If you have a local business (or do online marketing for one) then you have likely heard about the big change with Google Places. Now, Google Places is a part of Google+ in Google+ Local. So just how big is the change and how does it help or hurt your local business? In today’s post, we’re going to look at the things that have changed as well as the things that have stayed the same.
Google+ Pages vs. Google+ Local Pages
For those who have created a Google+ Page for your local business, your first question might be what the difference is. Right now, Google+ Local Pages (formerly Google Places Pages) are separate from the Google+ Page you created for your local business. But according to Google and Your Business, you will soon be able to link your Google+ Page with your Google+ Local Page.
This includes merging your ability to host hangouts, share photos, upload videos, and post status updates. You can see an example of a fully integrated Google+ Page with Google+ Local for The Meatball Shop as shown above.
How Google+ Local Works for Your Customers
One of the best parts about the Google+ Local merger for businesses is that it makes it easier for customers to write reviews and recommend their favorite local businesses. Not only can customers quickly find and write reviews, but they can share their recommendations with their audience on Google+ as well as the business’ photos.
This, of course, is based on how many customers are on Google+ to begin with. But thanks to Google’s constant saturation of their own social network into search results and other parts of the Google experience, lots of people are joining Google+. This should lead to more interaction with your local listing on Google.
How Google+ Local Looks in Search Results
So how has Google+ Local changed search results? Here is a sample of local businesses that pop up for the keywords wedding photographer scottsdale.
In this example, you can see a few Google+ influences happening.
- Personalized results based on a Google+ connection. The first arrow points to a page shared by one of my connections on Google+ that relates to the keyword I searched.
- Google+ authorship adds a photo to a result. Most people associate Google+ authorship with blog posts or articles. But the next arrow shows how Google authorship helps this local business stand out by adding the photographer’s photo next to the website’s description.
- Links go to Google+ Local Pages. The last two arrows point out links that go to Google+ Local Pages. If you were to click the link above, you would go to the business’ website instead.
These are not the only changes. If you were to search for a business by name, their listing might appear with the Google+ page link beneath it.
This might not be the greatest for businesses looking to get visitors to their website instead of their Google+ Local page. But it’s another good reason to make sure you have beefed up your business’ Google+ Local profile.
How Google+ Local Pages Look to Visitors
One of the fortunate parts of the Google Places to Google+ Local merge is that everyone can view Google+ Local Pages, including searchers who don’t have Google+. Those without Google+ will see an invitation to join Google+.
Those signed in to Google+ will see all of their normal Google+ options in addition to the Google+ Local page they are browsing. Speaking of logged in, this is how Google+ Local looks to a Google+ user.
It will give users recommended place suggestions based on those reviewed by people in the users’ circles.
Google+ Local Pages should have the same information that the former Google Places had. Restaurants will now see Zagat reviews incorporated into their pages. Also, there is a new scoring system based on user reviews.
What most businesses will not find very helpful on their Google+ Local Pages is the Similar Places listing beneath their reviews. For chains, Similar Places might show other locations for your business.
But for businesses not in a chain, Similar Places will probably show competitors which is not a welcomed addition. Especially if competitor’s have a better score or reviews than your business.
Google+ Local Page Admin & Analytics
Management for Google+ Local Pages is still available in the Google Places for Businesses section. When you click on the Get Started button (assuming you claimed your business on Google Places), you will be taken to your analytics dashboard where you can see your page’s latest stats. This would be a good time to see if the Google+ Local merge has helped boost your listing’s traffic.
Just like before, you can also manage your listing including updating information and responding to reviews. You can also add new business listings here, although the Google and Your Business article earlier suggested creating a Google+ Page for your local business instead.
So What Can You Do Now?
As a local business owner or marketer, the best thing you can do now is get familiar to the Google+ landscape and features. When Google+ Local Pages merge with Google+ Pages, there is always a good chance that page activity will factor in to which businesses rank well in local search results. Hence, you will want to take part in all of the following Google+ activities.
- Build an audience. The bigger your audience, the more likely you will receive reviews. Encourage people to follow you on Google+ by linking your Google+ page to your website.
- Post status updates. Just like any other social network, posting status updates shows that your business is active, up-to-date, and engaging with their customers. Be sure to post relevant updates, news, blog posts, and other items that your customers would love.
- Add photos and video. People love media. The more photos and videos that are enticing to your potential and current customers, the better.
- Create and record hangouts. Ever wanted to interact with your fans beyond status updates? Try creating and recording Google+ hangouts – live webcam chats with you and up to 9 other participants. You can record these hangouts for future use on your YouTube channel and website.
What do you think of the new Google+ Local Pages? What other tips or advice would you give to local business owners or marketers looking to boost their visibility?