Location-based social platforms like Foursquare, Yelp, and Gowalla have been on the rise recently. Such platforms have given small businesses the needed boost to promote their products and services. Thanks to various Google Maps mash-ups, location-based advertising is enhancing small and medium businesses an affordable yet practical means to enhance their marketing strategies. Google's latest products, Google Offers and Google Boost, are about to take their place location-based advertising race but all these new Google products will not be possible if not for Google Places! While Facebook Places is still being developed and seems to be a risky strategy for small and medium businesses, Google Places is simple to use, maintenance-free, and inexpensive as well.

Indeed, Google is the king when it comes to targeted advertising. Google Places gave SMBs a Yelp-like landing page for star ratings and reviews. Google Places is deemed to be the next significant phase in locally targeted, location-based marketing. Ads will appear with a combination of vertical keyword and location keyword. But how can you maximize the potential of Google Places to catapult conversion rates and ROI for your company?

Here's a step by step introduction on how to utilize Google Places. It'll help you manage your business' presence on Google Maps, and eventually entice potential customers to stop by and notice your business.

1. Make your mark

To start things off, check if your business has a listing on Google Maps already. If it appears on the map, click on its placemark on the left panel. The pop-up will allow you to edit the business details and lets you customize the taglines for your listing. If ever your company doesn't appear yet, go to the Google Places homepage then click “Add a new business.” Fill out the details and you're on the map already. Google lets you manage up to a hundred listings on your account. They will verify that the business is yours through snail mail or phone.

2. Spill your info

Spill all the necessary information about your business. The basics would be the name, address, phone number, website, office hours, and modes of payment. You can even upload photos or videos using YouTube. Also, it's essential to choose categories to describe your business so people can easily find you with keyword searches.

Mark your spot and claim your listing!

3. Enhance your listing

People have a penchant for promos, deals, and coupons. Such add-on to your business will actually entice potential customers to check out what you can offer. You can put any kind of coupon, and Google will enable you to format and distribute it to your target niche using tools suited for such. Create one by simply logging in to Google Places then clicking the “Coupon” tab. Customization should be a breeze because using the tools are self-explanatory. Ensure that the coupon will appear on the map so customers can print it off. You can also avail of Google AdWords program by using a “Tag” which is an alert-like pin on the map to make your listing stand out from the rest.

4. Measuring Results

Since Google Places allows you to customize taglines and descriptions for your business, you can easily tweak your strategies and sort out the most effective from the stagnant ones. Google provides a dashboard for business owners which they can view “impressions” (user searches) and click-through actions are made. Customizing your listing should make you optimize your search presence. However, search analytics reflect a period of 30 days ending about 48 hours ago, meaning it’s not real-time yet. Patience is a virtue, so be sure to give Google ample time to collect significant data for your business.