A Better Setup of Google+ Local for Small Business Owners in 5 Steps

Google+ LocalA solid Google+ Local listing (formerly known as Google Places) for your business is very necessary to online and mobile marketing for your business.  If you’re a brick and mortar shop or even a business that operates out of your home, your local listing within the Google local database is essential to your marketing mix.  Google is one of the many places to manage your business listing data, but your Google+ Local listing will show in search results and map results on multiple mobile devices and traditional browsers.  Even if you’ve already set up your local profile, this is a good refresher to make sure you have the essentials.

If there are any questions, post them in the comments, and I’ll try and answer them. Before we start, let’s gather and organize some important information that we’ll use later:

1. Define what you do, and what your geographic targets are.

 You should be able to make a declarative statement like this:  “I am a plumber servicing the greater Dallas, TX area.”

If you are a store or shop or showroom, your statement would go something like this: “I am a home furnishings shop located in Frisco, TX”

Service providers, if you want to concentrate on only a certain part of town, then select a more specific geography:  “I am a plumber servicing the Plano, TX Area.”

2. Gather and organize business information.

Description. Using your statement, let’s expand it and author at least a 200-character description of your business.  Include your service categories or product keywords in the description.  The more description here, the better, but don’t just pack it with keywords.  

Photos. Gather 10 high quality, high impact photos (use .jpg format – others will do, but this is the best).  These photos should show, at a glance, what you do.  Pick one as the best one and we’ll use this one first later.

Address.  If you’re a home-based business and don’t want to show your address, I’ll show you how to do that in the Service Areas settings, but you’ll still need your physical address to be accurate here.  Google will use this address to send you an authorization post card which you will use to verify the account later.  Google will also use this verification process on address changes or additional locations.

Website link. This is important.  Since Google+ Local listings also display on their maps product (which is used mostly from smart phones), consider having a mobile website or a responsive design website.  These would display properly for your mobile customers, and maximize your conversions from this source.

Categories. Google provides a taxonomy (preselected list of categories) for you to choose from so we’ll select these when we fill out the online form.

3. Let’s submit your Google+ Local Listing!

It should be noted that none of the information you enter will be displayed until you verify your account with Google via automated phone call to your business phone number and/or a postcard with a code mailed to your business address.

You’ll need a Google account to log in and set up a business listing.  They’re free to set up and I won’t detail how to do that here, but once you’ve got your Google account sorted, go here to get started: www.google.com/placesforbusiness/

You’ll start with your business phone number.  This might be your cell, a cell you use for your business or your actual land line at your place of business.  Google will check for your phone number in a number of business databases.  If a listing for your business already exists, they will pre-populate the form with information they find in an existing listing.  If not, we’ll start from scratch.  

The first part of the form is pretty easy, and self explanatory.

This is a screen grab for setting up a google local places account for small businesses.

This is a screenshot for setting up a Google+ Local account for small businesses.

In the description field, let’s paste the 200-character description that you wrote earlier.

In the Category field,  5 is the current limit.  Start first by selecting the most relevant category that fits your business “plumber”.  Fill all of these with the most relevant ones first.  If you can’t find 5 that fit your business, then 4 or 3 is fine, but try to fill all of these.

How to select your business categories in Google Local Places.

How to select your business categories in Google+ Local.

4. Service Areas and Location Settings:

It is very important to understand the options here, which is why I give it some more attention.

Service Area
There are two main categories of business when it comes to Google’s definition of service area:

  1. Those with a brick and mortar store where the business provides all of the services and goods (i.e. an ice cream shop).
  2. Those that go to customer’s house/office/car/location to provide the service.  This second category MAY include a brick and mortar store also (i.e. an air conditioning repair business, with a showroom with air conditioning products and services, or a pizza restaurant that delivers).

If your business fits in that second category with a home-based business, AND YOU DO NOT WANT TO SHOW YOUR HOME ADDRESS, Google lets you do this by selecting the first checkbox ‘Do not show my business address on my Maps listing’.  This will hide your business address, but still show you within local results (maps, search).  With this option, though, you MUST define your service area.

How to setup Google Local Service areas including hiding business address.

How to set up Google+ Local service areas including hiding business address.

For businesses with a service area, you’re given two options here; distance from a location (radius) or defining specific areas by city or ZIP.  I’ve used the radius option (distance from one location) with a lot of success.  The ranking of this type of listing, even with a hidden address, as far as I’ve seen, is not harmed.  I’ve regularly worked with clients and seen others that rank well above their competitors in local listings with this setup.

If there are service areas that you want to avoid, list the cities in the second option of ‘List of areas served’.  These should mimic your ranking of cities with market potential without considering market competition (radius option or city/ZIP listings). Don’t cast your net too wide here. If you don’t service the outskirts of town or rural areas, don’t set the radius too large or don’t include those cities.  A focused approach to these settings will be met with marketing success.

5. The Rest (Still Important… You’re almost THERE!)

Hours. List your hours of operation, even if you’re open 24 hours, or if you just have regular business hours.  When Google displays your listing on some of its platforms, it will include a bright green “Open” designation next to your business listing, during the hours you are open.

Payment Options. Fill this out accurately.

Photos. These are very important for your listing.  I would consider this as required for your business to compete among other Google Local listings.  Google tends to display the first high quality image as the default image when displaying your listing.

Videos. If you have any videos of your business on YouTube, then post the links here.  The videos on youtube.com, should be under the same Google user account that you’re using to set up these videos.   Small business videos are a great way to promote your business/website/local listing/social media pages, and are an art on their own and deserve their own blog post, so I won’t get into detail here.

Authorization. If you haven’t already authorized this business or you’re changing the address, Google will mail you a postcard with a code that you can use later in your Google+ Local dashboard to verify that location.  Once verified, Google will now display your listing in their results with the content that you’ve entered here, and start collecting customer reviews. Sometimes this can be completed with an automated phone call or a combination of both. Regardless of the method used to verify a business, nothing you do in these steps will display to a general audience until your business listing is authorized.

And you’re DONE!!  (Almost) Now… to make it rank, there are many necessary activities to make your Google+ Local marketing really start working for you, and I’ve included a quick snippet below on getting customer reviews.

Bonus Step 6. Customer Reviews.

This deserves its own post, as reviews are essential in your rankings in local results, but here are some quick and easy pointers for collecting awesome reviews and ranking domination.

  1. Gather reviews by incorporating review solicitation in your normal sales completion process.   This could be a simple follow up ‘Thank you for your business’ email to your customer. Include a statement like, ‘It would help my business if you would provide a Google User review on my business listing here:’ with a link to your Google Business Profile. If you have a brick and mortar store, put up a sign with a shortened vanity URL or a QR code with a link  to your business profile that customers can go to to review your business. Remind customers to sign in with their Google accounts as it seems these are the only reviews that matter anymore for your local listing.
  2. Respond to EVERY review.  Good or bad.  Don’t freak out to bad reviews. You can respectively disagree and/or apologize to bad reviews.  Thank customers for good ones and ask them to recommend your services to others.  
  3. Don’t fake reviews. Just don’t. It’s a waste of time with Google’s sophisticated review filtering.
About James Johnson

I'm either a consummate marketer with a flair for engineering code, or a pretty good engineer with a special talent for marketing. Either way, it works and where those two dance is my sphere: mobile internet and mobile marketing. Originally birthed from Marketing and Search Engine Optimization and all other sorts of Internet and Mobile Marketing Applications (email, sms, mobile web, application development). Connect with me on Google Plus James C. Johnson

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