Small businesses know that local SEO is the best way to attract customers online. But it gets tricky from there, especially with so many experts and consultants recommending different methods. One of the most confusing aspects is that of Google. This comes as no surprise – Google has their fingers in every pie, and distinguishing the pies from each other is difficult. Some experts recommend using Google Places while others recommend Google Local, but what’s the difference? You may have registered your business with Google, but did you set up a Google+ page for your business? And what about Google Maps? Before you start panicking, we’ll answer a few of these questions for you.
Google+ is a social media platform similar to Facebook. The most important difference between the two that you need to know is that Google+ can do a lot more to help your SEO. Unfortunately, you can’t abandon your Facebook presence when you migrate to Google+, because Facebook still has more users and the local graph search, and both can benefit your business.
How can you use Google+ to push your business’s SEO success even higher? Create a Google+ account for your business and post news, pictures, and blog posts on it regularly. Have all of your blog contributors create a Google Authorship account to lend them more credibility. And interact with other users on Google+.
This is Fibernet Corp’s Google+ page. The “Posts” section shows all of our latest blog entries and company pictures. The “About” section gives a description of our company as well as contact information. Followers can see our updates and interact with us through this account.
If your company is a local business, you will have the option of identifying it as such in your profile. This function mostly benefits the Google user, who will then see your business using a Google Local search. The idea is for this feature to be social – users can rate local businesses, share pictures, and receive recommendations based off of their circles and history on Google+.
Setting up your business with a Google Places account is a little more involved, but worth the effort. It allows you to be in control of the information presented in search results. You’ve seen Google Places at work before – it’s the bordered box on the right-hand side of the page with the address, the location on Google Maps, prices, hours, pictures, etc. within it. Customers can review your business with or without a Google Places account, but you will only be able to respond to those reviews if you do set up Google Places.
Here is an example of the search results for Café Rio, a chain restaurant located in Utah. The top link in the search results is Café Rio’s website, with news sites, Wikipedia entries, and Yelp! reviews below it. To the left is the information this business inputted into their Google Places account – much of the information is repeated from the website, but the box draws the eye of the user much more than the first link does.
Google Maps is a separate search entity from a regular Google search. It’s similar to choosing “images” when you enter a search term. It looks for specific locations and can give you directions between any two locations. Like a Google image search, Google Maps shows up automatically in the default Google search results. Fortunately, the way to get your business literally on the map is by creating a Google Places account.
So which one does my local business need?
Your local business needs all of them. Google Places and Maps affect your SERPs while Google+ Local attacks the social media aspect. However, you may already know as a marketer that social media optimization can influence your search engine optimization, and this is most true for Google+. To help your local business grow its online presence as much as possible, take advantage of all of these Google features.
DiSilvestro, Amanda. “Google Places for Business vs. Google+ Local.” http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2293053/Google-Places-for-Business-vs.-Google-Local. (1 March 2014).
“What is Google+ Local?” https://support.google.com/plus/answer/2531255?hl=en. (3 March 2014).