Sunday, August 7, 2011

Google Places Wants Sun Prairie Businesses On the Map (

Madison Still One of Google's Favorite Places (The following excerpts are from the full article in In Business Magazine on May 31, 2011)

At the end of March, Google announced that Madison would be the fourth city – following Las Vegas, Portland, Ore., and Austin, Texas – to benefit from a campaign aimed at helping businesses improve their Web presence through Google Places, an elaborate online directory that not only features basic information on businesses – such as location and hours of operation – but also ratings, reviews, pictures, videos, and coupons.

"I think we definitely realized [Madison is] one of the cities that's very entrepreneurial and cares a lot about local businesses," said Deanna Yick, who works in global communications and public affairs for Google. "We do realize that Madison business owners are very open to technology and adopting new technology, so it was definitely high up on the list as one of the first cities that we wanted to reach out to."

Of course, if you're a savvy Web user, Google Places is something that you probably have at least a passing familiarity with. If you go to Google and type in the name of your favorite retail store or restaurant, high up on the list of search returns will be a link to that establishment's "place page." Click on that, and you'll find a wealth of information – written and visual – about that business. Trouble is, it may not be as accurate, up to date, or comprehensive as either the establishment's owners or Google would like, and it may not feature all the bells and whistles that Google has made available to business owners in order to help them promote their businesses online.

So Google is making a robust effort – in Madison at least – to get everyone up to speed.

But while Google obviously has an interest in having business owners claim (i.e., register) their place pages and make any necessary changes (out of 50 million place pages that Google has created from information around the Web, only 6 million have been claimed and customized by business owners), the company seems particularly excited about its rating and review system, which was initially launched as Hotpot and employs elements familiar to people who use social networking sites – such as the ability to add friends – to enhance its functionality.

"The great thing about Google Places and what really makes it different is not only is it a place to rate and review businesses, but you can share those ratings and reviews with your friends," said Yick. "So you can add your friend and invite them to see your ratings and reviews, so when you do a search for 'Italian restaurant Madison,' the places that are recommended to you will actually be impacted by what you reviewed other places as and what your friends rated and reviewed."

While the starter kits that the company sent out were the first salvo in its campaign, Google is really emphasizing the "boots-on-the-ground" nature of its effort.

Google already has an office in Madison, which opened three years ago. And now it has consultants working locally with business owners to help them build out their pages. The company selected members of the Madison business community to lead this effort – which Google has offered for free in order to encourage full participation – hoping that business owners' peers would be instrumental in getting as many people on board as possible.

Alison Dodge, a co-owner and co-founder of Madison's Happy Bambino, is one of those consultants. She said her familiarity with Madison has helped her considerably in advising local businesses.

"We can really talk on a very specific level about things that they might try to do," said Dodge. "I kind of have a background with a lot of different businesses here.

"I'm from Madison, and some of the businesses I've been working with – I've been eating in there since I was a little girl. I understand the businesses; I understand what they do in a lot of cases, and what the market is like."

Dodge said she's enjoyed helping fellow entrepreneurs craft their Web presence and promote their businesses.

"I went into a business yesterday, and [the owner] said she had it on her to-do list to get more technological for a long time – it's not her strong suit, she doesn't have a website of her own," said Dodge. "She said that a lot of people find her on Google. We went in and really customized her place page. We uploaded some photos she had sitting there; we customized her information to see how it's helping her business. So it was very satisfying for me to be able to help her out like that."

Dodge isn't the only one who's excited about the promotional possibilities this campaign presents. The Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the effort, saying it will help "businesses in our community to get discovered and to stand out." The chamber has also hosted several events for businesses interested in learning more about enhancing their pages.

Link to Full Article:

Blogger's Note: Alison is available and actively looking to get Sun Prairie businesses to get their Google Place presence up and running. Watch for a local workshop here in Sun Prairie later in August to learn more, or contact Alison directly at for a free appointment at your business to help to set up your page.

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