It should go without saying that a company’s Google+ Page signals (ie. any Google property’s signals) have a significant impact on its organic — and more specifically, local pack — results. And while many discredit the "influence" of Google+, the simple fact is that studies of SERP ranking factors continue to highlight the influence Google My Business signals (and therefore Google+) have on your company’s organic rankings.
Google My Business makes it easier than ever to manage your company’s presence on Google. But setting up an account and a Google+ Business Page is not enough to keep your business ranking in the coveted Local Pack. A little bit of time invested in the following steps will help you reap the SEO benefits of Google+ and maintain your local rankings in 2015 and beyond.
Example of Local Pack results for local search query: “Pizza New York”
A Google+ Strategy for Local SEO Success
The following guide presents recommended steps to boost your local business’s online presence. Note: these steps apply to a Business Page for local businesses and not a Brand Page.
Set Up Your Google My Business Account
The very first step is to visit Google My Business to create a business listing on Google Maps. You will then be prompted to verify the listing with a unique code that you can choose to receive via phone call or postcard. Once verified, your Business Page is ready for optimization!
There is another scenario in which you may now — or already — have two Google+ pages for your company:
- a pre-existing Brand Page (where you actively post updates)
- a local Business Page (connected to Google Maps and displays reviews)
Thankfully after the release of Google My Business, Google introduced a feature enabling you to transfer core data from the local page (Google Maps pin, location and verification, as well as reviews) to your brand page, creating one united Local Business Page (connected to Google Maps, displays reviews and you can post updates, add images, interact with others etc). Google offers very clear instructions for connecting the two pages.
Once you have verified your Business Page, it is crucial the business information you supply is complete, accurate and up-to-date. The following are core Business Page elements that when properly optimized, help push your organic and local pack results in the right direction.
Set the correct category tags for your business to ensure Google displays your SERP result for the right searches. The category describes what your business is (e.g. real estate agency), not what it does (e.g. property valuations) or the product it sells (e.g. houses). You can set a primary category followed by secondary categories, but all should accurately represent your business.
NAP (name/address/phone number)
Set the NAP details, which are displayed below your business name and profile image on your Business Page. Your business name, address and phone number should be referenced in the same manner across your Business Page, your website and any other platform where they are displayed. Google now has strict guidelines for representing your business on Google+, including:
- Your business name on Google+ should reflect your business’s real-world name as it is displayed on your storefront and all other marketing material.
- Use a physical address, not a PO BOX, so Google Maps can pin your business to the map and your customers can find you!
- Use your local/landline phone number, not a 1-800/toll free number.
List your business’s official website, as this will create a link to your site. Ensure the company introduction is filled out, making sure it is clear and concise. It is beneficial to include keywords your site already ranks for as the introduction is used as your page’s meta description in Google’s SERPs.
Ensure your opening hours are correct- there are reports that Google may not include your Google Plus page result in its local SERPs if the hours listed indicate the company is closed and especially if no opening hours are listed at all. You can also add information regarding payment options and images for better engagement.
Optimize your Business Page for Better Local Organic Rankings
Once your account has been set up, there are some additional actions you can take to increase the SEO value of your Business Page.
Encourage Reviews From Your Customers on Google+
How: Encourage customers to write positive reviews of your business by clicking ‘Write a Review’ on your local Business Page or from the SERP or knowledge graph results.
Why: Reviews increase the authority of your Google+ page with more high quality, positive reviews, the likelihood of ranking well in the local search pack increases. Just take a look at the Local Pack results for a local search (example above), or the organic results and knowledge graph for a local brand-name search and you will see exactly why reviews are so important- because Google loves displaying them in search results! Users also trust reviews, so the more positive reviews your brand has, the higher your CTR and conversions.
Claim a Custom URL
How: Once the local page has been verified, you can claim a custom URL to match your brand.
Why: Incorporate your brand name in your page’s custom URL to increase your brand’s visibility in Google’s SERPs.
Connect Your Company’s YouTube Channel
How: Your YouTube channel’s settings provide the option to link your channel to your Business Page.
Why: Once they are linked, your channel’s videos will be displayed under an additional "YouTube" tab offering additional elements for engagement on Google+. A link to the Business Page will also appear on your channel, sending more valuable traffic to your Google+ page. With the additional activity on your Business Page, the social signals from your business’s account will also play a bigger role in your rankings.
Remove Duplicate Business Pages
How: Run a search for your business in Google Plus to track down any additional or duplicate Business Pages. If you have access, you can remove the pages or if you do not want to delete the page, leave an update directing visitors to your active Business Page.
Why: It is quite common to find a number of Business Pages with your company name (such as additional local pages linked to an old location on Google Maps, different Business Pages set up by different accounts etc). If they are not removed, some users may not be able to decipher between the pages, leading to reviews, comments or +1’s being left on the wrong page rather than adding value to the active Business Page.
Promote Your Google+ Page and Gain Followers
It is not enough just to set up a Business Page and integrate it with other Google properties to achieve top results in local search. You must maintain the page and use it to interact and build brand awareness across the web. The following are some quick tips to gain followers and enhance your page’s engagement:
- Post updates frequently and keep your profile fresh. Users are more likely to engage with a page that is up to date, active and complete. Use hashtags related to the topic you are posting about for better findability. Incorporate images and videos to encourage engagement from your followers.
- Add influential people and pages to your circles (especially in your local area). The key to building your following is to engage and interact with other personal and business profiles by commenting, sharing and +1’ing their relevant content as many will often reciprocate these actions. The more activity and engagement you receive on your content, especially +1’s, the more likely Google will favor your page in SERP results.
- You can encourage your website’s visitors to visit your Business Page by embedding the Google+ badge on your site. This allows your site visitors to directly engage with your page, consolidating +1's from your website and your Business Page.
- You can also include a link to your Business Page in other marketing material such as your company’s email signature and your AdWords advertising campaigns (known as social extensions).
The key to Google+ success, as with most social networks is to remain active, to engage and be engaging and to send a consistent message to your users. With a little bit of time and effort, your Google+ Business Page has the power to keep your brand highly visible both within Google’s local pack/local organic search results and organic results overall.