A friend of mine recently set up a business as a sports massage therapist and asked if I could give him some tips on digital marketing.

Aside from setting up social profiles and optimising his website, I suggested that one of the most important things he could do was to setup a Google+ business page.

His is obviously a small business and one that only operates in his local area, so would benefit hugely from having a decent presence in local search results.

Having imparted these brilliant words of wisdom it then struck me that my knowledge of Google+ Local is a bit shaky.

So, in honour of my good friend this blog post explains the reasons why every business should be on Google+ Local, and gives some advice on how to setup a page…

What is Google+ Local

Formerly known as Google Places, Google+ Local enables offline businesses to gain greater prominence in local search results.

By establishing a Google+ page businesses can give the search engine relevant information such as their location, operating hours and contact details.

Google obviously looks kindly on business listings that contain useful, up-to-date information and gives them a boost in search rankings. 

So, if I search for a sports massage therapist in Bristol, businesses that have a Google+ Local page appear in the local search listings and have more prominence in the map on the right-hand side.

Local search listings are even more important on mobile as they appear directly under the paid results.

The reason for this is Google knows that 40% of mobile searches have local intent and three out of four mobile searches trigger follow-up actions, whether that be further research, a store visit, a phone call, a purchase or word-of-mouth sharing.

Furthermore, 55% of conversions from mobile search take place within the hour, while 81% of conversions occur within five hours.

So to make sure you’re capturing those valuable mobile searchers, get your business on Google+ Local.

                      

The benefits of Google+ Local

Aside from the additional exposure of appearing in the local listings, there are other benefits from having a full and detailed Google+ business page.

If we take a closer look at the local search results, you can see that several of the businesses have star ratings taken from customer reviews.

Numerous studies have shown the positive impact of consumer reivews on conversions, with one report finding that 77% of UK shoppers consult reviews before buying online, so this is an excellent benefit of local listings.

The local listings also include the address and a contact number, which makes it easier for people to get in touch.

This is even more important on mobile as local listings have a click-to-call button and also a ‘directions’ icon that links directly to Google Maps.

Click-to-call is important as research published by Google found that 42% of smartphone owners have used click-to-call in search and a massive 94% have needed to call a business directly when searching for information, whether click-to-call is available or not.

On desktop users can also access additional information by hovering over the local listings. These cards include the opening hours, further reviews, and photos of the business. 

The type of information displayed here varies slightly for different businesses, so for example restaurants can give an indication of price and also link to a booking feature.

It’s worth populating your Google+ Local page with as much information as possible as it gives you the best chance of converting searchers into customers.

Imagery can be a particularly important and persuasive feature, especially for restaurants or hotels, so it’s a good idea to upload a selection of photos. 

Local Carousel

Google’s carousel shows listings as an image-heavy, rotating, interactive tool at the top of the screen.

I’ve seen it appear for searches related to entertainment, such as ‘Rolling Stones albums’, but as yet I haven’t seen business listings presented in this way.

This means it may only be available for US consumers at the moment, but will no doubt be rolled out in other markets in due course.

According to Mike Blumenthal, the results that appear in the carousel are determined by such factors as the number of +1s and reviews they have received, and perhaps even by the quality of the photography.

Blumenthal has also come up with a list of words that trigger the carousel, so businesses should consider optimising their listing for these keywords.

Setting up a Google+ Local listing

Now that you’re fully convinced of the benefits of Google+ Local, the time is right to set up your own page.

The first step is to create a personal Google+ account, then on your profile page select ‘Pages’ from the dropdown in the top left of the screen.

Then simply click the ‘Create a Page’ button displayed in the top right of the next screen, and you’re on your way.

When filling out your listing, be sure to pay close attention to the following:

  • Be thorough. Give people as much information about your business as possible. A half-arsed listing is no good to anyone.
  • Remember your keywords. Ensure that your 200-word description is relevant to your customers, but also make sure you include important keywords.
  • Use imagery. I’ve already mentioned the importance of images, but it’s worth reiterating as a few high quality photos can go a long way in convincing people to visit your business.
  • Create a different listing for each location. If you have a chain of sport massage clinics, or more likely a handful of restaurants or stores, set up a separate Google+ Local page for each one so people in different localities can find them.