With statistics showing that 97% of consumers search for local businesses online, if you haven’t already got an online presence now is the time to get one. If you’re already online chances are you use Google Places, providing you with a free local platform to advertise and promote your business. You may also have noticed that major changes are afoot.
Wake up and smell the coffee
The creation of Google+ Local will replace your Google Places page and integrate you with Google’s social network, Google+. This offers you and your customers a more user friendly, dynamic and easier interactive experience. Once the changes are completed Google hopes to offer the ultimate platform for your business online.
These innovations hope to revolutionise local business and if you’re a business owner you would be foolish not to sit up and take notice of the changes. Whilst you will still be able to edit your information from you Google Places for Business page your marketing efforts need to drastically improve. If you don’t know what SEO is then it’s time to learn as local business pages will be indexed so you need to consider your optimisation to gain higher visibility in searches.
When one door opens…
Google now offers several doorways for consumers to access your business; google.com/ google.maps, mobile apps, and google+ searches. This will make your business more likely to be found, but only if you market it correctly. Users will now be able to click the ‘Local’ tab and be taken to a personalised local home tab (or ‘discovery’ tab), here they will be shown a mix of popular, social and recommended content. The aim of the game for local businesses is to end up on that page and attract more potential customers. Google+ Local hopes to offer a more ‘social’ experience similar to Facebook and Twitter so local business’ can now have ‘followers’ and interact with their customers more than ever before.
Zagat v star rating
Another major change is the integration with the Zagat rating system. By replacing the traditional 4/5 star system with the far more comprehensive method of reviewing a local business, customers can see exactly what your business has to offer. Any reviews you currently have will move to your new Google+ Local page but unless the reviewer has gone through the quick verification process then it will only be shown as posted by ‘A Google User’. Zagat ratings offer even more customer interaction potential and some reviews will even be collected in the original Zagat page making your web presence even bigger.
The bottom line
Put simply Google+ Local is the way forward. Local business owners need to use it to its full advantage so they can reap the rewards. With more SEO potential and pages now being indexed business owners can ignore the changes at their own peril.