Once an experimental social networking service by a search engine giant to topple the likes of the social network Facebook, Google+ has grown significantly, and Google has played its cards in such a way that the Google+ listings have an influence in the search rankings. Google+ had an estimated 235 million active users and 500 million registered users by the end of 2012.
What's unique about Google+ is its overarching layer feature. It need not always be accessed by entering its website but also through the SERPs (search engine results page), Google Maps, and other Google services. One such service catering to the geographic SEO needs of business and customers was Google Places. But that has now been replaced by Google+ Local.
Google+ Local and Google Places
Google+ Local is something that the search giant introduced to replace Google Places. Google+ Local is an extension of the Google+ social network itself. A "Local" tab in Google+ offers users personalized social recommendations for certain Google+ Local pages. The review data in Google+ Local is provided by Zagat, after Google's takeover of the famed review service. The Zagat reviews replace Google's previous system. Quite like Google+, Google+ Local pages are integrated to Google Maps, Google Mobile, and most importantly, into the Google Search.
There are more changes beneath the surface though. While Google Places pages were not being indexed by the search engine, Google+ Local pages will be. This makes it really important for businesses to create Local pages as soon as possible. It will help increase their presence in the search engine results.
Improving Google+ Local Presence and Rankings
1. Legitimacy of your business
The most important factor that determines rankings on Google+ Local pages are proof of the legitimacy and existence of the particular business and the signs of customer activity and interaction with that business. Unless these factors are capitalized on, it is hard for your listing to become visible, particularly when there is so much competition from other businesses that are doing everything they can to get up there.
2. SEO and keyword optimization
SEO is still important. Optimizing your Google+ Local page with the most appropriate keywords really makes a difference. There is a greater chance that when potential customers search for products or services related to those keywords and areas of business you cater to, your business listing will crop up. Certain keyword phrases particularly help provide steady traffic to your Google+ Local page, and eventually your website.
3. Customer reviews
There can be no overemphasizing the importance of customer reviews. When someone posts a review about a product or a business it means, theoretically at least, that the individual has used or experienced it. The more the reviews, the greater the indication that people have been using it. It's no different with your Google+ page. The more the customer reviews about your business or products or services, the greater the indication to Google and other potential customers that your service has been used.
4. Third-party reviews
Third-party reviews or citations can also help increase the visibility of your Google+ Local page. The more citations, the better it is for your profile to be seen as something legitimate - that your business has interaction with your clients. Third-party reviews can therefore contribute to increasing the future sales of your business.
5. Filling up your business profile
Leaving no blank spaces in your business profile, particularly with regard to location, nature of business, and history, helps improve the validity of your listing or page. The more transparent your company is in its details, the greater the circulated impression that your organization has nothing to hide. Website, phone numbers, address, and similar details must be accurately mentioned.
Ultimately, Google+ rankings through a Google+ Local profile can significantly contribute to establishing your presence in Google's geographic listings and search results. Lesser known businesses can gradually soar to the limelight. Public interest will then take over. All this will help you cater to your specific audience better.
The Power to Leverage Social Networking
The other advantage of having Google+ Local pages is that of social functionality that will be available through the Google+ network. With a Google+ Local profile, businesses can tap into the social networking potential of Google+ as well as the SERP advantage it offers. A Google+ presence will influence search rankings of the business or organization for the better. Social activity that is tracked on Google+ Local can be transmitted through local SERP annotations to users accessing the search results. There are also the internal Google+ Local searches in which the social activity could help recommend your Local page.
As things stand, there are many social networking advantages that are only offered currently on Google+ pages and not on other services in the Google+ network. But that is only till the Google+ Local pages are fully integrated with Google+ pages. The transition from Google Places to Google+ Local is only likely to produce a gradual effect on the way the natural SERPs are organized. Businesses that open up Google+ Local pages may not necessarily find an immediate improvement in their rankings.
Google+ Local - An Opportunity to Succeed in SEO
Search engine optimization is a hugely competitive field and any kind of advantage gained by a webmaster or business owner must be grabbed without hesitation to ensure that they secure the advantage over their competitors in terms of search rankings and overall online conspicuousness. Tapping into the vast potential of the social network is a great way to ensure that happens. An active social media presence can go a long way in influencing search results and help your online marketing cause.
Google is particularly looking to ensure that its social network Google+ plays a major role in search rankings, which is why opening up Google+ profiles is considered more important and strategic than having Facebook and Twitter accounts, particularly in relation to search results. Now, with Google+ Local totally replacing Google Places, social networking is likely to play an even greater role.
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Navneet Kaushal is the founder and CEO of PageTraffic. A leading search engine strategist, Navneet helps clients maintain an edge in search engines and the online media. He has helped value-conscious businesses build site traffic, increase the user base, boost web sales and bolster customer satisfaction. Navneet's expertise has established PageTraffic as one of the most awarded and successful search marketing agencies in Asia. PageTraffic's solid results and acclaimed process has earned it a place in Red Herring Asia Top 100 and Topseos's global top 30. He is also an expert panelist on various forums including TFM&A India, 42inception and more.
March 19, 2014