If you attended our VAClassroom event last week, you ll know that there s a ton of buzz going on around Google Places for Business. This tool is positioned to be a Game Changer when it comes to location-based social networks and directories. Why thumb through the Yellow Pages when with the click of a mouse you can uncover even more detailed information about local brick and mortar businesses?

Now, an interesting question popped up during our event—whether or not an Internet-based business with no fixed address or a Virtual Assistant s business with a private home address could use Google Places. It appears they can too, and here s a video that explains how Service Areas can be used to refine a listing:

But as a Virtual Assistant or online business owner, the best way to leverage Google Places is to partner with local brick and mortar business owners because they re the ones who will most benefit from this service. But before you get started with Google Places, you ll want to ask the following questions:

• How do I create a well-optimized Google Places page for my local clients?

• What strategies do I utilize to ensure the best chance of getting top listings in Google Places (1st page of Google)?

• What are the best types of clients to target initially?

• How can I build up online reviews for a client?

• How do I structure the service and set my rates?

• What other specific services (social media) can be bundled here?

Google Places and Local Search have the potential of being a very profitable service niche in 2011 for Virtual Assistant businesses, as it will have mass appeal across all types of industries and has excellent potential to boost income that is not based on billable hourly work (flat rates and maintenance packages). That s why we are also going to be offering a Google Places Mastery clinic that will take place on January 26th to unpack the important strategies needed to effectively leverage Google Places for local brick and mortar business owners. For more information on this exciting new training opportunity, check it out at the link below:

One final thought—Google recently announced the unveiling of a Google Places with Hotpot iPhone app, adding to their growing arsenal of Google Places apps for mobile users. Here s what the official Google Mobile Blog says about it:

It can be pretty rewarding to discover a new place you love, but we also realize that there are some experiences you just can t wait to share. So Places makes it super simple to rate a place with your iPhone while you re there. Just fire up the app and hit “Rate now.” It will use your location to guess your current place and let you post a Hotpot review right from your phone. But it s not just about getting to say what you think—the more you rate places, the more you re sharing about your tastes and the more we can give you personally tailored recommendations.

So imagine the possibilities when Google Places and other local directories are paired up with not only a location-based recommendation engine like Hotpot, but also other social platforms like a Facebook Page, Facebook Places, YouTube channel and other location-based social networks—you have the makings of a local marketing masterpiece!

Do you know any brick and mortar businesses in your area that could benefit from a Google Places listing? Do you have any ideas for how you could integrate Google Places into your current Virtual Assistant service offerings? Please share your comments below!