting either.
More traffic. Since it’s a third-party provided storefront, an advantage of using Google is that they naturally pull in some of their traffic that your business would otherwise not get. According to Wholesale Newsletter, third party virtual storefronts like Google’s can, in some cases, give you much more direct access to your market.
Respond to reviews. Yelp already had this feature, and now Google has added it to Places. Stores can respond to customer reviews and help battle blemishing responses.
And the bad:
You’re still within their design scheme limitations. If you’re not tech savvy, then you might prefer to use their easy-to-use design tools. But those who are proficient web designers may prefer a self-designed platform.
Competition. There’s no guarantee of competitive separation, so you could be listed near a number of similar products.
Yelp reviews are blocked on Google Places, so you can’t respond to every review about your listing in one place. Google’s reasoning: “For the time being, Yelp pages may not appear as review snippets in Place page results, though relevant results from Yelp will continue appear in the ‘more about this place’ section.”
Also, there’s no way to delete negative reviews which can blemish your company. But Google recently updated their review policy to prohibit consumers from spamming and hate speech, so there is some monitoring of comments.
All in, Google Places won’t take you much time to set up and since it’s free, why not create a listing? Chances are Google has already found and listed your business just by crawling the web. It’s worth claiming ownership of the listing and making sure your storefront is accurate and beneficial for customers.
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