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:

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

Pros

Cons

  • Metrics/reporting/analytics on  location, impressions, and  actions of users are extensive
  • Only one user may manage the page
  • Photos – delay of 3 to 4 weeks before they show up on Google+ Local page
  • Videos – no longer supported

Google+ for Business

Pros

Cons

  • Google+ Business pages can  have multiple managers, and  ownership can be transferred
  • Photos can be uploaded for  immediate visibility
  • Videos can be uploaded for immediate visibility
  • Metrics/reporting/analytics on  location, impressions, and  actions of users are not provided

Conclusion

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.