In today’s business world, reviews and visibility on search engines can set your company apart from the competition. However, most companies that you compete with have likely taken all the same steps that your business has to gain an advantage, effectively leaving everyone at a stand still. But there is one underutilized tool out there that can definitely make the difference: Google+ Local.
Google+ Local is the little known about method small businesses are using to gain a competitive edge in their respective niche. As Google continues to grow and expand into nearly every facet of our online lives, it makes sense to jump on their bandwagon. They are the single most powerful entity involved with the Internet these days and any chance to join up with them should not be overlooked. It could turn out to be one of the best business decisions you’ve ever made.
The History of Google+ Local
In May of 2012, Google Places effectively became Google+ Local. Google Places was the basic version of its eventual successor. It offered less options, was not as customizable and lacked the social feature. G+ Local added an entire interactive social section through G+. It also features a place for reviews and allows you to connect to other businesses in your area along with anyone who has a Gmail account. It essentially became the Facebook for small businesses. G+ Local not only merged with Places but with the entire Google-verse as well. The G+ Local results now are shown prominently in search results and on Google+. By signing up for this listing service, it will add to your company’s online visibility and hopefully ultimately, the growth of your business.
Once you have entered in your business’s information and your business has been verified, a link will automatically show up under your business on a Google search results page.
By filling out your G+ Local page in addition to uploading previous and future blog posts and videos, your business will begin showing up under more local search results because of the affiliation with Google. It’s like having your very own personalized website right in Google’s backyard, which is always a good thing.
How to Grow Your Business through G+ Local
G+ Local has everything your business could be looking for. As a business owner, you are able to post photos of your meals, your new merchandise, your new location or even your smiling, satisfied customers. You can also post all the important information about your company such as working hours, days of operation, phone numbers, email addresses and your company’s website.
As an experiment, I decided to pretend that I was a potential traveler looking to visit Phoenix, Arizona, looking for a place to stay. I conducted a search for “best hotels in Phoenix, AZ” through Google+ and after looking over the results, a few things stood out:
- Many of the top results came back with the default photo.
- There was nothing more than the basic information filled out (hours, map, phone number and website).
- The profiles featured nothing else whatsoever, which resulted in them having zero followers and zero views.
Even with these disappointing results, after looking further into the results, one came up that caught my eye. It was for Tempe Mission Palms Hotel and Conference Center.
The reason it stood out was because they had uploaded a beautiful photo of their hotel at sunset. As a potential customer, I was immediately drawn to beauty and I had to delve deeper.
Their G+ Local About page had been completely filled out and even linked to their own restaurant and what other accommodations were at the hotel. They also had set up features that weren’t listed on the other hotels’ pages including a widget that gave me the price and option to book a room through a number of travel sites. It also lists local attractions, dining options in the area and distances from neighboring cities and the airport. Under their Posts section, they frequently update their page with pictures of their venue, nearby attractions and any other local current events that are taking place. And the biggest difference between this and other hotels is engagement. The Tempe Mission Palms has 84 followers and over 1 million page views. Clearly, being active and appealing to your market leads to more page views and ultimately more customers. They did everything right and proved to me their legitimacy and value.
I know what I would look for when booking in the future from this quick search. They made it easy for me to see their amenities, the local attractions and to buy. In what can be a daunting search when traveling, ease and visibility is often key to securing someone’s business.
Yelp! I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up
The big stepping stone for G+ Local is none other than Yelp. Yelp has been the go-to resource for small businesses and consumers alike since 2004. Yelp has over 61 million local reviews and very much like Google, it has its own formula on how to determine the ranking of the results for each individual user. It’s basically the same thing as G+ Local minus one major difference. It’s not run by Google.
As G+ Local continues to grow and gain trust from users, Yelp is stuck in a very difficult place. Yelp can continue to offer all their services and be as helpful as ever, but they have a juggernaut gaining steam behind them. It’s just a matter of time before Google supplants Yelp as the number one local review source. Google has the ultimate advantage because they control the search results and they are and will continue to tailor those result to favor G+ Local.
In this age of internet dominance, being one step ahead of your competitors can be essential to getting more leads and more customers. Google+ Local is a free resource that is begging business owners to interact with it. It is the most sure-fire way to get any of your company’s important information out on the web and to gain that ever-elusive visibility in search results. It may seem too good to be true but it really isn’t. Just remember these simple steps:
- Create a Google account
- Verify your business
- Grow your G+ Circles
- Fill out all of your company’s information. (Hint: the more the better!)
- Post photos and blogs related to your business.
- Interact frequently. Let your customers know that you care and are making the effort to give them the best experience possible.
- Sit back and laugh at your competitors.
Any smart business owner would be doing themselves a favor by taking advantage of this incredible resource.