Local search factors are playing an ever-increasing role in the success of today’s small businesses. Using the phone book to search for a business is a thing of the past. Today, people go online to search, and many times the online searches are performed on-the-go with a mobile phone. Since Google dominates the search engine market, it’s important that every business strives to achieve high rankings in Google. Simply put, high Google rankings generally translate to more visibility, more clicks, and more customers.
But while many businesses today focus on their website and engaging in social media such as Facebook and Twitter (which they should), many give little attention to Google+. And that’s a shame, because properly setting up and optimizing a Google+ Local page (formerly known as Google Places) and being active on Google+ can impact a business’ rankings in Google in ways that other social media platforms cannot. So if you have not taken Google+ seriously up to this point, we highly recommend that you start today.
Of course, just setting up a listing on Google+ Local or claiming your listing will not automatically rocket your business to the top of Google’s local search results. Your listing and your website must both be set up properly, as elements of both can either help you or hurt you in the rankings. The infographic below from UpCity illustrates the top 5 factors that will help you rank high in Google’s local search results, the top 5 factors that will harm your rankings, and the top 5 social factors that will help you as well.
As you can see, creating a Google+ Local page for the business, then “claiming” that listing and optimizing it, are the first things that every small business should do. Google is basically offering businesses assistance to rank higher in their search engine with this free marketing tool. But in order for that to happen, the listing must be set up correctly. Use your actual business name and don’t try to stuff keywords into it (such as the city you want to target). If your business is a home-based business, you must choose the option to “hide” your address and indicate the service area that you cover. When it comes to selecting categories for your business, be honest, do not create duplicate or very similar categories, and avoid keyword stuffing here, too. And remember, your business' category should be what you are, not what you do. (Example: If you are a plumbing company, your category should be “plumber”, not “plumbing repairs”.) Google has a list of rules that every business must abide by for their listing. Break one of these seemingly small rules and Google will suspend your listing, and needless to say, your ranking in local search results will plummet as well.
One thing that you definitely want to avoid in your Google+ Local listing is inconsistent business information. Use the same business name, address, and telephone number that is on your website and that is your actual business name, address, and phone number. Inconsistent information will send the wrong signals to Google, and your rankings will suffer because of it. Do not use P.O. Boxes or tracking phone numbers, either. Some companies try to create several Google+ Local pages in an attempt to rank in Google search results for their surrounding cities. Google will catch these multiple listings sooner than later, and will take down ALL of them. And it will take weeks, perhaps months, to just get the one main listing back up.
One other important thing to mention that the infographic illustrates is the benefit of +1’s. A “+1” is Google’s version of a Facebook “Like”. But a +1 is much more powerful when it comes to helping a website or a Google+ Local page to rank higher in Google’s search results. It has been found that +1’s do in fact help a website rank higher in Google. Google essentially views a +1 as a vote or an endorsement for a website or business by one of its users, and the more votes and endorsements a business gets, the better their rankings.
The bottom line is that by offering your business a stake in their search engine with Google+ Local, Google is essentially offering you free traffic and more business. But you must play by their rules. Setting up a Google+ Local page for a business is very easy. If your business already has one, make sure that you claim it so that you can take control of the listing. Then optimize it, which includes filling out the entire profile, adding images, and of course adding a link to your website and a link from your website back to your listing, too. Granted, you may not know all of the intricacies in optimizing your Google+ Local page, so you might want to hire a company that knows the ins and outs of this important task, because getting it right will make a big difference in your rankings. But regardless, make sure that Google+ becomes an important part of your marketing strategy every single day. Your rankings and your business will thank you.
If you would like help in setting up your Google+ Local page and optimizing it, please contact us. You can learn more about what local SEO is and why it's so important for your small business here. And don't forget to follow us on Twitter: @TouchPointD.
Infographic by UpCity. UpCity is a robust SEO Software and education platform. Learn more at UpCity.com.
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