Google retires its very popular (and highly abused) Google Places by merging local results with Google Plus or Google+. For quite a long time, Google Places has been the goldmine of SEOs and Internet Marketers in gaining local traffic (and leads) via local related searches. You can read more about this development here.
Google is kind enough to provide us with a how to guide in creating your very own local Google+ page. There is also more than enough 101s on the subject, but in a gist, this is Google’s attempt in making its results social.
But of course, creating your local Google+ page won’t guarantee your awesome listing in local searches, there is that good old optimization that you need to carry out, ergo local Google+ page optimization. As a matter of fact, Google+ Plus SEO opens up several opportunities in the Internet Marketing scene. But before that, let’s talk about the basic changes and features:
Google Places is out, Google+ Local pages in, and yeah it’s accessible via your Google plus profile. If you’re thinking that Google is indeed pushing its social network then be my guest, this integration isn’t a test so you can either work on optimizing your page or continue bashing Google for their dedication.
- As implied your Google+ UI now has the Local tab, that’s right between Circles and Games tabs.
- Zagat reviews are (exclusively) integrated. Aside from the rating with a max score of 30, you will see scores and details for Décor, Service and Cost. Of course, Zagat reviews restaurants and food places so it will be interesting to know their future plans. Expansion of niche? We’ll try to talk more about Zagat on another post.
- Non-food or restaurant related local search results still yield a score with max of 30 points. Check the value of each number below:
- Second query bar (for location) directly pulls suggestion from Google Maps. If you’re a frequent user of Google Maps you’ll notice this immediately. Why is this important? There’s a big chance that non-popular locations, those that are not well detailed in Google Maps (attention third world countries) will yield very thin results or recommendations.
- Google+ Local pages are integrated across other Google properties and services like Maps, Mobile etc – a move that very well supports Google’s holistic approach on its services.
- Google+ Local shouts: see reviews from people you know; and true enough you can filter your search to find reviews or recommendations from top reviewers or from people in your circle. The latter means that more people who have you in their circles means more influence on sales or at least web traffic.
- Relevant keyword suggestions are also present and it won’t be long before we see AdWords advertisement on these searches.
- There are TWO search bars in your Google+ Local tab, the first one for your main query (product or store name etc) and the second one your location. Based on my observations, the default location is based on your IP, I live in the Philippines ergo mine says: Mandaluyong City, NCR.
- URL display in search results (for non-food query) is the business’ Google+ About Page, along with its address, telephone number, page profile picture or cover image if profile picture is absent, location based on Google Maps, overall score and number of reviews.
- More will be added soon…
So, because Google+ Local displays Google+ Page in search results, would optimizing your Google+ Page guarantee your success in Google+ Local searches?
No. No single optimization standard (or trick) would guarantee you a first place ranking. The algorithm after all isn’t decided by a single factor and to say that’s everything there is to Google+ Local SEO would be futile. The idea is to do as many appropriate things as possible so that your chance of getting higher rankings would increase.
Your Google+ Page will be your landing page for the new Google+ Local search. Optimizing it is relatively simple. We made a detailed post on how you can make an optimize Google+ for Business page on this post.
Make sure you have your main website on your Page because if not, then the next step would useless.
Keyhole Markup Language or KML is an Extensive Markup Language or XML file that delivers your geographic data to software like Google Earth – the one that is used by Google Maps.
**Editing Google Maps in theory should give a similar output.
Google has a detailed documentation on the subject.
1. Create a KML file and name it locations.kml
2. Edit the KML file using your favorite txt or html editor, I personally use Notepad++
3. Follow the instructions on Google’s documentation in writing your KML file (that is given you already know the details that you need).
Alternatively, you can:
1. Download and Install Google Earth: http://www.google.com/earth/index.html
2. Run the software
3. Go to the address of your business by using the “Search” then “Fly To” functions.
4. If you don’t know the longitude and latitude equivalent of your business address you can use this tool: http://itouchmap.com/latlong.html
5. Copy the resulting Latitude and Longitude of a Point (which is your address) then paste it on Google Earth’s Fly To box.
6. Press search and Google Earth will immediately display the location you entered.
7. Go to File, click Save File and then name it locations.kml
Of course you need to make sure that you have the optimized data on your locations.kml file. Open it with a text editor and make sure that.
Check the three important elements in your KML file:
A. Name of Place – should be the name of your business, better if the name of your business has your keyword.
B. Description – description of your business, needless to say, must have your keyword and location.
C. Coordinates – based on Google Maps, remember above we talked about how to get your Latitude and Longitude using Google Earth.
After you double checked, do these:
8. Upload locations.kml via FTP
9. Get your locations.kml permalink and declare it in your sitemap.xml
10. Submit it to Google Webmaster Tools
Google no longer supports Geo extension to the Geo Sitemap protocol. However, you can tell Google about your geographical location by including the information in your regular sitemap; it is also advisable to include the URL of your locations.kml file in your sitemap.
1. Download your sitemal.xml via FTP
2. Open the file it using your favorite txt or html editor
3. Input the location of your locations.kml [http://www.example.com/locations.kml] file, save and then reupload it.
Google merged Google Places and Google+ for a very good reason (aside from the debatable desire of the company to push its social network). It is telling you to make your business social – which means reviews, great customer support, relation and connection. Gone now are the days when business can completely box themselves and still survive. The new web talks in pluses, likes, votes and shares and not just links. So how will you optimize for Google+ Local using these ideas?
1. Integrate social buttons, including Google Plus (as well as other social network sites like Facebook and Twitter) on your website.
2. Make a big fuss out of your brand new Google+ Page. Write a Press Release linking to it, with a fresh and enticing angle of course. <Brand Name Here Gets> New Google+ Page won’t really cut it. Why do you need to do this? It will tell your customers and fans that you’re into Google+ and it will also build an external backlink to your Page, pretty basic off-page SEO.
3. Diversity your social networking properties and interlink them. Now you have your Google+, make sure you have Twitter and Facebook, and whatever it is that will be popular and rival these three. Again, make sure you link them to each other along with your main website.
4. Promote your Google+ Pages in Twitter, Facebook and other channels – and vice versa. It doesn’t matter if you be followed and liked by the same people, what counts is that they’re following you on the network.
5. Circle back anyone who will add your business on your Google Plus. Doing this will make your followers feel important and loved, plus this will increase your followers count which means that more and more people will see your content.
6. Amass circles. Contact your followers and fans from other social networks, especially those using Gmail and tell them that you will love it if they add your page on their G+ accounts.
7. Keep posting on your Google+ Business Page. Regular posts means that account is active, and active accounts mean alive pages, and alive pages mean alive businesses.
8. Post content with the potential to go viral. Viral content gets shared and voted and the profile or page that shared it can get natural likes. Just make sure the viral content (video, image or article) that you are going to shared are related to your business and brand, even better if it comes from the blog of your website.
9. Got a satisfied customer? Then get those positive reviews. Tell them to leave a review on your business via their plus account. Doing this will inflate your review counts and can increase your ranking or your clickthrough at very least. You can also consider giving incentives to those who will review your business.