HVAC SEO – How to Claim Your Google Map Listing for AC Contractors

So, let’s start with claiming your Google Places listing. If you haven’t already done this and this is new information to you, I would say take out a pen and paper and write this down immediately, Google.com/places. I’ll just skip forward here. This is what the page looks like. It’s Google.com/places. When you click that image on the right, there, that says, “Get Started.”

There’s a formal process that Google takes you through where you can formally claim your Google Places listing. From there, optimize it with information about who you are as a company, what you do, pictures of your company, pictures of your trucks and things like that.

Let’s talk about how to claim your Google Places listing and some best practices. When you go in and claim your Google Places listing, it gives you the option to list your company name. One best practice, as it relates to doing that, is you only want to list your true legal name. You don’t want to list Pete’s Plumbing and Heating in Tampa, Florida. That’s adding information. You only want to put your company name there. So, just Pete’s Plumbing and Heating, if that’s your company name. If that’s how it’s listed online and that’s how you incorporated your organization, then, that’s the way you want to do it. Don’t ever add additional key words here.

There’s some outdated information online that would indicate, hey why don’t you just add your city in there, that will give you some more authenticity and it will help you to show up more often. That strategy is actually against Google’s policies and procedures. You don’t want to play that game. You don’t want to do that.

Then, you’re going to have the option to add your website address. Obviously, you want to put your address in there. Your website address creates a nice inbound link and also helps your consumer, your potential customer, to be able to go and get that additional information.

You always want to use a local number. Don’t use an 800 number. As a matter of fact, 800 numbers don’t rank very well. I rarely see in plumbing and HVAC companies with an 800 number ranked. The reason for that is it’s called Google Plus Local. It is specifically meant for local businesses.

So, the connotation behind an 800 number is, I’m in Tampa and you’re in some other state. You’re in San Diego and if I dial this 800 number I won’t be incurring a charge. Don’t do it. It doesn’t rank well. Plus, statistics tell us that local numbers actually convert better. If a customer gets to your HVAC website and they’re reading about who you are and what you do and you’ve got a local number, they’re more apt to call that local number than an 800 number.

Another best practice is you need to use a local address in your Google Places listing. It’s not going to work to use a P.O. Box or UPS Store. There was a time where you could do that. It really just doesn’t work that well. Google’s privy to that.

There were some guys that were teaching you to, in every little city that you wanted to rank in, go out and set up a UPS box store and claim your listing in those different areas. For the most part, the companies I’ve seen that have done that in the past are now black balled. They can’t even rank in their main city. So, don’t try and play that game. Use your real business address. If it’s a house, that’s fine. You can get away with using a home address because there are businesses that happen to operate out of a home. You just need to play by the rules.

One of the rules that Google dictates is, as you go through the process of claiming your Google Places listing, it asks, do you service customers at your place of business? In other words, do they come to you, like at a store or at a dentist? Or, are you servicing them out in the field? And it’s a yes, no question. You obviously need to answer that, no, we don’t service them at our place of business. We go out to them.

Then the next question it asks, once you say, yes or no to that is it asks if you want to show your address or not. So, you have the option, at that point, to either say, yes, please show my address or don’t show my address. If you work from a home office, you can hit, no, please don’t show my address because you shouldn’t show your address.

Google mandates that if you work from a home office, you should not be showing your address because you don’t want people using the Google Map to find you and come to your house. So, you need to put, no, there. You can still rank. We have clients that rank quite well on the Google Map from a home address with a hidden address. So, play by the rules. Use your real address. Hide the address if it’s a home office.

If you don’t have a physical address and you can’t list your home office, the other option is a virtual office, as a worst case scenario. A virtual office is those office buildings that will rent you a suite within their building. Maybe you don’t actually work there, but you have access to mail and you’ve got someone that answers the phones for you there. You can usually get a virtual office at a relatively cheap rate. That’s an option for you to be able to at least establish yourself on the map and have a place of business because you’re going to have to verify via phone.

The next thing you want to do within Google Places is upload photos. You want to upload as much content as possible. Google allows you to upload up to ten pictures and up to five videos. On the pictures, upload ten pictures and try and make them as authentic as possible. By that, I mean, don’t just grab stock photography — you know, the picture of the guy with the wrench and a picture of the AC unit.

The more authentic the photos, the real pictures of you and your team of guys, your trucks stacked in order, the building, and your guys out in the field with a wrench in front of a Trane AC unit, for instance. That type of stuff resonates well. It works well. You want to do that.

You upload videos, too. It’s very, very simple to create a YouTube channel. Make a simple video, either from an iPhone, or a little mobile video camera. Just a brief video, maybe a picture of your truck, a scanning picture of your truck, scanning picture of your team, and then you’re standing in front of the camera saying, “Hey, I’m the owner of Pete’s Plumbing and Heating, and we provided AC installation and repair services to this specific area.” Talk about your unique selling proposition. That’s it.

Save that. Upload it to YouTube. Sync it to your Google Places listing, and that resonates well, too. The more authentic information, like that, that you can put out, the better. Just some additional tips on what you can do with video, and your pictures, is first of all your images. Name them something specific. Don’t just name it image one, image two, image three, or use the default that your camera spits out for the image.

Name it your city plus AC repair dash your company name, and then AC repair dash your city and then company name. That way you’re getting some keyword context into your images.

Another really best practice, as far as how you can leverage your images, and get more context to it, is to use a tool like Panaramio. Panaramio, you can go to panaramio.com, is a image sharing site. What you can do is you can upload an image to panaramio.com, and then you can name it, like I just said, but then you can also geotag it. You can put your company’s address in the settings on the image.

Now Google says, whenever you’ve uploaded it to YouTube, Google spiders to your Google Places listing, follows that image off to Panaramio, sees the GPS information, follows that GPS information back to your map listing, and it gives a lot of context and a lot of authority information. It would say, “OK, this is a real company that’s operating in this area.” It really helps with all of that.

Those are some really good best practices on how you can optimize your Google Places listing. One thing to pay close attention to is, if you haven’t claimed your Google Places listing, and you’re doing this for the first time, you’re going to get the option to either verify via phone or verify via mail.

If you haven’t claimed your Google Places listing, and you’ve been in business for some period of time, it’s going to give you that option to verify via phone. Where there’s available, you always want to do it. You select “verify via phone.” When you press submit, you’ll get a call almost immediately. It will be an automated system that says, “Hey, this is Google. Your PIN code is 44632.”

You write that down, enter it in Google Places listing at google.com/places, and you’re cooked in with grease. You can go in and follow all those best practices I just recommended. If you haven’t done that yet, and you’re starting a brand new business, you might not have the option to verify via phone.

What’s going to happen is it will say, “We’re going to send you a postcard.” You got to wait a few days, something like 10 business days, you’ll get a postcard in the mail with your PIN code, and that’s how you complete the verification process.

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