Recently, Google Places for Business merged with Google+ to become Google+ Local, and that change affects the way your business will appear in Google search results. In an effort to provide more relevant searches, Google tied location to a business’s online listing, so that they would come up higher in searches for a product or service, whether the searcher includes a specific city or town. In the absence of a location specified within the search, Google will use the visitor’s computer’s IP address to determine where you are located and deliver local results.
As part of this change, Google is now showing client reviews right under the search results for your local business. The same is true if you place an online ad on their network.
Google+ Local for Better Ranking
One out of five searches on Google now includes a location, and according to Google, 97 percent of consumers search for local businesses online, so it’s critical for business owners to manage their online reputations. Google+ Local helps your business rank higher in organic search results, but it’s important to optimize your listing to make this happen. A listing that is completed and optimized can place significantly higher, even in a competitive or crowded market.
A few ways to optimize your Google+ Local listing include:
- Completely fill out your profile
- Don’t write your listing with just your business name. Use keywords that your customers would use to find you, including the category and location, such as, “Italian Restaurant, Chelsea, NYC”
- Encourage customers to leave reviews and add them to your Google+ page. Ideas on how to do this are listed below.
Your free listing on Google+ Local allows you to enter a full complement of information about your business, from address and hours of operation to photos, videos, coupons, and reviews. You can move content from an existing Google Places page, or sign up directly on Google+ and select the business listing option.
Managing Your Google+ Local Reputation
Review sites such as Yelp and Citysearch often show up at the top of local search results. Recognizing the importance of those reviews to consumer buying decisions, Google realized the need to display reviews on its own platform more prominently. Reviews on Google+ Local are now featured beneath each listing. Another new feature is the ability to add a coupon or deal to your listing.
Third-party recommendations have always had a greater influence on us than advertising. Think of a New York Times review of a movie vs. the studio’s own marketing messages. Since the advent of eBay and Amazon and the rise of social media, customer opinions have even greater influence on purchasing decisions.
Now that Google+ Local has given consumers more information about your business, prospective customers are going to make their choices based on how your business stacks up. It is imperative for a business to have many good reviews or they will be losing business to those whose listings show better reviews.
If you haven’t already claimed your Google+ Local listing, you should do so promptly by visiting www.google.com/+/business. Fill it out as completely and appealingly as possible. Combined with a well-optimized website, a completed Google Places Listing gives you a search ranking advantage. Then you need to insure you get reviews for your business. No reviews are as suspect to a potential customer as bad reviews.
It’s easier than you think to get reviews for your business. Most business owners simply never ask. Many people who are moved to leave reviews are unhappy that your business did not make it a priority to satisfy them promptly. How can you motivate the hopefully larger number of happy clients? It’s important to make the process easy for them. Consider sending an email out to follow up on a service or product provided and include written directions for writing a review with a link to your Google+ Local page, and incentivize them with a coupon. You also could create printed collateral with this information. You could have a computer set up in your location for customers, so they can create the review on the spot.
The changes to Google+ Local Listings may force business owners to be more conscious of and responsive to their customer service, as well as their online information and reputation, and that is a good thing for all of us.
Jane Tabachnick is a digital marketer and content strategist. She works with companies to create lead generation programs. Jane can be reached via her website, www.Web1Ranking.com.