We’ve been having a great conversation about the recent shift by Google, closing down its old Places service and moving all those business listings over to the Google+ framework. In a previous entry, I wrote about why this was good for consumers and hit a few of the cool new features. But what about business owners?
One critical change is that unlike Places, Google+ Local pages WILL be indexed into Google Search. That means, whether you like it or not, your business now has an SEO strategy, even if that strategy is to “hope Google indexes what other people write about us correctly”. In addition, when using Google Maps on Android devices, users who search for information about local businesses can tap the link to visit the Google+ page for further information. If it was already imperative for businesses to claim their Places page; now it’s even more of a requirement to claim your Google+ Local page.
For some businesses this will be a scary change. Your customers now have the ability to directly influence, in a limited fashion, what keywords and content Google associates with your business. As always, there are some tools for combating malicious or groundless actions…but the best defense will be having a good offense. You need a cadre of loyal, happy customers who are writing good reviews, referring their friends to your business page, linking to you from their own blogs and social sites, etc.
So how can you keep your Google+ Local page hot, relevant, and popular? There are a number of simple and easy things you can do to boost that profile tremendously.
- Blog. Google Search now features “Latest Posts” from Local pages in search results. Keep updating, and you’ll keep appearing. Pages that haven’t been updated in 3 days drop off the “Related People/Places” portion of the search page.
- Pages trump individual profiles. A business page with only a few thousand followers will appear ahead of an individual profile page with a million followers – so build a business page, not just an individual profile.
- The only sections of the profile where keyword indexing is done are Introduction, Places, Education, and Employment. Keywords not found in those sections aren’t indexed.
- The reach and number of followers for your pages matters a great deal to your placement in the search results.
- Make offers. The Google Offers service, while not nearly as popular as Groupon, integrates solidly with Local pages. Offers through the service will connect you to the exact population of Google-savvy customers who can do the most for you. Visit www.google.com/offers to get information on making offers to your customers.
- Post photos. Local page layouts are designed for images and frequently updated albums and photos will keep your page fresh. Don’t post 200 pictures and post them all at once; photos should be added regularly to keep a steady stream of updates.
- Troll for reviews. Not literally – Encourage your happy customers to post reviews on the site. Make it an ongoing part of your relationship management process, and keep a stream of positive reviews coming. Never spam or fake reviews.
- Ask for +1s. Again, don’t be shy, there’s nothing wrong with a gentle nudge to your loyal customer base asking them to give you a boost on the site.
- Google Search is definitely treating Google+ content more favorably than vanilla web content, at least for now – but the searching algorithms that present Google+ material are NOT linking to other social media sites. This means your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles won’t get special treatment.
What does this all mean for you, the business owner? Unlike Places pages, Google+ Local pages WILL have an effect on your business’s SEO. This makes an appropriately-optimized Local page a requirement – if your Local page isn’t properly optimized, your search rankings will start to suffer even though you haven’t done anything new.