Getting started with the Local Business Center

Thursday, May 28, 2009 | 3:20 PM

When I'm hankering for a bite to eat in my neighborhood, business listings on Google Maps are one of the first places I look. Whether I'm checking the opening hours of my local coffee shop, or finding a phone number to make reservations at a cool new restaurant, I rely on Google Maps for accurate and up-to-date information about local businesses -- especially when it comes to picking a good place to grab dinner.

When I see a business listing that the owner has added and verified with the Local Business Center (you can tell, because the phrase 'Provided by the business owner' appears in the listing), I breathe a little easier, since I know for sure that I'm getting reliable info. Not to mention the fact that the additional details, photos and video that the business owner adds can help sway my choice of dining spot. And for business owners, there are obvious benefits: adding a verifying a business listing is the best way to help Google users find and connect with your business.

In addition to the Local Business Center User Guide, which is your one-stop shop for information about putting your business on Google Maps, the Local Business Center folks have recently put together a new list of tips and advice for tailoring your business listing to help even more users find you. It's a win-win situation: adding and verifying your business listing with the Local Business Center gives you control over the way your business appears in Google Maps. And, particularly in my case, it connects your business with customers who may be hungry for what you have to offer.

To get started, simply visit the Local Business Center (make sure you're signed in with your Google account) and click Add new business. If you already see your business listing in Google Maps and want to claim it as your own, follow the instructions here.