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Google+ Local, formerly Google Places, is a valuable resource for any retailer looking to use the web to drive offline sales. 

In a nutshell, it allows businesses to create a listing (via a Google+ page) which will appear next to relevant, especially local, search results. 

As more people use smartphones to search for local businesses, a well optimised Google+ Local listing is an essential. 

This is something I covered in our recent How the Internet can Save the High Street report.

Here's why offline businesses should be creating a listing...

What is Google+ Local? 

This used to be known as Google Places, but has since been merged into Google+, as it looks to find more ways to force people to use its social network...

By creating a Google+ page and optimising Local listings, businesses can have greater control over how they appear in local search results. 

For example, if I search for a restaurant near the Econsultancy office, I see these results: 

As you can see, results are plotted on the map and listed along with their addresses and average review scores. The team behind The Modern Pantry have clearly done a good job, as its result stands out, with a high average review score. 

Also, when you hover over it, it gets better. A brief description of the restaurant appears, along with opening hours and contact details: 

It has also used Google Business Photos to allow people to take a tour of the inside:

All in all, this restaurant has done a lot to make its results stand out, provide information and images for potential diners, while users see the reassurance of positive reviews and ratings from customers. 

This works well on mobile searches too, as review scores are displayed prominently, along with the option to click and call straight from the result: 

Why use Google+ Local? 

The growth of mobile and local search

According to Google stats, 85% of UK mobile users seek local information on their smartphone, and 81% take action using the local content. Even if you don’t have a website, this is a great way to maintain an online presence and provide potential customers with information on and directions to your business.

In addition, a recent study found that 43% of all Google searches have a local intent. That's a lot of traffic to target. 

SEO

These results are shown prominently on Google, and since users are often searching for [type of product or service] + [location], then there is a real intent to visit or purchase behind these kinds of queries.

The listings allow businesses to rank for target keywords and, even if the business in question doesn't have a website, a Local listing can give them a strong presence online. 

Gain an advantage over competitors

Local listings also provide businesses with an advantage over competitors who have yet to set up their own listings. In the first screenshot in this post, just seven restaurants are shown on the first page of Google's results (10 if you search on mobile). 

There are many more restaurants in this area, but perhaps they haven't done their homework and set up a Local listing. They're missing on a lot of mobile search traffic. 

The power of reviews

Consumer reviews are powerful sales drivers, and just seeing a quick review score, especially 25/30 can be enough to persuade people to pay a visit or book a table. 

Google+ Local: tips for implementation

Setting up a listing is easy, and free. It’s just a matter of taking the time to provide details that potential customers will find useful, such as contact details and opening hours.

Once you have set up your listing, here are a few ways to optimise its impact:

Make your listing stand out

It’s worth taking the time to add extra information, photos, promotions and fresh content. This will be more useful to readers, and will make your listing memorable.

Add keywords to your business description

A Google+ Local listing lets you describe your business in up to 200 characters. Make sure you use your most important keywords (but avoid keyword stuffing). Write for potential customers first. 

Encourage customers to leave reviews

Listings with reviews stand out, so encouraging your customers to leave their opinions will increase your chances of success. Of course, you have to do the hard part and make sure your customers are satisfied first... 

Create a listing for each of your physical locations

This will ensure that people have the correct details for the nearest branch when searching locally and will give businesses more opportunities to increase rankings. 

Get (rel) authored up

I haven't seen this in the UK, but this US dentist has sorted out his Google authorship, and look how his listing stands out: 

Add images and videos to your listing

This will make your listing stand out, and will also provide useful information for potential customers. 

Monitor your Google+ Local analytics

You can learn the top search queries that caused users to see your listing as well as how many visits it sent to your website. This is vital for finding out what works and what doesn't. 

Graham Charlton

Published 9 October, 2012 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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Nick Stamoulis

"81% take action using the local content."

If you are a business that relies on foot traffic you can't afford to not do this! Someone searching for a place to eat on their phone is looking to make a quick decision. You need to make sure your business is well represented online in as many places as possible.

over 3 years ago

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Steve Mc

Business owners should be aware that currently Google+ Local is still showing users establishments that are in cities hundreds of miles from their actual location. When users open the Local screen on a wired computer, they are presented with business entries based on their service provider's location rather than their own. Users have been complaining to Google about this ever since Local debuted, but to date nothing has been done to correct the situation.

over 3 years ago

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Mark

Given the absolute hash Google has made of it, we should be warning people away from Google Local.

A huge number of small business owners have seen their Places listings disappear without warning, with no explanation and no recourse. (Google famously never answers complaints.)

Google should just own up that they made a monumental screw up.

And as Steve Mc says above, the inaccuracy of the existing local listings is unbelievable.

In some cases its thousands and thousands of miles out on a consistent basis. (Same goes for Adwords local targeting by the way. Wonder how advertisers would feel about that, if they knew their ads appeared in front of people 4,000kms miles away from their business location?

Apple got canned for its maps failure but no-one seems to care that Google Local is just as bad if not worse in terms of accuracy.

over 3 years ago

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Thomas Seaman

As a receiver in Orange County I rely on "local" searches to drive business my way. After reading this article I jumped to my Google + page to make sure I had everything set up right! Thanks!

over 3 years ago

Oliver Ewbank

Oliver Ewbank, Digital Marketing Manager at Koozai

Great post. Google+ local is essential. Most mobile searches are local which means you need to have this area covered.

over 3 years ago

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