We were very lucky to obtain an interview with Mike Blumenthal who is one of the world’s most renowned authorities on Google+ Local. Mike blogs at http://blumenthals.com/blog/
where you can find a wealth of information on the Subject of Google+ local. I would personally just like to say thank you very much to Mike for taking the time out to answer these questions and sharing with us these great insights.
How important is it for Businesses to have a Google local page?
If they are a legitimate business then they already have a Google+ Local page so the question is really how important is it to claim the page and add content to it. The answer is that it is very important.
Given that Google is generating (by my estimate) about 80% of local leads in the US and more in Europe it is essential that the listing is correct and has granular category detail about what your business does.
If you don’t claim and enhance your listing, Google will only add information and categories that it finds from across the web. That information very well could be wrong. Google could have two listings for your single business. It is important to check that Google has your business located at the correct spot on the map so shoppers can get driving directions to your location. And it is important to upload good photos to replace what Google has found for your business across the web.
Missing categories, bad photos, improper location or duplicate listings can lead your listing to not ranking as well as it might or leaving clients with the wrong impression about your business.
Without controlling this important on line resource you are thus missing out on potential leads.
Once a business has a local page what are the best ways they should be optimizing it so it ranks well?
A business has to be careful about “optimizing” their Google+ Local page. Google doesn’t take kindly to perceived manipulation and it is important that the business owner read Google’s rules and follows them religiously to avoid being suspended.There are really two types of optimization of your Google+ listing that you can think about: ranking optimization and conversion optimization.
Many of the “tricks” offered up for ranking optimization have been cataloged and banned by Google. The main things that can be done are to give Google complete information, particularly category information.
Most ranking optimization is best done off Google by making sure that you have a lot of citations, links, reviews around the web and branded mentions of your business and a well crafted website.
Conversion optimization of your Google+ Local listing, where you are trying to stand out from the crowd and convince more clients to call you is well worth pursuing. Here are some ideas along those lines:
- Photos that are compelling and show well in the limited 64 x 64 pixel display that Google provides on the front page
- A great business description that helps you stand out from the crowd. Think of it as the most important elevator speech you will ever make.
- Review management; making sure that your clients are leaving reviews at Google and elsewhere on the net so that prospective clients can see from others what you do well.
What are the biggest misconceptions about Google local?
I think of the question somewhat in reverse. The biggest misconception is about Facebook. Too many businesses mistake the many social adherents to Facebook as the best place to find new customers. The reality has been and is likely to be for some time that when a consumer is looking for a good or service they are most likely to stop at Google first and last.
Reviews are good for your business and your Google local page is no different. Does asking for a review go against Google’s terms of service
Google says you can ask for but not solicit reviews. The distinction is not all that clear but recently they have upgraded their review policy to give some guidance. For example is ok to send an email to remind your clients to review you but it is not ok to have a computer on premises where you ask them to review you.
It’s always difficult to predict but is there anything on the local horizon businesses should be preparing for?
The big change that is happening as we speak is the upgrade of the Places dashboard and the integration of local into Google Plus social environment. This change over has been slow and painful but is coming together bit by bit and its important to keep of the state of that chance so you can best manage your business on Google.
Clearly the shift to mobile devices is remaking the internet and particularly local so every business should be starting to implement a mobile site.
And while the social local web is becoming increasingly important it is very critical that businesses are sure that they have the basics of a great web site, a well optimized local presence, good email management and on-going link building in place before they go off and chase the social chimera.