Doug Antkowiak // Jul 23 2012
As a note, this blog post was supposed to publish last month around the announcement of Google+ Local. Unfortunately, I’ve been expecting Google+ to magically fix itself and update our currently blank profile image to one of the images we submitted. We’re still waiting. From what I hear, we’re not the only ones suffering.
Even though Google is still working out the kinks of integrating Google+ Local with the rest of the social network, the following local business optimization tips will help you prepare for when the search empire finally get their Death Star fully operational.
[emailoptin type="social"][/emailoptin]Besides making your local business profile page look exactly like a Google+ Business page, the biggest change you’ll notice is the integration of the Zagat 30-point review system (Zagat joined the Google family last fall and now they’re doing everything to stick it to Yelp). Check out George’s introductory post about Google+ Local for a more in-depth overview of the Zagat rating system and how it affects your previous reviews.
You know what really grinds my gears? When I see a link to “manage this page” even though I’ve already claimed the page.
This link appears by default on all Google+ Local pages, which means every Google+ Local page looks unclaimed. Don’t freak out. If you’ve already claimed the page in the past, you can use this button to edit your page information.
Updates can take 24 hours to a week to go into affect. Also, the more times you try to update your page, the longer you’re going to wait to see results. Think of it as the digital version of spinning your tires in mud.
If you have a Google+ Local page and a Google+ Business page, Google says you should treat each page as different entities. This separate but equal stance won’t last long. You can sign up for an early upgrade request to merge your Google+ Local page with your business page, but expect some temporary issues along the way.
When it’s time to update your Google+ Local page, your dashboard will look exactly the same as it did for Google Places.
Most of the local business optimization tips rely on the phonebook rule, which means all of your business information that appears online should appear exactly as it does in the phonebook. Since you’re not 65 and don’t have a phonebook handy, just make sure all your online and print business listings are congruent.
At the bare minimum, every business location should contain the following information:
Business Name: This should be the official business name, as it would appear on everything from phonebooks to business cards. It shouldn’t contain any keywords or local describers, unless it’s part of the official city name for that location.
Address: Write out the full address of your business and use second address line for suite numbers, etc. Also, double-check your map listing to see if Google placed you location pin in the correct area.
Local Phone Number: The “main” number should always be a local number, not an 800 number. If there is a toll-free number, add it as an “alternate phone.”
Website: If the business has only one location or if the location pages contain little or no content, the URL should point to the homepage.
However, if the business has two or more business locations and the website has devoted pages to each individual location that include 5-6 sentences of original content, then the URL should point to that location page.
Categories: You must have at least one category description tag by default, but every business should have five (it only displays two at a time). Category description tags are sorted in order of importance and you should use one of the preferred, pre-populated categories whenever possible. The categories should not contain any local describers.
Business Hours: Business hours are signals of trust to users and search engines. If you don’t want to share your hours, Google might list your business as “closed.” It doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s been known to happen.
Pictures: You should have at least one image larger than 250×250 but less than 1024×1024 and under 1MB. This square image should be your logo or a picture of your place of business. Each page allows you to upload 10 images. By default, if you upload one image or less, the page will display a map of your location along the photo strip a Google+ (which I think looks pretty rad).
What’s frustrating about uploading images is that Google doesn’t give you the option to rearrange photos or select a photo as the page image. Sometimes it doesn’t show your photo at all (we’ve been having issues with the Portent logo for at least a week).
Your Google+ Local Dashboard has areas to submit additional information. It isn’t required, but this info might improve the page user experience in the future.
Description: Your Google+ Local page will add a “from the owner” box under the business hours. Use this opportunity to add short sentence or two about why you’re special.
Email address: Your email isn’t currently displayed anywhere on the Google+ Local page, but it does appear on a Google+ Business page, which means Google may incorporate this into the listings in the future.
Videos: Videos will enhance your “profile completion percentage,” but videos do not show up on a Google+ Local page. Since Google+ Business pages do incorporate videos, this might be another feature added later.
You’re not the only one frustrated by this process. Be patient. When you evaluate your Google+ Local page, use this post as a check list to see if all your vital information is up to date and check to see if the Google Places pin is in the correct spot on the map.
Once you feel confident in your listing, share the link to your new Google+ Local page and remind customers and clients to give you a review.
Let us know if you’re having any luck.