Google’s most recent move to launch G+ into more prominence has left many business owners completely baffled.
About two weeks ago, Google Places pages were automatically migrated to the Big G’s new service, Google+Local.
Search is becoming increasingly social, and more and more focus is being put on local search results. A recent study shows that 97% of consumers research local businesses when they’re thinking about making a purchase or hiring service professionals. Google handles two out of three of those inquiries. Additionally, 72% of people check out a business’s social networks before they make a final buying decision.
In Google+ Local, search combines both social and local to create a perfect trifecta for shoppers around the globe. People don’t turn to the Yellow Pages anymore. They let their fingers do the walking on their keyboards.
This is really good news for the business owners and online marketers that have figured out how to leverage this new tool. Those who don’t embrace the change will be left out in the cold.
So how do you maximize this window of opportunity to gain a greater share of your local market? Here’s what you need to know:
Stake Your Claim
If you had a Google Places page in the past, it is being phased out. A Google+ Local page has already been set up for your business, but if you aren’t managing it, it’s incomplete.
Customers can no longer put reviews on your old Places page. If they want to share their experience, they’ll have to do so on your Plus Local page. You don’t want them to see your Plus Local page looking like a ghost town.
If you never set up a page on Google Places, sign into your Google+ account (or create one if you don’t have one yet), and create a page for a Local Business or Place.
Enter your business phone number and go from there. (The rest of the initial steps can be found here) Once you’ve created your page, make sure to fill in every field, even the ones that aren’t marked as required. The completeness of your Page can make the difference between being the top-ranked local business in your field and not showing up at all.
In the words of Michael Currie “a listing that’s 90 percent complete isn’t an A-. It’s
Currently, most of your competitors probably do not have Google+ Local Pages set up, or if they do, they haven’t put forth the effort to manage them. A big mistake on their part. Properly optimized Plus Local pages will rank very high in search engine results. Considering the statistics mentioned earlier, this is a tremendous advantage.
Make sure to use carefully-selected keywords related to your industry, specialties and your location in Tagline and Introduction. But make sure you’re writing to connect and communicate with your visitors. Don’t cram your page with keywords, hoping to get higher rankings. Over-stuffing keywords is a Google no-no, and it creates a poor experience for anyone who tries to read your page.
Don’t Forget the Pictures
One thing you’ll immediately notice about Google+ Local is how much more aesthetically pleasant the interface is compared with Google Places pages. It was designed to be visually appealing. Make full use of this change.
Just like G+ profiles, Plus Local makes photos a major aspect of the page’s design. You’ll want to upload sharp pictures that speak powerfully to the personality of your brand and connect emotionally with your potential customers.
If you have videos showing off your products, services, staff, or testimonials, there’s a place for them too! Chose pictures and videos that will show unique value to your page’s visitors.
If you don’t upload your own photos, the default image comes from Google Maps. Not very flattering.
Engage on the Page
One factor that has a surprising impact on your page’s SEO is the number of actions viewers take while they’re on your page. As people engage with your page more, clicking on links, accessing driving directions, the more Google sees that there’s something positive going on there.
Actively Seek Reviews
Google has replaced the old 5-star rating system with Zagat’s 30-point scale. Reviews from your Places Page will roll over to the Local + Page.
Reviews are a powerful form of social proof, both from a search engine point of view and from the perspective of anyone who lands on your page. The more reviews and the higher scores you have, the higher your search rankings will be. In addition to that, the more people see that other people have had a good experience at your store, the more likely they are to give your business a try.
Actively ask customers to give you honest reviews. You may offer some sort of incentive for people to give their opinions, whether they’re positive or negative. It’s not bribery or gaming the system as long as they’re free to tell the truth.
The business domain associated with your Google+ Local page also has a strong influence on its visibility.
Having location-related information in your URL, title and H1/H2 tags, along with domain authority and inbound links (especially from other local domains) carry a lot of weight in Google’s scales. Actively optimize your business domain, and you’ll reap benefits on your Plus Local page, as well.
Also try to connect with other local businesses to see if there are (ethical) ways to get links from their sites back to your domain.
Early adopters of Google+ Local will have a huge opportunity to gain ground with customers in their local communities. Following these steps and truly working to engage your customers through this new social channel has the potential to yield outstanding results for your business.
Donnie Bryant is a direct response copywriter and marketing consultant. He specializes in radically improving businesses with Stealth Salesmanship and Strategic Marketing. Find out more at http://donnie-bryant.com/.