This guest post by Shaun Graham will show you why you can no longer afford to ignore the recent changes in Google+ and Google Pages.
Ok so many of you may read this article and say “we know this already!”, if you do then I apologise for going over old ground, but this article is aimed at business owners who are still wondering whether they need to invest the time and/or money into getting a business presence on Google+. If you were to rewind to the beginning of the year then any business even remotely interested in gaining local customers had to have a Google Places page, it was essential for ranking in the maps listings. Fast-forward to the end of May and Google decided to merge Places with their social network Google+. This was primarily because a lot of businesses had both a Places page and a Google+ business page, which made little sense; it is also a way to push more people into signing up for and using the Google+ social network.
Immediately you can see that you are on Google+ with this page, looking down the left hand side you can see the new Google Local tab. The profile itself is much sleeker and more visually appealing to the user. What Google is trying to do is make local search much more of a social interaction between the business and the customer, it is clearly their way of trying to push more people into using Google+ on a regular basis.
So What Has Changed?
Well, if you already had a Google Places listing then all of your data (reviews, photos, video etc.) should have been automatically moved over to the new platform and you can still, at time of writing, access your listing from the Google Places dashboard. The review system has been changed, out goes the old “5 star” review system to be replaced with the new Zagat 30 point rating system (you can see this in action on the screenshot above).
What this is also going to mean, going forward, is that the Google Search Results will end up becoming much more personalised and interactive. Take a look at the screenshot below, particularly at the listing with the crudely drawn red box around it. First off you can clearly see the Zagat review scores are now visible in the SERPS but look underneath the Zagat score, it says “Max Tatton-Brown rated it excellent”. This is displayed because one I am logged into my Google+ account and two Max Tatton-Brown is in one of my Google+ Circles, this should give you an idea of how personalised a lot of local search is going to become in the future. Obviously the more reviews you get the more chance you get of someone from their Circles seeing a review snippet in their search results.
The biggest change, certainly from an SEO viewpoint, is that Google+ Local pages are going to be indexed by Google. This is a huge opportunity to increase your business’ visibility in Google’s search results. Business owners need get to work, or hire someone to start, optimising their Google+ pages for rankings. Google+ Local pages will appear in traditional Web searches, Google Maps searches and Local searches from within Google+ as well as on mobile devices so this is not something you want to miss out on.
So, Where To Start?
Hopefully the information above will have convinced you that Google+ is worth your time, if so, here is a few quick pointers on what you need to do to get things moving:
- Claim Your Listing. If you haven’t already claimed your listing then you need to do that now, if you don’t have a listing to claim (make sure you have searched thoroughly because you do not want duplicate listings) then you need to create one by going to Google+ Business.
- Complete The Listing. Take your time over this, don’t just rush through and fill in only the fields it says are required, fill in everything. This means plenty of photographs and video content to strengthen your brand on the page.
- If possible use a contact phone number with a local area code, as opposed to a mobile number or an 0800 number.
- Reviews, reviews, reviews. This is the hard bit, if you want your Google+ Local page to out-perform the competition then you are going to have to get a lot of reviews from customers, make it a priority to ask for reviews once you have delivered your service. Do not attempt to game the system and leave a load of fake reviews or pay for fake reviews, it will only come back to bite you in the end.
- Use the Google+ platform and interact with people and other businesses, leave reviews for your suppliers.
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