Google+ Local (formerly known as Google Places) is one of the most important components to an online marketing strategy for small businesses to focus on selling products and services in a specific community (geography).
Google+ Local results show up as those red balloons that show up on a map of search results. As an example, when I search for “bankruptcy lawyers in O’Fallon MO”, I get the results shown in the picture below:
Geography is definitely a big factor in the results that I get, but so is the quality of the Google+ Local (Google Places) profile. The more complete and optimized that profile is also has a big impact on placement in the results page.
As a business owner, put yourself in the shoes of someone who is searching for a local business by the types of products or services they provide for a specific geographic location. When you see results that are not complete (no website listed, or hours of operation), what do you think about that business?
Another huge component to the Google+ Local page for a business is reviews. If you are looking for a business online and you see very positive reviews for one business, no reviews for another, and mixed reviews for yet another, which would you choose?
As a business owner, reviews on a Google+ Local page is important for several reasons. First is reputation. Pay attention to what people are saying (or not saying) about your business.
Second, having 5 positive reviews on your business page is very important. It will help your Google+ Local search results. It will set you apart from your competitors who might not have any results. And it can carry social proof – meaning that when you see a lot of positive results, it sways opinion. When you see someone you know who has written a positive review of the business you are reviewing, it carries even more weight it regard to buying behavior.
Third, Google+ Local has started to combine independent reviews also side user reviews. In case you didn’t know, Google acquired Zagat. You can see this when you search for “Mexican Restaurant St. Charles MO”. Google also pulls in reviews from other websites.
So how do you get customers to write reviews of your business on Google? I recommend finding your Google+ Local page, copying the URL, and sending an email to loyal customers, and asking them to write a review of your business on your Google+ Local page. If you give them the exact URL that they can go to to write the review, they will be more likely to do this. Then all they have to do is click the blue write a review button (shown below)
Think about posting this URL in your place of business, in your email signature, on your customer thank you letters, on your receipts, etc. Then make sure you monitor what reviews people post.
Remember that getting a mediocre or bad review is not necessarily a bad thing. First of all, online users are pretty skeptical of anything that they think is from the business. They want to see genuine reviews from real people. If all they see are 5 out of 5 reviews they make be skeptical. If they see a less than perfect review amount several other positive reviews, they might find that more believable. And it gives you the ability to show great customer service by addressing someone with a concern in your review.
If you actively manage your reputation, and handle customer issues effectively, you come across as more believable. People realize that nobody is perfect al the time…
So make sure you claim your Google+ Local page, and make sure you ask your customers to share their experiences by writing reviews on your Google+ Local Page for your business.