Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - July 2012
Welcome to the new issue of our monthly newsletter, which covers news, tips and advice on effective website marketing techniques and trends.
The primary focus of this month's newsletter is on the recent changes that Google has made to their local business listings. Previously known as Google Places, these listings have now become Google+ Local Pages, with a different look and integration with Google+. This has affected these business listings in a number of ways and so we cover this issue in the first two articles, which should be of interest to any business owner that currently has a local business listing, or is considering creating one in the near future.
In the final article this month, we look at the broader subject of Google+ and the business pages that can - and should - be set up by any company to achieve visibility in this area and to take advantage of all the social media features that Google+ pages offer as a communication tool with customers, and potential customers.
You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter, either by month or by subject. You can also follow us on Twitter for the latest developments during the month, or follow our Facebook page for updates.
On to this month's edition...
Google Places becomes Google+ Local
At the end of May, Google announced a significant change to its Places listings, through a rebranding as Google+ Local. This marks another move by Google to integrate more services into their Google+ social network and therefore to promote and encourage more web searchers to use this tool. The implications for any business - but particularly those targeting a local market - was the way that their details were being presented on Google changed overnight, plus the ways people may interact with the listings also changed.
If you have previously had your business listed on Google Maps - through the Google Places listings - you will see a change in the way your company is now being presented. Although Google Places was particularly important for businesses that target a localised market, we would recommend that every company should claim and verify their business listing on Google, as it gives you better control over the accuracy of the information shown, as well as the presentation and branding of your business. This is just as important now with the Google+ Local listings.
The change to the Google+ Local format is Google's way of increasing the awareness and use of their Google+ social networking platform through integration with more Google services. Since it's launch, Google+ has struggled to gain sign-ups and usage against the established position of Facebook, so with much riding on the success of this service, Google is making the most of their network of services to grow usage of Google+. With the Local listings, they claim this recent change is to enable users to get "personalized recommendations, see what your friends are up to, and help others find great places".
That's all good if there are enough people using Google+ and sharing with others on this social network. At the moment, this is not significant, but Google is also integrating reviews from Zagat, a US-based review site which they bought in September 2011 and which is also being rolled out internationally. For business owners, the first thing is to claim your listing or check how your business is now being presented in the new format (see below), but ongoing, you need to be aware of how reviews and ratings will be displayed against your listing.
Whether or not this rebranding of Google Places as Google+ Local proves to be a success is yet to be seen. This depends largely on whether the Google+ social network becomes anywhere near as popular as Facebook. First impressions indicate that this may take some time to have any meaningful impact, but the integration could definitely become more useful in the future as business owners and web searchers increasingly use Google+ to share information and post reviews to share within their 'social circles'.
That's the critical issue for businesses, as reviews - both good and bad - could become a significant factor on their Local listing and these need to be monitored and managed. If you would like more information about the changes from Places to Local+ and what this means for your business, please contact us now.
Setting up a Google+ Local listing
As outlined above, this recent transition by Google from the Place pages to Google+ Local requires an increased focus on the importance of these listings, and what businesses are now doing in order to increase their online presence and monitor the information being shared. So if your business doesn't yet appear within the Google Maps results, or if you need to claim, optimise and enhance an existing listing on Google+ Local, now is the time to act!
To be aware of the level of information sharing through Google's social media network, and if you're new to Google Places, it's important to either create a new local business listing within Google+, or review what is currently being shown for your business and, if necessary, claim your listing and manage the details. That would then enable your local listing to be found within Google+, making it easy for people to review and share your business with friends and across the web.
If you've used Google Places before, you'll still have access to your account page where you can edit and manage your listing. At this stage, the format for this has not changed and it's just the way that your business is now being presented online that's different. You can also link your listing to a Google+ account. It continues to be important to add the range of information about your business that you can - description, categories, open times, payment methods, photos or videos and more. However, all this information is not now being displayed in the Google+ Local listing, but they remain important to make your listing 100% complete.
Getting your Google+ Local listing appearing in the search results remains important as well and is dependent on a range of factors, including your physical location, information added to the listing and the use of keywords or categories to help rankings for local search queries. Reviews also remain important, and perhaps more so now that Google is using the Google+ network for these. Reviewers have to use a Google+ account to post a review and ideally you need to encourage customers to post good reviews about your business, to support your ranking potential and to create a good impression of your business.
If you'd like to know more about this, or would like the Web Marketing Workshop to create or edit a Google+ Local listing on your behalf, please contact us now.
Using a Google+ Business Page
As Google makes every effort to encourage web users to participate with the Google+ social network - such as through the rebranding of Google Places which we have covered above - it's important for businesses to consider how they could or should be using this network to market their business and to communicate with customers and prospective customers. As with Facebook, Google+ gives companies the option to create a business page, which can be used to market their brand and communicate or interact with users.
Google+ is Google's social network, designed to generate more traffic and activity through Google and to compete with Facebook. Since its launch, Google+ has only attracted low levels of usage, because many people who are already using Facebook don't want to recreate their social networks and migrate to this new service. The only way Google+ will succeed is through offering something that Facebook can't (like the integration with Google's wide range of services), or by Facebook antagonising its user base (which it tends to be quite good at!). For Google, the success of Google+ is paramount and they are doing everything possible to increase the awareness and usage of this service.
As we have covered above, it's important for businesses to set up or claim and manage their Google+ Local listing/s. Alongside this, having a Google+ Business Page is also something to consider sooner rather than later, to create a presence on this service and to make a business more 'social' for those customers or prospects who might be using Google+ and want to interact through this tool. At some stage, Google may also make a significant move that ensures Google+ becomes a more important, and therefore popular, tool for web users or businesses, so it's good to set up a business page now.
A Google+ business page can be in the form of one for a company, institution, organisation, or a page for a particular product or brand. There are clear parallels with Facebook business pages, whereby users can recommend your business, products or services to friends and contacts across the web through the use of the "+1" button. It's also possible to share different aspects of the business with different groups of people, as it enables the targeting of the particular sections of the customer base with news, updates, promotions, links and photos by keeping "followers" up to date.
As well as being able to share information and promote your business through Google+ business page, it's possible to measure how the interactions of 'followers' on the page affect your brand and business. The data that Google provides through Google+ and through Google Analytics, makes it fairly easy to understand Google+ activity - in particular, what people are saying about the business, how many +1's the business receives and how these affect the traffic on the page.
If a business is using Google AdWords, they can also use a social extension to their adverts and so give the option to web searchers to link through to their Google+ business page. There is also the advantage of having the power of Google's search engine connected with these business pages - Google calls this "Direct Connect", which allows the inclusion of a "+" before the page of interest in a search (e.g. +Pepsi) which then generates the results for that business page.
Although web usage is still comparatively low for Google+ at the moment, it doesn't take much to create a Google+ account and then set up a business page. That will at least establish a presence on this tool and content here can be generated in tandem with any activity on Facebook (or Twitter). Having a page available also gives your customers the option to follow it if they choose to do so. And, should Google+ suddenly get a significant boost in value and usage, your business will be well positioned to take advantage.
If you'd like to know more about Google+ Business Pages and how these can help to promote your business, contact us now.
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We hope you've found this month's newsletter useful. Please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website's performance. Also, if there are any issues you would like to see in future editions of this newsletter, please submit your suggestions to us.