If you want to do just one activity that will take you approximately 10 minutes of your time and yield you the most customers for 0 cost, this is that one thing you should do. Immediately.

Some quick statistics to get our conversation started:
  • 43% of all Google searches are local or location based
  • Over 50% of mobile searches are local or location based

Now to explain: local or location based searches are searches whereby either you entered the location directly into the search parameters (search for “pilates in Easthampton MA”) or you were in a location and Google returned search results based on your GPS coordinates (you were in the town of Easthampton, MA and ran a search for “pilates”).

Haven’t claimed your Google+ Local Page yet? Claim it now!

When does your location matter?

Your location matters any time a person is trying to find a product or service close to where they are or based on its proximity to a location. For example, an Italian restaurant in a certain town, a hair salon in their neighborhood, the nearest locksmith, a plumber that services their area…
For location-relevant businesses these types of searches are the most important queries that you can hope to win. These queries aren’t you trying to beat out your nationwide or global position for search engine rankings, but are instead highly local-based and often immediate in their conversion from a query to a phone call or physical customer at your location. In some industries (such as restaurants) this conversion percentage has been found (for smartphone users) to equal 30% immediate conversions and 60% conversions within an hour, and 80% go on to eventually make a conversion.
30% conversions immediately and 60% conversions within an hour.
These aren’t window shoppers, these are people that are immediately converting to become customers of yours.
And guess what they’re using to conduct these local searches? Google Map on iOS (Apple) or Google via their Android phone.
And guess where the top results are being pulled from? Your Google+ Local Page information.

Google Places is now Google+ Local and Google My Business

This part may be confusing, but Google used to have a service which is still operational called Google Places. You might have created your business listing in this service, it still exists, you can still edit your existing listings, and in fact you can create new listings. But it looks like this is being phased out and merged with Google+ functionality in the form of Google+ Business.
Move past anything you may or may not have heard about Google+. It is irrelevant to this discussion, but if you want to learn more about why you need to use Google+, read this post.

This is not Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

To be perfectly clear, this is not search engine optimization. This is not part of your website, nor does it comprise of making the content in your website more accessible or optimized for search engines to spider. This is entirely about giving Google the best information possible about your business in their “yellow pages” directory, keeping the profile updated and active, and enabling Google to match queries with the best results. And when the query is a local or location-based search, Google will use this information before using standard search engine results (which is where your SEO might be a factor).

This is not a small amount of search traffic. Please give our October 2014 case study on Google Local Search a read to see how much traffic this amounted to for a 1-location restaurant in a major city.

Update: this type of behavior is part of Semantic Search – focusing on it is an integral part of your semantic search strategy.

How to work on your Local Pages

Completeness matters! Make sure to keep all of your contact information correct (address, phone numbers, website urls), fill out your hours and description, and above all, make sure you have one or more categories selected! The categories are one of the biggest parts; make sure that you include all categories that match your offering. For example, if you’re an Italian restaurant, make sure to select both the “italian restaurant” category as well as the “restaurant” category.

Then make your listing catchy by adding the most gorgeous cover photo that you can, along with 5 or more other photographs to showcase (people often judge exclusively on imagery).

Cultivating Authority, +1’s, Circles and Reviews

Now you’re probably wondering how you can get your Google+ Page to the top of the results. There are a number of factors, but there isn’t a sure-fire method to guarantee your positioning. But what you can do is focus on 4 things: cultivating authority, generating +1s, getting people to circle you, and encouraging positive reviews to get posted to your Page. The first three of those four options are things that you can do, the fourth one (reviews) is something that you’ll want to encourage from your customers.

Cultivating authority
Google gives positioning priority to people that have established themselves as an “authority” on a subject, or have prominently mentioned a subject while they are already considered an authority within the system. Basically Google analyzes social signals to evaluate a person (or business) and see how active and engaged they are, and how people have responded to the content that they’ve posted or re-shared.

How do you cultivate your authority?

  • Increase the number of people that have you in their circles.
  • Increase the number of re-shares and +1’s of your Google+ content (content you share).
  • Increase the number of mentions of your Profile/Page in Google+.
  • Increase external activity, measured through the amount of +1’s of your site’s content
  • Link up your profiles to take advantage of AuthorRank
  • Create lots of quality content

+1s on your site
Google Webmaster provides some great information regarding the +1 button and how it affects search results, which can be summed up nicely with this example:

+1 helps people discover relevant content—a website, a Google search result, or an ad—from the people they already know and trust. The +1 button appears on Google search, on websites, and on ads. For example, you might see a +1 button for a Google search result, Google ad, or next to an article you’re reading on your favorite news site.

Adding the +1 button to pages on your own site lets users recommend your content, knowing that their friends and contacts will see their recommendation when it’s most relevant—in the context of Google search results. In addition, a user’s +1’s appear on the +1 tab of their Google Profile. While +1’s are always public, users can choose to make the +1 tab visible or invisible on their profile.

How do you get those +1s? It starts by putting the +1 button onto your site and more importantly on each blog/content pages within your site.

As much as we hate to say it, size does matter…. when it comes to the size of your social network. You want to cultivate lots of people in your circles, and the larger your circles, the more reach you’ll have in the search result personalization of your target audience.

In the example here you’ll see some of the benefits of establishing rel=author code to your site, but also how Google has displayed my information while displaying the search result.

The size of your social network in Google+ is a contributing factor, but also how many times your content has been shared. So if you’re using Google+ in conjunction with your blog, by sharing your new posts to your network, getting +1s on that content share, and getting re-shares (measured by Ripples), each of those shares is essentially a high-quality inbound link to your content from yet another Authority source.

So how do you grow your network? The first step is to include the Google+ Badge on your website and blog. This badge includes functionality that enables visitors to quickly and easily add you to a circle without leaving your site (while also perhaps giving you a +1).

The second step is to start sharing your content, and related content from other sources (cultivation), to your Google+ page, and engaging people. We understand that spending time and resources to engage people is difficult and can be costly, and it is by no means necessary, but if you’re looking to grow your following fast, that’s the best method. But regarding sharing content, that is something your business should already be doing via blogging (your business should be actively blogging) or in other social networks such as Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

It’s going to be some work…

We know we just gave you a long list of work to do, some immediate and some long term, but even if all you do is the first part and just set up your Local Page (and make it really, really complete), then you’ll have accomplished a lot and the rest can wait until you’re ready to jump in with both feet.

Read on for more information about why you should claim your Google Places (now Google+ Local Page) and how that Google+ Local Page is becoming your landing page within the Google search results, and don’t miss our study on Local Search and its importance for Local Business.

Need help getting started with Google+ Local Pages and a Google+ strategy?