Listen up, all you local business owners. This article is for you. Recently, a Virginia-based branding agency recruited us to help a chain of 40 nursing homes in the mid-Atlantic improve the search rankings for their centers in some competitive metropolitan markets. While competitive link building is and remains the most important and foundational part of our strategy, claiming Google+ Local pages for each local facility has produced some early wins for our client.
Understanding Google+ Local can be a frustrating experience at first
The process of claiming Google+ Local pages has not been without hiccups. Google+ Local is a confusing product with a tangled history:
- Sept 2009 – Google launches Place Pages for Google Maps – This included a tool for business owners called “Local Business Center,” which was renamed simply Google Places for Business in April 2010. Google Places for Business is still mostly operational today, albeit with some broken functionality
- Sept 2011 – Google opens up Google+ personal profiles to the public in its third effort to capture some of Facebook’s social media magic, giving anyone 18 or older the ability to create their own personal Google+ page
- May 2012 – Google rolls out Google+ Local – Google+ Local is an attempt to combine Google+ — remember, primarily a social media site — with Google’s already vast database of local business listings.
Benefits of using Google+ Local
Using a Google+ Local listing allows you to craft an engaging first impression of your business or organization.
Links from third-party sites to your website are the single most important factor in boosting your rank. But in some cases (depending on your competition), claiming and optimizing your Google+ Local listing may provide a quick boost to your search engine rankings. From my personal experience, I have seen this happen with searches for organizational brand names; but I have not seen this happen for highly competitive product or keyword searches.
Which “front door” to Google+ Local should you use?
If you are a local business owner, the most confusing thing about Google+ Local is that it has (at least) two different “front doors”:
Both of these “front doors” will take you to a screen where you can get started with your Google+ Local page. However, each front door has pros and cons:
Google Places for Business
Google+ for Business
If you’re just getting started with Google+ Local, I would recommend using Google+ for Business to get started, because it gives so much more control over your Google+ Local page than Google Places for Business.