Three Ways to Prepare Your Business for Google Plus Local

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Last Wednesday – May 30, 2012 – Google announced that it would be rolling out Google+ Local, converting businesses’ existing Google Places listings into Google+ Local pages. While there exists plenty of literature on the announcement, the addition of Zagat reviews, and the heightened potential for businesses to actually market through their listings, it remains unclear as to when exactly business owners will be able to seize full control of their Local pages. Google is working towards combining existing Google+ Pages with the converted Places listings – something that will take time, but will be appreciated by owners who don’t want to manage more than one Google+ property. For now, though, you can manage your listing via the Google Places dashboard.

google local plus page

So, this begs a few questions: What should we do in the mean time? How should we prepare online for our Google+ Local presence? What about offline? Interesting interrogatives. Let’s take a look at three tips that should help you and your business take the transition in stride.

1. Check Online Listings/Website for Consistency

Apart from the new platform, new look, and new capabilities of Google+ Local pages, there’s something else; they’ll be included in Google’s index. This means that you have access to yet another piece of brand real estate in the SERPs. One of the best ways to develop trust in your brand amongst both users and search engines is to provide consistent information across all of your online channels.

So, while you’re waiting to start managing your listing through Google Plus, you might want to scour your other online citations, checking for inconsistencies along the way. Every detail counts. Does your company name appear the same on Yelp as it does on your Google Plus page? Is your phone number formatted the same way? What about your address? Does one of your listings need updated with more current information? Is your contact information and location crawlable on your website? These are all items that you’ll want to think about. Consistency enables triangulation, and the users’ and search engines’ ability to triangulate builds brand trust.

2. Begin Thinking About Your Engagement Strategy

One of the pitfalls of Google Places was that it didn’t allow for much customer engagement. A user could leave a review, but the business owner had no feasible way to respond to that review. With Google+ Local, the game will change. Being that business listings will be integrated with existing Google+ pages in the near future, it’s foreseeable that business owners will have the ability to connect with their customers directly. So, how will you use your Local page to engage existing, former, and prospective customers? Will the Circles feature in Google+ allow you to group these individuals and plan your outreach accordingly? How will you respond to complaints? These are all things that are worth thinking about as you prepare to manage your Google+ Local page.

3. If You Build It, They Will Come

The addition of Zagat reviews looks promising for some and daunting for others. Reviews can make or break a place of business, especially in competitive local markets. Ask yourself the question: Does the presence of customer reviews make my business exceedingly vulnerable, or does it give us an advantage? While you might argue that all businesses are vulnerable when a volatile customer base is given a public forum to voice their opinions, that isn’t necessarily the case. Can a good restaurant get poor reviews? You bet. It happens. Not every customer will be happy. Preference is a very real thing, and so is personality. Not to mention, even the best businesses make mistakes.

If you build a good restaurant, though, customers will come, leave happy, and eventually, leave positive reviews. You can encourage this activity, and possibly even reward it. While incentive-based reviews are generally frowned upon (as they probably should be), you might hold a contest that requires a review – positive or negative – for entry. Again, if you’re confident in the contentedness of your customers, you should expect to see mostly positive reviews.

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Preparing your business for Google+ Local is a great way to get a leg up on the local competition. By using your page effectively to provide information and engage customers, you’ll be utilizing valuable brand real estate that’s highly visible to Google searchers.

What are you doing to prepare your business for Google Plus Local? Are you a fan of the transition? Let us know in the comments!

Travis is a former LunaMetrician and contributor to our blog.

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