On Wednesday May 30, 2012, Google+ launched a new Local tool, switching over 80 million business listings from Google Places to the newly created platform. The tool allows users to share and find information about places and businesses located near them. The new tool integrated information taken from Zagat, a restaurant review website, which Google took over last year.
This new feature will create further opportunities for businesses to target a relevant audience, making this tool even more important for your internet marketing campaign. The difference is that now there will be greater focus on a network of users that can write reviews on your products and services, and on expanding your reach through targeting your social connections.
What the new format?
- The new “Local” tab is located on the right-hand side of Google+
- Regular search results appear on the left in response to a search query
- At the center, you will see a “snapshot” view for your query, with tailored information, such as photos/maps/reviews/product prices etc.
- The “social sidebar” appears on the right hand side – this features relevant comments from social sites
The new tool allows users to learn more information about the places around them. For example, by searching for a restaurant or store through the tab, a Google+ page will appear with photos, as well as Zagat scores and summaries, information such as addresses and hours of business, taken from the Google Places for Business listings. Users with a Google+ account will also be able to see reviews from friends in their Google+ Circles network.
How can you adapt your campaign to these changes?
There are a number of things you will have to do as a business owner to adapt to the changes. Keep in mind that Google has already suggested that it will be developing this product and bringing out new services targeted at small businesses, so it is really important to adjust now.
- First thing first – if you have not yet joined Google +, now is the time! It’s quick and easy to set up an account. Make sure you fill out your personal profile with details of your business as soon as you create it.
- Once you’ve done this, start adding all your contacts to your new account. This can be friends, family, colleagues and customers. Remember that Google + Local will use reviews and information from people in your Circles to form a response to search queries, so be sure to add as many people to your network as you can!
- Send a message to all the Gmail users in your list of contacts to let them know you have set up your new Google + Local page. This will get your campaign going and is a good way to remind both friends and customers of your business. Ask them to “+1” your page or add you to their Circles – this will really expand your reach.
- Link your new Google + Local page to your website. This is of crucial importance, because it will bring your customers to your new page. The more customers leave positive reviews of your services on the Local page – the higher your ranking will be.
- Make sure you claim both your Google Pages listing and your new Google + Local listing. The latter is replacing the former, but during the transition period both will be used, so it’s essential to continue appealing to those users who have moved onto the new service, and those who have not.
Claiming your listing:
- Claiming your listing allows you to be in control of the content you publish and therefore of the way you are being represented on Google, so this is essential for search engine optimization. Unclaimed listings are susceptible to hackers and spammers, which will reverse all the work you have put into your SEO campaign.
- You can claim your business through Google’s Local Business Centre, which you can access through your Google account. Essentially, you are verifying that you are the owner of the business.
- To find the listing for your business, you can simply type its name into Google Maps. Once the listing created by Google comes up, you can follow the “More info” link and then click the “Edit” button to add more information and check the existing information.
- Check all the data carefully. Make sure the address, phone numbers, business categories, accepted methods of payment etc. are all correct. Once you’ve made all the necessary changes, you can verify your changes by either phone or postcard.
- A phone call is obviously the faster way to do this, but sometimes this doesn’t work. If you use the postcard route, Google will send a postcard to your address with a PIN number. You will then have to phone Google and enter this number to complete the process.
The new features that Google + has added to its Local search will make social media and connections even more important for SEO and internet marketing. On the plus side, this means that you can use your social connections to raise awareness of your business through word of mouth – one of the most effective marketing tools. However, it is even more important now to provide good service to your customers. Remember that unhappy customers will now be able to share their experience with all of the connections in their Circle!
This article describes the importance of Google + for SEO and the ways to optimize your use of this tool. But don’t forget about all the other SEO tools and best practices – it is only by putting them together that you will be able to achieve the most effective results. Keep following this blog to find out about the new developments in SEO, as well as to remind yourself about the best practices in internet marketing.