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Vikram Rajan
 

Want Your Firm to Top Google Searches?

How free Top-of-Google advertising can place your practice on the map.

May 16, 2011
by Vikram Rajan

Sometimes online advertising is easier seen than said. Take a moment right now and go to Google. Type the word “accountant” followed by your geographic area (city, town, region, etc.). What comes up? Most likely you see ads on top (about three firms) and then a Google map of the area, with a listing of pins highlighting specific firms.

The advertised firms are part of Google Adwords — the pay-per-click (PPC advertising). As an auction, the top slots go to the highest bidder. Some keywords can be as low as 10 cents. The keyword accountant can be $20 per click (depending on Google Adwords’ competition in the defined geographic area).

The area highlighted below — the Google Maps, with the pins — is free! Go to Google.com/Places and create your account. There is a paid upgrade called Google Boost. While this is a premium, the standard Google search highlight is free and thus, we call this a “freemium” model.

The free version is quite sophisticated and drives traffic right to your firm. Clicking on the firm name goes straight to the website (try it), while clicking on the phrase Place Page goes to a Google “landing page,” with all your pertinent information, such as practice areas, phone number, mailing address (directions), blog mentions, reviews from around the web and reviews by Google searchers.

The Downside

Of course anything social can cut both ways. Poor reviews from disgruntled clients or those who have malicious things to say also show up. Google does allow you to contest anything libelous or hateful, but doesn’t allow you to remove performance complaints. As I told a client last week, we can’t remove “the few bad reviews,” but we can dilute it with “many great reviews.” Thus, you should encourage positive reviews through your e-newsletter, blog and LinkedIn updates.

Creating Google Places

Starting a Google Places account does take some time. First of all, it is linked to your Google Account (having a Gmail account is not necessary, but it does help in making the transaction seamless). Do not ask your office manager, assistant or a non-partner to create a Google Places’ account, unless they are authorized to use a partner’s Google Account (Gmail or new account). Google Accounts, Google Places and its associated programs is expected to keep growing in strength in years to come. If it is under someone else’s name and if that individual leaves, it will be very difficult for you to reclaim access (improve the page, etc.).

Filling out a Google Places account is simple enough. To begin with just fill out your pertinent contact information. Google will send you a postcard through postal mail to verify your existence. Once you receive the postcard, you will have to log into your Google Places account and enter the pin (security code). Google Maps (thus in Google search) will not highlight you until you do so. I have had clients throw out this postcard thinking it was junk mail. While it does look innocuous, it is precious, so be sure to look out for it. In case you do accidentally throw out the postcard as junk mail, you can request another verification to be mailed to you, though this does waste precious time. Expect to receive the postcard within two weeks.

In the meantime, you can populate your Places page with your logo and even a welcome video (after you upload it to YouTube). Upon verification, you will have access to a pretty sophisticated dashboard showing Impressions (how many times Google searchers saw your firm on a map) and Clicks to your website, directions to your firm’s location or for information on your Places page. It will also show you the keywords entered that found you.

The most important ways for you to improve your Google Places page are to:

  1. List each of your offices separately, i.e., have a separate listing for each office location.
  2. Categorize all of your practice areas (and lines of business) individually in separate Categories (up to 5).
  3. Use chockfull of keywords to describe your firm within 200 words.
  4. Use a welcome video. This is a great way to begin your client relationship.

Conclusion

While your practice may grow more through word-of-mouth referrals than through Google traffic, Google search is ubiquitous. Your Google Places page will highlight your firm even when someone is searching for you directly. Likewise, it is another place to integrate your videos, updates and testimonials. After all, coming up at the top of Google is always a marketing advantage … especially when it’s free.

Drive traffic to your web site and new business to your firm with the CPA2Biz Google™ Advertising Program. Learn more or to sign up today go to www.cpa2biz.com/google.

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Vikram Rajan is a Practice Marketing Advisor™ for CPAs. He has been published by the Journal of Accountancy and has produced webinars for the AICPA. His latest program, phoneBlogger.net, writes blogs, newsletters and LinkedIn updates for CPAs through private phone interviews. If you have any questions or frustrations in the process of setting up your Google Places account, you can e-mail Rajan for help.

© 2011 Vikram Rajan