As every would-be website designer learns, search engine optimization is the key to getting noticed via search engine results. Figuring out the best keywords and phrases, the best linking methods, and the best moves to have the engines recognize and promote your site is a blend of constant attention, steady tweaking, trend-riding, and artful craftsmanship. There are also many directories and listings provided by companies like Google you can use to increase your business’ or website’s profile.

Google Places is a premier free listing directory that millions of businesses use around the globe, both on-location and online businesses alike. If you can optimize a Google Places page correctly in your website’s respective category, and subsequently link the two together, you can create a steady stream of new traffic for your website.

However, not enough people take full advantage of Google Places. Sure, they create their pages in their proper categories, but few are actually taking the time necessary to fully optimize these pages so that they act as advertisements.

Below, I discuss 7 key steps you can implement in order to optimize your Google Places page.

1. Pick the right keywords

In your business or website description, your space is going to be limited. Make sure that your Google Places page emphasizes the correct keywords. Don’t just stuff them in there, obviously, but with only 200 characters of available space, make sure that you have the right words in your description section.

2. A page for each location

Whether an on-location business or a web business, make sure you create a new page for each business venture you’re attempting to promote. A lot of people will stop at just one page, no matter how many businesses they’re trying to promote. The trick here is to rise to the top of every category; and if you compete in multiple categories, you need to have a Places page for each.

3. Be a well reviewed business

There’s a section in Google Places that allows for customers to review your site/business. This will definitely help word spread about your business if you have good reviews posted. Make sure you’re getting some great reviews on Places to show the folks that you’re reputable.

4. Go with standard categories

The products or services that you’re offering can be described on Google Places through five different and unique category sections. Instead of thinking outside of the box with a customized description, you will be ranked higher if you just stick to the standard categories instead.

5. No keyword titles

One of the first rules you learn when naming your site’s domain is to relate it as closely with a popular keyword as possible, if you can’t outright inject the keyword into the site’s name. But with Google Places things are a little different. You don’t want the keyword and the business’ name to be the same. Your business name should be separate from your main keyword here.

6. Blend your sites’ features

If your contact information is already available via your main website, make sure it’s the same via Google Places. The same goes for emails, products and services, and other aspects of your main website. You want your Google Places page to be as representative of your website as possible. Visiting your Places page should give visitors a great idea of what to expect on your site.

7. Choose images wisely

Google Places allows for up to 10 different images, but make sure that they fit Google’s criteria if you want them to help your page. Make sure that they’re not beyond max size or that their extensions aren’t anything other than jpeg or png. Also, you have an opportunity to keyword tag your photos; use this opportunity wisely so that you have extra ammo for Places.

These 7 tips aren’t the be-all, end-all of Google Places. But because Places is so simple to figure out and 100% free, you won’t need a comprehensive guide to understand how to use this directory to your advantage. These few tips more than suffice when it comes to earning a higher rank.