How to Make Google+ Local Work for Your Business

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By Laura Richelle Scott

Laura Richelle Scott is the Web content manager for Search Control. For more information, call 1 (800) 399-2001 or visit www.SearchControl.com.

The basis of online reputation management is to get your business found online by potential clients at the time when they need you most. You can judge your current online presence by Googling your name or a term related to the services you offer (e.g., technology, clothing) and seeing what information about you appears.

Google is the number one search engine in the world and, since the 2011 release of Google +, Google’s social network; connecting your search results with your brand is easier than ever.

Google + Personal Profile
To get started connecting your search results to your brand, you need to create your own personal Google + profile. The Google + profile is the central account from which you can create a Google + Page, YouTube Channel, Blogger account, etc. Filling in your profile to as close to 100 percent completion as possible will boost the credibility in Google of the content you post. This content can include press releases, blog posts, videos, photos, reviews and articles. It’s also extremely helpful to add a link to your website to the profile.

Google Places, Google Maps, Google + Local
Google Places is a hub for business owners to manage their listing on Google Maps. From Google Maps, potential clients can search for local businesses in their area based on services or business name. In addition to Google Places making business profiles visible on Google Maps, these business profiles will now also be visible on Google + Local. Google + Local profiles can be browsed directly from Google + at www.plus.google.com/ local, allowing for social interaction, reviews and check-ins from Google + users. You can also use this social interaction to your benefit by posting promotions and company news as the owner of the business.

If you’re not already on Google Maps, submitting your information for approval is the first step to getting discovered by local customers on the map as well as the social interaction on Google + Local. Once your business has been submitted and verified in Google Places, it may rank in Google Maps for the services and locations that you desire, but only with the proper optimization.

How to Rank in Google Maps
To properly optimize your business in Google Maps, begin by listing your name, address and phone number at www.google.com/places. The key to gaining recognition by Google is to keep your business information listed in a uniform manner across all online profiles. If you list an “Inc.” at the end of your business name, list it this way on all profiles. Details as small as listing that you are in Suite C or Unit C also affect Google’s recognition of your business. Make sure to keep it consistent. Gain credibility in Google by filling out your profile to 100 percent completion with photos, videos, business categories, contact information, products, hours and payments accepted.

Client Reviews on Google + Local
Even before the transition to Google +, users have always been able to leave a business review on your Google Places listing. Now, people are required to create a Google + account in order to leave a review, making it more difficult to write an anonymous or unwarranted negative review. You can also determine the credibility of the person leaving the review by how many other reviews they have leftand how long they have had a Google + profile. This protects your online reputation by making it harder for a competitor or an ex-employee to leave a fake or malicious review about your business without that review reflecting on them.

Google + Local also acquired a new rating system to accompany their user reviews based on the Zagat system of rating restaurants. While the Zagat rating system is based on a 30-point scale, Google + Local users simply rate businesses on a scale from 0 to 3. Google then multiples the average score by 10 and adjusts the score to reflect the user’s opinions expressed in their full review. When enough information is available, Google will display your firm’s complete Zagat ratings in different categories on your profile.

In regards to your online reputation and your rankings in Google, client reviews can be very beneficial to your business or very harmful. Being proactive by building a positive online reputation before the negative reviews hit can protect you from one bad review determining your online appearance. With a personal Google + account and listing on Google + Local and Google Maps, you’re taking the reputation of your business into your own hands.