What is Google+ Local?
Let’s start with the beginning. I assume you own or maintain a business and are looking for a way to boost its online presence (ie. take top position in the search engine results when people look for something you offer). Therefore, in a nutshell there are two types of people who might do the searching:
- People so far away from you they are never going to knock on your door
- People who are right there in your own neighborhood, or so near, that they are very likely to show up at your shop
So which group are we interested in? Of course the second one, right? So that’s where the magic of Google+ Local comes in. It was known as Google Places for Business before, though the name changed to tie in Google’s social network since mid 2012, the service is the same.
It’s a platform for business owners to create a better online presence and get reviews from customers which creates an awesome social business directory.
Why is it better than other such services like Yelp!, you might ask. The simple reason is, it’s not a website people need to visit first to find you – it’s right there in the Google search pages.
Ok, so it’s not ‘in’ there, but whenever someone simply Googles ‘something in something area’ like ‘barber in Sydney’ or ‘florist in Perth’, these listings will be displayed in the prime real estate zone at the top of the page and in the local carousel bar. Basically they are pages for your business like your own Google plus page, but they have the added bonus of being great at the Google search results:
- Their position – Usually above other search results
- Extra information – Your business address and phone number will be displayed along with the website
- Map – There will be a mini map with all the listings marked on it
- Reviews – This is what mostly makes it different from normal Google search results. If people reviewed your business there will be a direct link to those reviews
- New review – Visitors can actually go ahead and leave a new review for your place if they have a Google+ account
- Social reach – Unlike a normal search position, these listings will also show up on the reviewer’s Google+ account and spread to their friends (who has good chance of zoning in to your place due to this)
- Trust – It’s far easier to trust a business when you know your peers (and even better, your friends) did the same and hopefully said something great about it!
- Mobile friendly – These listings and the pages they are pulled from are very mobile friendly and are designed that way to reach the growing crowd of on the go search people
Why does your Google+ Local page need reviews?
So these pages are great and does everything for you automatically, right? Not quite. You see, like all other things, there is a catch here. Usually a maximum of only seven of such listings will come up in the search result, depending on their relevance, distance and of course, reviews.
So these reviews are different from other review services as they show up on the search page and people can easily see them. But what about all the other places in that area with the same service? It’s a little more complicated than just having a local page and outshining your competitors.
- Rank in the local listings – Multiple factors control which local listing is going to show up and in which order. But a higher number of reviews really helps.
- Crowd psychology – Think of what you would do and choose which business; one with some good, personal reviews about the place or just a plain name and website? People will feel more comfortable where others went before and left a good word.
- Personal touch – So your page might come in the top 7 local listings without a review, but a review will definitely gain the curiosity of people. It’s natural to want to see the hype going in there.
- Boost the phone impulse – A good number of people will be viewing the results from their phone and most will have it near by even if using a computer. These people will be more likely call a business with a lively crowd of reviews (your phone and address are displayed right beside it).
- Double bonus – So you got a good number of reviews and ratings in other such websites and spent some good money and/or time getting your precious SEO done. If this is the case, then why not get a double bonus and bring your Google+ Local page up into the search page with a healthy dose of reviews.
So the bottom line is, reviews are good (considering you have mostly good ones!) in anywhere. But only having them here will get you all those boosts at the same time.
10 Ways to get reviews for your Google+ Local page
- Family and friends – It’s pretty simple, right? They are always there to support you and this should be no different. Just help them with how to find your place, and the reviews will come right in.
- Ask customers – It’s the hardest and ironically the best source of reviews, lots of reviews. You are going to meet a whole lot of customers, probably a larger pool than your family, friends and employees combined. And they are the ones who know most about your service/product. Most importantly, there will be other customers (ie. people you are actually hoping to get on board), so its natural to ask them. But you have to tackle some problems along the way:
a. Don’t push hard or too much. Reviews should be honest and written with a personal touch as a friendly gesture to next customers. Asking for them too much might actually ruin its purpose.
b. Asking them directly after the dealings over is the right way to go, but sometimes people don’t have time or just don’t feel like it. Be patient.
c. Not all of your customers are tech savvy or comfortable visiting the social pages frequently enough to leave a line or two for you, but ask anyway.
d. Assuming you did your best there will always be a few black sheep near impossible to please and you will get unfair and stinking reviews. Just do your part and ultimately there will be far more good ones than the bad ones.
e. And finally the easiest way is to ask your employees to do the asking. However, make sure they are authoritative figures that the customers are more likely honor a request from.
- Reach out to past customers – So you got a good old customer base already? Why don’t ask those you have served faithfully in the past to help you grow bigger? Depending on your business and operation culture, you can go out there on several ways and ask for their reviews. Send them an email, a letter or a text on their phone. It’s very likely that at least some of your satisfied customers will take the liberty of leaving a good reply.
- Review page on your website – If you have an online section of your business or run a dedicated e-commerce business, it is only logical to ask your customers to drop a few lines on your review page. Ask them on banners, separate pages, pop ups or on the checkout page. If they have time, they will be very much likely to review your service and website.
- Other businesses – It’s always good to give a back rub especially when you are likely to get one in return. Google allows businesses you deal with to leave reviews and you can review them in return or vice versa. Though you guys might be competing for the same customer base, it’s always good to show courtesy and keep a good understanding with the competition.
- Handout – It’s a time-tested classic method and still works pretty good in this case. Just create some attractive most importantly informative handouts and keep distributing it and you will see results eventually.
- Google Maps – The biggest problem is to get people into Google+ in the first place to make the review (unfortunately Google has yet to make a dent in social media stronghold of Facebook). But making a review is really super easy when you look for a business through the Google Map App (both in Android and iOS). The best part is, a huge part of smartphone users use this app. Just ask them to look your place up and leave a review.
- Email signature – It’s a good idea to add a link to your Google+ Local page and other similar pages like Facebook or Yelp in your signature. You can even highlight link with a short message like “Help us improve, leave a review on Google+” OR “Did you like our service, please drop a line here”.
- Cards and props – You can also take the email signature idea a little further and:
a. Make some friendly signs to ask for a review and place them strategically.
b. Insert the request in your bill or receipt.
c. Do a little infomercial and play it in your place (however, this might seem a little over the top for some).
- Social media – Google+ Local is not a plain directory service, but has a deep social impact. Your reviews will reach out to your friends and the ripples will spread onwards. Therefore, it’s only logical to use your current social media presence, this includes both your business profiles and personal profiles to ask for reviews.
Are there any Google guidelines I need to follow?
So as the cynic says, there is always a catch. You are welcome to Google’s amazing services, but you need to follow the guidelines. Don’t worry, these are nothing restrictive, but more like a social norm for polite and honest behavior. The strict part is, Google will filter all reviews with its algorithms to find out fake or dishonest reviews. It’s not perfect yet and sometimes legit reviews get caught in the net, while really fake ones slips by. So here are the basic points:
- Phone numbers or URLs
- Off-topic reviews
- Keep it clean
- Conflict of interest
- Illegal content
- Copyrighted content
- Sexually explicit material
- Personal and confidential information
- Hate Speech
These rules are pretty self-explanatory. In plain words, you are not supposed to advertise in the reviews or give our phone number or website address. No spam, illegal or copyrighted content, dirty stuff, off-topic reviews or plain old hate speech.
Also on a more official tone, don’t do biased reviews like promoting your own business or ask employees to do so. Same thing goes for offering gifts, money, favors or discounts for reviews. Also for your own safety, don’t give out personal and confidential information.
What about other sites like Yelp?
I assume you are already familiar with business listing and review services like Yelp!, TrueLocal and Hotfrog, and if you are already trying to digitize your business, it is safe to assume you already have a crowd behind you on those websites or similar ones.
It’s logical to stay with a known platform and a comfortable setting. Asking your customers for reviews on a new platform might seem a little counter productive, but that’s actually not the case here. Google+ local is definitely a new and innovative platform which provides a more rewarding experience for the users than its peers.
On one hand, there is the direct access from social pages, and on the other, people are more likely to simply google for things directly than to go in other services. However, the others have an older and greater user base with more resource, that should count too.
So the best course of option is to let the people pick their own. You don’t need to force the choice on them. Your customers should feel free to leave reviews on the platform they are most comfortable with, not the one you chose for them.
The best part is, if your are already using the other services and know how to promote your business there, the same technique are also applicable for Google plus local too.
There is no need to learn and invent a new battle plan for this one! Also having a stronger buzz about your business on a wider field would certainly be better for your website ranking. After all Google loves backlinks and mentions.
So Google+ local pages are very good and gives your business a boost in the local search results, but do you have to take the trouble of getting reviews? The answer is simple, yes! Because the reward of having honest and insightful reviews are way more than the trouble of asking for them and reaching out to people.
What would you want for your business, a silent commercial or one with lots of people spontaneously saying how great it was at your place (and a few inevitable grumbling ones)? Of course you’ll want a loud crowd which will only get a larger crowd visiting your business over time.
The bottom line is, if you want effective local search marketing for your business, getting help from the internet superpower Google is the smartest way to go.