Google+ launched in June of 2011 and along with it, Google, started merging all of it’s services under Google+ accounts. In order to use YouTube and or create a business page, you had to have a Google+ account. While the concept of having all services under one roof seemed great, many users were not so receptive to being forced onto Google’s social platform. As a result, Google+ struggled to gain any real traction. This year, Google began making some big changes to Google+. The first was separating out YouTube (Read the changes here). The second was a new dashboard for business owners. For most local businesses, their Google maps location is extremely important. So let’s look at the new update and the possible impacts on your local SEO strategy.
Just so you know, Google+ isn’t going anywhere, in fact it may have finally found its niche. With the new updates to the Google social platform, it’s important you know the purpose for your Google+ Page and how it work along side your Google My Business listing.
Google My Business is the new dashboard for your maps listings information and more. Think of it as “home base” for all of your business' information across the Google networks. Personally I like the break out. It makes it much easier to find the location you are working on.
Clicking on your business name will bring you to your location details. While you can make some edits in this section, like address, name, phone, categories and a few more, it’s not the most user friendly. Where this location details page comes in handy is when you need to make the same update to multiple listings, such as changing your hours at all of your locations or adding a new category to all of your listings.
The Google My Business dashboard is a great place to check and make sure that your information is correct and that your listing is verified.
To access more features for your business listing, click the little Google Business icon to the right. This will bring you to the dashboard for that specific page. It’s here where the features get more user friendly and you can really set you location apart from the competition.
The home page will give you a snap shot of your page’s performance. Here you can see you page stats, Google Analytics, YouTube stats and manage your reviews. This is a nice feature that helps busy business owners stay of top of their listing. Note: In order to see Google Analytics and YouTube, you have to have your accounts connected to your business.
To edit your business information, just click edit in the top navigation. This looks very similar to the dashboard we had on the Google+ platform. This is one of the most important sections to get right when it comes to local SEO. Again, make sure all your information is correct. Make sure that the maps marker is in the correct place, your telephone is correct and that you have your website URL in there as well.
The next 2 things that are a local SEO must, are choosing the right categories and having a personalized introduction.
When choosing categories, only add ones that pertain to your business. You have to use the categories Google suggests. If you don’t see one that fits, try searching other similar terms in your field to see if you apply to another category. These categories are usually broad so don’t be so specific when searching. Choosing the right categories is imperative for your local SEO success. This could be the difference between getting ranked or not.
After you’ve set you categories, add a unique and descriptive introduction to your business. Use keywords and references to the categories you are looking to rank for. This helps show that you do what you say you do. Make it engaging and even add helpful links to your website. Now, you won’t get link credit, but this is about adding to the user experience, and Google does reward that. Note: Make sure the page you link to adds values and has the keywords and categories that are on your business page.
Want to know what’s working and what’s not? The Insights tab is designed to do just that. See how many views, clicks, directions and calls that have come through your Google My Business listing. This new dashboard makes breaking down these metrics much easier for the business owner.
By switching the view, you can see how your Google+ page posts are doing and the impact they have on your audience. We’ll get into the Google+ connection in a few.
Your reputation matters. If you have a bad one, Google is not going to recommend your business. In the new page quality guidelines released by Google, reputation is a major faction in your page quality score. The reviews section allows you to keep track of your reviews and respond to them. We recommend you respond to both positive and negative reviews. When responding to a negative review, don’t argue! Help if you can and apologize. A good review score can boost your local listing.
Here you can add a variety of photos to you listing. People like pictures, so use them. Let people know what your business is like, what you do, who works there. The more personal you make it; the more engaged people will be. More the engaged your viewers are; the more likely you will be rewarded with better rankings.
As far as your Google My Business listing goes, the major changes are with the layout and flow of your dashboard. Google has made the user experience much better and has created a way to help businesses better showcase what they are all about. Use the features they give you. Add as much good content about your business as you can.
So what about Google+? Does it matter still? Yes! Your business page is still connected to the Google+ platform and is a great place to build community. Just like the previous layout, you can access your business profile by clicking your profile image in the top right. This will take you to your feed. You can easily access your business dashboard by clicking your icon and clicking the “My Business” button.
In the past you could edit your business information on your page. This is no longer available and must be done using the Google My Business dashboard. Small design changes like profile picture and header background can be changed on your Google+ page.
What’s the Big Difference?
Your Google+ page is no longer focused on your business' location. It’s still connected to your location, but the purpose is to build community rather than help someone find directions. Your business information is still accessible on your page, but will only be shown if a user clicks on the “more information” icon.
In a statement released by the Google+ team on November 17th,
“Since we last posted, we’ve spent a lot of time listening to what people using Google+ had to say. There were two features they kept coming back to: Communities, which now average 1.2 million new joins per day, and Collections, which launched just five months ago and is growing even faster.”
What can we take away from this? Google want your business to be social. Whether you’re a big company or local business, connection and adding value to your clients and prospects must be a priority for your business. Here are the two things your Google+ pages need to invest in.
Communities are ways for your business to connect with other business and people that are passionate about the services and or products you provide. Joining communities and adding helpful and useful content and ideas or tips will help position you as a thought leader. Look for niches in your industry that you know about and join those communities. Read more about Google+ Communities here.
This is way for you to group your posts by topics. For instance, I run an inbound marketing agency, but also provide SEO and Growth Driven Website Design. I also like to post on leadership and other marketing methods. To help my users find the topics they are most interested in I can create collections and group my posts by topic. These collections do get indexed so add good stuff and use keywords! Consider creating localized collections as well to boost your local search visability. Learn more about Google+ Collections here.
These updates make one thing very clear. Being social must be priority for local SEO. The more value you add, the more you show value and expertise, the more you will win. As we move more and more into a connection economy, businesses that engage users and teach will be the ones that grow. I encourage you check out the new Google My Business dashboard and then go play around on the new Google+ and explore some communities in your niches.
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