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Go to Google and do a search for “service + city.” Typically, you’ll get either get a map with a handful of corresponding listings, followed by a few organic results, and maybe a paid ad or two. Other times, you’ll see a couple of organic listings, a map in the middle, followed by a few more organic listings. Why the changing results? Is Google running internal tests? Does it depend on the category of query? To most searchers, business owners, and even SEOs, there appears to be little rhyme or reason behind the varying displays or how come some businesses are listed and others are not.
There’s always been a lot of confusion about what it takes to get your business ranked (consistently) well in the “local search results.” Each week, we get phone calls – from business owners, ad agencies, and even other SEO firms with questions like:
- How do I get my business listed on Google’s map?
- How come XYZ company shows up when they don’t even have a location in my area?
- Why is XYZ company ranked above me when I have more reviews and I’m closer to the city than they are?
Recently, some local SEO experts have offered tips for getting your business listed higher on Google maps. The trouble is, Google is changing the game again! Yesterday, Google announced that they would be replacing Google Places and rolling out Google+ Local. Google+ Local is integrated across the entire suite of Google products – from Search and Maps to Mobile. Somewhat surprisingly, business owners will still manage their listing in Google Places. Surely this will change in the near future to better integrate with Google+.
What This Means for Local Businesses
As a local business, it’s easy to become frustrated with how quickly the online marketing landscape changes. Unfortunately, change is the norm in the web marketing world – another reason to consider hiring a Virtual Online Marketing Manager!
Here are a couple things you should do NOW to take advantage of Google’s change:
1. Get your business listed on Google+
Setting up a Google+ page is easy. All you have to do is:
- Login to your Google account (used to access Google Analytics or any other Google products) or set up a new account (or contact us and we’ll do it for you!).
- Create a page (https://plus.google.com/pages/)
- Customize your profile (upload your logo, tagline, describe your business, etc.)
- Start connecting with people to promote your page (we could write a book about this)
2. Start building an online community (especially on Google+ and Facebook)
For some types of local businesses – restaurants, bars, retail stores, etc. – social media is a no-brainer. However, even businesses not tailor made for social media – hvac, plumbers, roofers, etc. – need to get busy using social media sites to build a community of friends, advocates, and followers.
Why? If you’re a plumber, why should you care about building up a huge fan-base on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter? There are a number of compelling reasons – from protecting your brand to increasing your organic search rankings. Perhaps the most compelling reason to start building an engaged online community is that once the search engines start tightly integrating social likes, pluses, reviews, shares, etc., local companies with large communities are going to start pulling ahead – rapidly – from companies that failed to figure out how to adapt their business to social media.
Think about it – which review of the new local Italian restaurant matters more – the one from a total stranger on Yelp, or the one from your brother in-law who you know to have excellent taste in Italian food?
As Google+ Local is developed further, users (your prospects) will likely be able to sort businesses by “likes”, “check ins”, “reviews”, and more, so to get a jump on the competition, you’d be wise to start building up your stats! Also, unlike Google Places pages, the new Google+ Local pages WILL BE INDEXED. This has huge implications on local SEO!
Will I Lose My Google Places Reviews
Some online marketing companies are using scare tactics – telling local business owners that they will lose all their Google Places reviews in the next seven days if they don’t do XYZ. This isn’t true. Local businesses will NOT lose their reviews from Google Places during the shift to Google+ Local, but you should “migrate” your reviews into your Google+ page.
The information Google has published (as of today) is somewhat limited, but it appears as though your Google Places reviews will be moved over to Google+ Local or you can migrate it on your own. Any reviews will be attributed to “a Google user” (as opposed to a named person). Individuals offering reviews will probably have to claim these on their own (it’s not something the business owner can control).
About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
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