When websites started, the simple idea of creating a website was enough for most small businesses to be found. With little competition, you would create a website, tell your friends about it, and traffic would come streaming in the door.
As the internet increased in popularity, search engines developed to help consumers find the best website for their needs. Over the last few years, search engines like Google have expanded their role significantly to help people find the businesses that match their needs.
Enter Google Plus Local.
A Short History Of Google Plus Local
In 2005, Google Maps changed the world. While Mapquest had existed for several years prior, it did not compare to the magnitude and depth of Google Maps. From road times to street maps and views around the world, Google search now could help you find the nearest veterinarian, electronics store, and even the local restaurant hotspots.
As they developed the program, Google saw that having the owners of the businesses manage their individual pages would do a better job than Google could possibly do on their own. So, they crowd sourced this activity into Google Places.
Google Places dashboard helped business owners manage their location on Google, track traffic, and create ad campaigns in one location.
This was augmented in May of 2012 when Google officially included Google Places into Google Plus Local. Now, people could review your page and interact with your business on Google+ as well as find your store.
Ever since that change, Google’s model has shifted more and more towards displaying their own Google Plus Local listings for local businesses on their search engine. Compared to previously when they were more active in displaying businesses websites.
How to Use Google Plus Local
Setting up a Google Plus Local account is crucial if a company wants to use this tool for their business. To do this follow the steps below. Setting up an account, aside from the verification process, should take no longer than 5 minutes.
First, you need to sign up for Google Plus Local for businesses. To do that, go onto Google and enter a search for your business. If you own a restaurant or retail outlet there is a good chance your location is already on Google.
If not, then get your Google Plus Local page on Google Plus Local For Business.
Second, claim your business. Assuming you find your business on Google Plus, you will want to claim your business. To do this, make sure you are logged into your Google+ account that you want associated with your Google+ Local page.
In Google+, click to pages then do a search for your business. If the business does not exist you will need to create it. If the business does exist, you will need to verify you are the manager of the business.
A screen similar to the one below will appear that will show you how to verify your business by the phone number or address Google already associates with your business.
Follow the simple steps. Note: If you are using postcard, please give Google 1-2 weeks for delivery. The postcard will look similar to the one below.
Managing Your Google Plus Local Account
Once you have access to your Google Plus local account, you will want to do the following in order.
First, update and add appropriate information to your Google Plus Local Page as necessary. Make sure you have a good cover photo that provides prospects with a great idea of what your business should represent to them.
Also, include your hours of operation, a basic bio, website, phone number, address, and other relevant information for your business.
Second, get your custom Google+ url. This URL will make it easier for you to share your page with clients, prospects, and vendors.
This should take only a minute or two, and is well worth it if you plan on putting the URL on brochures and other print media.
Third, start posting on your page. Keep clients up to date on pertinent topics, fun ideas, and images that amaze them. Creating content on your Google Plus page is great when people arrive at your page, so they can get a feel for your business right away.
Also, constantly updating content is good for additional search traffic. Remember how much Google loves good content. Key word here is good.
Treat this is part branding, and part traffic generation strategy.
Fourth, connect with past and current clients. Ask them for reviews. Then with each new customer ask them to review you on Google+ as well. Consistent, quality reviews of your company are huge.
Couple points to keep in mind:
- Do not bribe clients for business. Good way to get booted from Google and also illegal
- For every 10 people you ask, 1 will say yes. This is a numbers game.
- More reviews does not 100% equal better Google placement.
- Do not ask everyone to just give you a 5 star review.
Fifth, use Google Plus Local’s dashboard to track your progress.
The benefit of using the dashboard is that it can tie into your Google Analytics, along with tell you the number of visitors you have through Google search.
Your Google Insights will tell you more about your followers, so you can engage with them properly.
Sixth, to advertise or not to advertise. That is the question.
For some businesses, advertising on Google is definitely recommended to break through the competition. However, Google Advertising can get expensive. Solicitors and Financial Professionals have seen ads go for as high as £100 per click. Small stores cannot compete on that level of pricing.
Google Plus Local is a great source for location based businesses to get Google traffic. With all the changes on Google over the past year, you will find it harder and harder to get Google traffic if you do not include Google Plus Local into your marketing mix.
The key is consistency. Updating your page with photos and text, while continually getting positive reviews from clients. As long as you can do that, then you will increase the opportunity of being found on more local Google searches. Doing this in conjunction with an SEO and/or PPC campaign will greatly improve leads and website conversions.