The Ultimate Retailer’s Guide to Google+ Local

What is Google+ Local?

Google+ Local is a reviews and ratings site that allows people to rate hotels, nightlife, shopping locations, zoos, music, movies, theatres, golf courses, and even airlines.  In September 2011, Zagat was acquired by Google to flesh out Google’s Local service.  It has since become tightly integrated with Google+ to become Google+ Local. Google+ Local has also adopted Zagat’s original ratings system.  Instead of 5 star ratings, ratings are now out of 30 points.  Users will get to rate from 0-3.  The system takes that score, multiplies it by ten, and averages the scores to get an overall rating.  There are three categories users will be able to rate: Food, Décor, and Service.  Users can also enter an average cost per person for the venue. Google+ Local also takes advantage of Google’s search engine technology to create unique summary reviews that are displayed at the top so users don’t have to read through hundreds of reviews just to get a general understanding of the venue.  These summary reviews are generated by taking recurring phrases and words, and mashing them together into a cohesive paragraph.
Users will have the option to follow Google+ Local business pages, +1 the pages, and participate in “Events” and “Hangouts” through Google+. As Local is now integrated with Google+, users will need to access Google+ Local directly from their Google+ account. This forces people who want to use Google+ Local to create a Google+ account and to remain an active member. A feature that takes advantage of this requirement is that reviews submitted by a user’s friends will appear on top of all other reviews. So that’s a nice customized touch that makes reviews more relevant and engaging to the user. It also makes the experience more social.

Why is Google+ Local good for you?

As a retailer, it’s a very good idea to get a Google+ Business Page as well as a Google+ Profile Page. Google will let you merge the two pages together so you will be able to manage your business communications and interact with your fans and followers—kind of like a Facebook page. And much like a Facebook page, Google+ Local allows business owners to connect directly with their fans and followers. Google+ Local will give you an online presence even if you don’t have a website. Since these pages are shown prominently on Google Search, businesses can really target searchers and encourage them to visit and/or to make a purchase. Having a Google+ Local page will help drive people to your physical location due to the tight integration with Google Search and Google Maps. People will be able to search for your business, see the reviews, and get directions to your location all in just a few clicks. A mobile-optimized interface will encourage more people to visit your business as “85% of mobile users seek local information on their smartphone, and 81% take action using the local content” and “43% of all Google searches have a local intent” [via Google Stats]. That is a lot of people that you now have access to!

8 Steps to Getting Set up on Google+ Local

How to claim your Google+ Local page.  The people at Dynamic eMarketing give pretty good instructions:
  1. Search for your business on Google with your business phone number
  2. Click on the link that says “Google+ Page” (or “Google reviews” if people have already written reviews) located below the description of the business
  3. When you’re ready to claim your page, click on “Manage this page” on the bottom of the right column
  4. You’ll be taken to a page with three options. Select “Edit my business information”.
  5. Fill out your business information as much as possible.  The more information you put in, the better it is for your business.  Include images, videos, and description of your services.
  6. You will then be prompted to validate your listing via three methods: phone, SMS, and postcard.
  7. Phone and SMS would be the fastest and easiest ways to go.
  8. You’ll then receive a notification with a pin to enter into an input box.  This Google+ Local page is now yours.

6 Ways to Get the Most Out of Google+ Local

  1. Add extra information like photos, promotions, and fresh relevant content to make your listing stand out.
  2. Add keywords to your business description to increase SEO (the likelihood that your website will be seen on search engines like Google)
  3. Encourage customers to leave reviews to drive customer engagement and improve the validity of your business
  4. Create a listing for each of your physical locations to increase visibility and drive foot traffic to all of your locations
  5. Respond to positive and negative reviews to increase customer trust
  6. Generate positive reviews by asking happy customers face-to-face to leave you a review online—create a positive image for your business!

Other Local Business Ratings Sites:

  With a Yelp! Account, businesses can create Groupon-like deals and track visits to their Yelp! Page. However, businesses can’t set up their own business pages. Their business must be reviewed on Yelp! before business owners can find their page and unlock it. Yelp! has partnered with OpenTable to allow users to make reservations directly from a Yelp! business review page. Also, unlike many other business ratings sites, Yelp! does not have the option for business owners to respond to reviews whether they’re positive or negative. Urbanspoon is purely a restaurant ratings site. They have also created a widget called “Rezbook” that can be added to a restaurant’s Urbanspoon page. This widget allows customers to make reservations directly from the page. Restaurant owners can start managing their page by claiming it. They will also get a 30 day free advertisement period to jumpstart their online presence. Unlike Yelp!, Urbanspoon allows restaurant owners to communicate directly with their customers through public comments that appear on the restaurant page, or through a private messaging system. InsiderPages is catered more to service-providers. Users can search for businesses in health and medical services, home and garden services, hair and beauty services, auto services, as well as pet services. InsiderPages also allows business owners to respond to reviews, as well as to claim and manage their business pages. With Yahoo! Local pages, business pages will have an “Enhanced Listing” on Yahoo! Search that includes photos and other details that make the listing appear richer and more prominent. Yahoo! Local also includes a feature that allows users to plan their weekends. Users can search for currently showing movies, find out what other locals are doing, find place to eat, and also see food delivery suggestions for those who just want to stay in. Final Note: As the above ratings sites do not have their own social network like Google+, they all have the option to connect to Facebook instead. This makes them depend on Facebook to reach out to their fans and followers. Google+ Local, on the other hand, can operate as a completely stand-alone and integrated system.   Sources:

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