Last year, I wrote a post pooh poohing the idea of link building to an SMB Google+ Page for local as an ill-conceived use of limited resources in most situations. Recently Anikait Chavan commented on that post which motivated me to revisit the idea of exactly how your Google+ Page for Local should fit into an overall marketing plan.
Looking at the newer version of Google+, where you have this Business Page features on a local page or whatever you call it (a page with both the features, etc.), I want to know your advice on what should be marketing strategy for this new page? The same old business page strategy or local oriented?
Thanks for your question. The issue for me is how to maximize your company's presence in general and on Google in particular while minimizing expense and time. All the while you want to make sure that your web equity is ever increasing in a way that will continue to influence that visibility in a sustainable, holistic way.
Firstly, I would suggest that you want to think about marketing your business and not marketing the Google+ Page for local. The goal here is to increase your business, not increase Google's.
Essentially the new Google+ Page for local can perform several functions (some more important than others) that can potentially benefit your business:
- The prominence of the business listed on the page can influence whether your listing shows prominently in the main local search results.
- It (actually the dashboard) feeds data to the the main search results providing that critical first impression with customers.
- It is landing page for your clients to leave you reviews.
- It is an alternate landing page for your clients that is linked to from the main local search results.
- It is a social page on which you can post, get plusses and gain followers.
- It is a page that shows in the Google search results in and of its own right and thus can function in the capacity of controlling (or improving) your reputation by replacing less savory pages.
Given the broad array of functions that the page can fulfill you need to think through which ones are most important and how to best achieve them.
1. Obviously having your business show in local search results is far and away the biggest benefit you can get from managing the Google+ Page. The local results displayed in the main Google search results are seen many, many more times than at any other Google property whether Plus or Maps. Thus it should be the first focus of any efforts dedicated to the page.
To increase that visibility on the first page of Google you need firstly to be sure that you have selected correct categories for your listing. But most importantly, to increase that visibility, you must increase the prominence of your business every across the depth and breath of the internet that Google looks at to rank your business. That means first and foremost, you need to focus on building a great website that people want to link to, that you get citations everywhere that matters, you get newspaper and blog articles singing your business's praises and you get reviews at the many sites that Google looks at etc., etc., etc. Improving the digital prominence of your business and website will improve your rank.
2. Having great photos, complete hours, reviews from around the web can really make your business listing stand out in the local search results. It is important that you add lots of excellent photos to your dashboard. That means picking a great profile photo which is the one photo most likely to be seen. These efforts will make that Google+ Local page pop in the search results.
Many times searchers will immediately call your business from the search results based on the impression created on the main page of Google. Those that are ready to take action will hardly visit nor are they interested in seeing your social page.
3. Obviously reviews play a big part in creating that strong first impression. That includes reviews at Google as well as reviews around the web. So it is important to have in place a plan that grows your reviews. Growing them at your Plus page has the benefit of not only improving the visibility of your listing in general search, it also improves the visibility of your listing in personalized search. When your customers leave reviews their friends are also more likely to see your listing in the main search results and their review might be highlighted. What better way to increase exposure than have your customers do it for you? This might be a good reason to add links to the page from your website. Although more reviews are likely to come from an email campaign depending on how your review management plan is structured.
4. Given that Google is now linking to the Google+ Page for Local's post page, the page may become an alternative landing page for a searcher looking for more information about your business. Thus it is important to do the bare minimum of posting and adding a compelling cover photo to create a good impression. For more details see this post: Google+ Pages for Local: An SMB Survival Guide.
5. Using your Google+ Page for Local as a social platform certainly doesn't hurt but may be more trouble than it is worth - today. I am a huge fan of Google + as a social environment. But given that many of your local customers are not yet there (on Google +) means that the benefit is not direct as they are unlikely to see your efforts. Also, it is time consuming and costly to do. While I think it is a good long term play to be social on your Google + Page for Local, the cost benefit ratio of it today may or may not be that favorable for your particular local business. If you do take that route be sure that you do it in a way that engages your local clientele or perhaps meshes with a more national strategy that you might be developing. Doing social posting for posting's sake only benefits Google and not you. If you think that you will want to start using it in the future, consider implementing some low bandwidth way of getting your customers to follow you on Google+ now so that when you do start posting you aren't shouting into an empty oil drum.
6. Using your Google+ Page for reputation management is the one scenario where it sometimes might make sense to do "link building" to the page. It will increase the page's visibility in the search results. In general, I would rather a searcher see my web results and go to my website than go to my Google+ page as it is easier to track that activity and move them in a direction closer to a sale from there.
But even in this reputation scenario, rather than link building externally in a forced fashion, you might be better off creating great social content on your Google + Page and getting shared and linked to internally from other Google+ users. And it doesn't take much in the way of links to get Google to show this page on your brand searches. Oh, how Google loves its own properties.
Bottom line? For me, steps one through four offer significant return for most businesses. For a business with purely a local reach, step five makes sense in some limited situations. Step six only makes sense if you haven't been doing a good job of reputation management up to this point.
Understand the role that the page plays in the bigger picture of your total marketing scheme. Don't get too wrapped up in the Google reality distortion field and be sure to take marketing actions that help you over the long haul.