You’ve heard all the furore about Google’s (relatively) new social platform, your online marketing manager or agency has explained the implications for search, and your business now has a page on the network; it’s time to start making the most of the features it offers.
One of these features is Google+ Local, a new combination of local and social search, and Google’s replacement for their old Places pages. If you haven’t already got a Google+ Local page, it’s a good time to get to grips with the service. If you have, now’s the time to revisit it and make sure you’re using it to its fullest potential.
Let’s start with the basics…
What is Google+ Local?
Google+ Local is the new name (and face) for Google’s location-based search service. Basically, it’s the page that appears when a user clicks on a Google Maps result for your business:
A user clicks on ‘more info’ and is greeted with:
Key Features: What’s new?
Well, for a start Google+ Local pages are a lot more aesthetically pleasing than the old, static, Places pages. Google+ Local also brings us:
- The integration of local search and Google’s social hub:
- The introduction of the Zagat reviews system, meaning place scores are calculated on a 30-point scale based on user reviews.
- A new ‘circles’ feature, allowing you to filter out local reviews and recommendations from people in your circles.
Why is it important?
Aside from the obvious answer (this is a route to your business for potential customers and clients and therefore needs to be maintained), it’s important to have a Google+ Local page if you want to take advantage of local search.
As more and more people use smartphones and tablets to search on the go, which will typically share the user’s location with Google as standard, location-based search and the results it delivers will become increasingly important for businesses.
Statistics already show that smartphone sales overtook PC sales last year (two years earlier than expected) and forecasts predict that in three years time, tablet sales will be bigger than PC sales.
Your Google+ Local page offers a fantastic opportunity to capitalise on these drastic increases in mobile and location based searching. By combining a well maintained and optimised Google+ Local page with Google+ activity such as gaining recommendations for your business from members of the Google+ community, you’ll significantly increase your chances of converting local search users.
Here are three more reasons why it’s important to claim and maintain your Google+ Local page:
- Google+ Local pages will be indexed in Google’s organic search results;
- Google+ users can now use a special ‘Local’ tab to search for businesses in their area. If you’re not represented, or you are but your page is of a poor quality, you’re much less likely to convert potential customers;
- if you’re using Google+ as a business and users in your circles are commenting on your posts and sharing them with their friends, your business is much more likely to appear in their (and their friends’) local search results.
How do I claim my Google+ Local page?
If you’ve already claimed your Google maps listing, you should be able to log in with the relevant Google account and edit your business’s details. If you’re starting from scratch with Google+ Local, here’s how to claim your page:
1. You’ll need a Google+ personal account. This will be the account responsible for managing your Local page and your business page, so choose wisely.
2. Log in and select ‘Pages’ under ‘More’ in the left hand sidebar:
3. Create a new page
4. Select ‘Local Business or Place’
5. Type in your business’s phone number and click ‘Locate’. If Google already has details for your business it should appear; if this happens, you’ll simply be asked to verify the details it has are correct.
6. If your business doesn’t appear, click ‘Add your business to Google’ and enter the basic information requested.
7. Follow the on-screen prompts, including adding a category for your business and setting an age limit.
8. Click ‘Create’ and you’re done. You’ll now be able to optimise your page and add more details about your business.
Maintaining your Google+ Local page
Now that you understand what Google+ Local is, how it works, how to set it up and what the key features are, all you have to do is keep it relevant. Make sure you adjust business hours where necessary, keep an eye on any reviews published using the Zagat service, add photos, use the description tab to sell your business and its services, and add anything else you can think of that has the potential to build trust with Google+ users, such as videos.
The better the job your Google+ Local page does of selling your business, the more likely you are to capitalise on local search.
Google+ Local: Current Issues
As with many new services, Google+ Local still has a few issues that need ironing out. Firstly, there’s the fact that a business page, and therefore a local page as well, has to be attached to a personal account. That’s fine if you’re a local plumber, but not ideal if you’re a larger business. Be cautious which account you use to set up the page, or you could find yourself with no access to it should the employee you delegated the job to choose to move on.
Secondly, there is currently no verification process for Google+ Local pages, meaning anyone can either make up a business, or make fraudulent claims on your business’s address. This makes it even more important that you establish an official presence on the network.
James Roome is a Senior Social Media Consultant at I-COM, Manchester, creating social media strategies and providing training to clients.