1. General Background
1.1. Google Local- What is it?
Google plus local is a free service created to drive businesses to open a page on the Goggle plus network while supplying verified details about their location, thus promoting the business on the Google+ social network and in search engines, but most of all- in location driven searches. This service is replacing Google’s current local business service (Google places- currently still active) by combining it with Google+.
As far as Google is concerned, this service is sufficient for providing Google with location information, thus alleviating the need for code markup of location information (ie- there’s no need for Geo tags or rich snippets). Obviously, as this is a Google product, it has no influence on other search engines. Thus, in markets where there are more key players in the search market, it may be recommended to combine the use of Google + Local with code markup of location information.
Google is promoting this service quite aggressively, including by actively opening Local pages for businesses by utilizing the information it collected on them, and without business owners asking for a local page or giving their consent to having one opened for them. In such cases, the business will have no control over the Local page or its content, including the contact information.
It is strongly recommended for every business that supplies its services in a physical location or a service area to open a Local page (or verify ownership on a page opened by Google- see 2.2), in order to make use of all the advantages granted by this service, and to control the contact information on these pages.
1.2. Google Local- who can use it?
As in Google places, the use of Google Locale is only open to businesses with a physical location (ie- hotels, banks, restaurants etc). It is possible to open a Google locale page for a business that does not supply service in any given address, using service area details instead, but a physical address and/or phone number will still be required for the verification process.
1.3. Google Local- why use it?
Using Google plus Local pages grants businesses with many advantages- below is a summary of the main ones, in division to 2 important channels:
Impact on search results
- a) A significant enhancement of the display in search results
Businesses with Google plus Local pages often receive an enhanced visual display (see screenshots below). Google may display the top result for the specific location that was examined in a much larger visual block, to the side of the other search results, in a format that may include maps, pictures, users' opinions/reviews, contact details etc. Such an improvement in the visual display usually bring about an improvement in usability parameters of the site and in traffic volume. This may sometimes come on the expense of the number of actions performed on the site itself, as users can now get some of the information they searched (especially contact details) without going to the site.
- b) Increasing SE traffic from relevant search areas: businesses that correctly registered their location and verified the ownership, are likely to see an increase in search traffic for their specific location.
- c) Attracting more focused users= more conversions on the site as the users are seeing results that are more relevant for their location, as well as more info about the business directly in the search results, users who are not the target audience of the site may see that before even going to the sites. Alternatively, users who continue to the site already know what is awaiting on the website, and are more focused to the site and the content.
Advantages derived from the business’s page on Google +
- a) A free Google minisite on Google plus: Google is constantly developing the Local pages to a whole minisite. This increases the exposure of users to the business, but may come on the expense of the business's own website. The Local pages display addresses, contact details, activity hours, and more. Google is constantly adding more options, and in some countries it’s also possible to add products, prices, coupons and more.
- b) Users reviews: The Local page allows (an option that is still not available in every country) displaying reviews, and even allows the verified business owner to reply.
- c) Usage statistics: as in every Google product, it is possible to view usage information and statistics about the visits to the site.
Screenshot: an example of a Google search results page with a Google local
2. Working with Google Local
The purpose of the following paragraphs is to supply a concise introduction to performing the first steps in Google local, accompanied by links to more detailed pages on the subject.
In general, the service is very intuitive and self-explanatory, leading the users step by step in every action they perform on the service.
2.1. Joining the service- creating a new Local page
In order to open a new Local page, you must first log on to the business’s Google+ account. If the business/owner does not yet have an account on Google plus- then it’s time to create one! You can open a new Google+ account on http://plus.google.com
After logging in to the Google+ account, follow these steps to open and create a new Local page for your business:
- a) On the management bar (left side), click on “Pages” (marked by).
- b) Click “Create a page” button in the upper right.
- c) Select “Local Business or Place” category.
- d) Type in your business’s phone number and click Locate. Make sure that the phone number you use is a business line and not a personal or cell phone number.
- e) If you see your business listed, click on your business’s name. You’ll be able to edit the address later if anything is incorrect. If the name of your business doesn’t appear, click “Add your business to Google” or “Look up a different number” to try again.
- f) Enter or edit basic information about your business, including business name, phone number, and address. If Google already has information about your business, you’ll be asked to confirm it. You can also edit any information that’s incorrect.
- g) Choose at least one category from the list that depicts what your business is (e.g. Hotel), not what it does or products it.
- h) Select an age requirement that’s appropriate for your business. To learn more about Age Requirements, please see: https://support.google.com/plus/answer/answer.py?answer=1710992
- i) Click Create, and you’re done! Now you can visit your page and add even more details about your business, like hours, your website, and more contact information (see below for more details).
2.2. Obtaining ownership over an existing Local page and performing Ownership verification
If a Local page has been opened for a business not by the owners of the business, they might find themselves without the ability to control and edit the information on the page. To overcome this and obtain ownership over the page, they will need to perform ownership verification.
Ownership verification is required also if you personally created the page, otherwise you may not be able to edit data that Google has about your business.
In order to obtain ownership over a page, you must first log on to your Google+ account. If the business/owner does not yet have a personal account on Google plus- then it’s time to create one! You can open a new Google+ account on http://plus.google.com
After logging in to the Google+ account, follow these steps to obtain and verify ownership:
- a) If you did not open the page- go to the Local page and click on the button “manage this page” (see screenshot below). If you created the page, go to your account’s Dashboard (http://plus.google.com/pages/dashboard) and click “Manage this page” on the page you’d like to verify.
- b) Click “Verify your business” beneath your address.
- c) At this point, Google will take you step by step through the verification process. In this process, the system will send the user a PIN number through one of the physical contact channels that are available for the business. This can be an SMS, a phone call, a postcard to the business address etc.- the available options vary from business to business, from city to city, according to prior data Google had on the business place etc. Therefore, it is not feasible to discuss this subject here- all in all, the system will take the user through the process in a step by step, very clear process. More information on the subject exists in this link and the pages linked within it https://support.google.com/plus/answer/2609871?hl=en&ref_topic=2661706.
If the system offers several options to send a Pin, it is recommended to choose an SMS. The Postcard method is the default, but it has the highest rate of errors, and may take a substantial amount of time- it is recommended to avoid it if possible.
- d) If Problems arise during the verification process (did not receive the postcard etc.), it is possible to ask for the PIN to be sent again. The following links (and the links within the pages) contain solutions for various issues in the verification process
- e) After you have successfully completed the verification process, you can edit your Local page and submit your edits to Google.
Screenshot: where to click (marked by a green circle) in order to begin handling a Local page you did not create:
begin handling a Local page
2.3. Editing and correcting details on Your Local page
Please note: for your edits to be fully accepted by Google and displayed in Google’s various products, you must first complete the verification process (see previous chapter)
- a) How to access and perform editing: To edit any information, choose “Dashboard” from the left-hand drop-down menu. Under “Complete your business listing”, you’ll be prompted to add missing information. You can also click “Edit page”or “Edit business information” in the upper right-hand corner of the screen to edit your page’s information.
Once you’re inside the listing editor, click the section that you want to change, then enter the new information in the box that appears. When you’ve made all your changes, click Done editing.
- b) The different sections you can edit:
Business Name: You should represent your business exactly as it appears in the offline world. Note that changing your business name in between the postcard request and pin entry stages of verification will cause the verification process to reset.
Address: Enter the complete and exact address for your business location. To read about Google’s address entry guidelines, visit this link http://support.google.com/plus/bin/answer.py?answer=2853879
Note that changing your address in between the postcard request and pin entry stages of verification will cause the verification process to reset.
Contact info: You can update the phone number, website URL, and email address for your business here.
Category: Add categories which describe what your business is, and not what it does.
Hours: To add the hours that your business is open:
- Select a day of the week from the first drop-down menu.
- Chose what time your business opens on that day from the options in the second box.
- In the third box, select when your business closes for that day.
- To add another day of the week, click “Add Hours” and repeat the process.
- Once you’re done, click Save.
If your business is closed for part of the day and then reopens, you can create two entries for the same day with the different times, and they will be grouped together on your page. You can delete any hours you’ve added by clicking the X next to the line entry.
Description: Add a brief description of your business here. This is where you can introduce yourself to your customers and teach them about your business.
Removing information: If you want to delete any specific information that you’ve added to your page, click the section that you want to change, and instead of updating the information, click the X to remove it.
Please be aware that even though you’ve deleted it, some of the information you’ve added about your business may take up to 60 days to be deleted from Google’s active servers and may remain in our backup systems for an additional period of time. Information that you may have added but is also publically available or from other sources won’t be removed.