I just finished taking the Search Advertising Advanced Exam for Google's Professional Certification Program and there were quite a number of questions on linking your Google AdWords accounts with your Google Places Account. (BTW if you are wondering, the exam is super hard but I did pass). So this got me thinking how important is Google Places?
Now, I've been keeping a close eye on the local marketing tactics available via Google Places. Not familiar with it? Basically as a small business owner you can customize the way your business appears in the local map results. This is super important because the odds are if you are a local business your website will most likely never get enough visits to warrant a high organic listing. However, if you customize your local business listing/Google Places page you can be high up when Google shows the map results ahead of the traditional organic listing.
Besides getting the high listing in maps, you get free traffic reports, ability to add coupons and events, and for a flat fee per month you can highlight your listings. However, the big kicker for me is when you link your AdWords account with your Places account. Now your text ads can show an address which makes it stand out from your competition.
I can only conclude based on the amount of questions regarding Google Places that it is a key component of Google's growth in the future. Sure the big ad agency is slowly embracing paid search, but if I had to guess, Google is really looking for a surge in accounts from the small business universe; hence the amount of questions that you needed to answer correctly in order to get your Advanced certification. Need some help with your small business account, let me know...