Article

Eleanna Sbokou
Eleanna Sbokou 24 June 2015

Local SEO: Stop Neglecting Your Google+ Local Profile. Now.

According to recent research conducted in the US, businesses need to start taking local search seriously soon.

Local SEO: Stop Neglecting Your Google+ Local Profile. Now.

Author: Gavin Sutherland, Head Of Technical Search at Blonde.

Recent research conducted in the US by Google in conjunction with Ipsos MediaCT & Purchased in the US provides compelling evidence for businesses to start taking local search seriously if they are not doing so already.

 

The study looked at the local search behaviour of a sample of consumers aged 18+ who used their smartphones to conduct searches at least several times a week. Some key findings highlighted by the study include:

  • 4 in 5 consumers used search engines to find local information on smartphones (88%), and computer and tablet (84%)
  • Consumers search for a variety of local information on mobile and desktop including business hours, directions to and addresses of local stores, business hours and product availability
  • When on the go, the majority of smartphone searches have local intent (56%)

The importance of this cannot be underestimated. Why? Because, unless you’ve been living as a hermit, cast out of civilisation and living in a cave, device free with no internet access for the last few years, you will have noticed business information from Google+ Local pages featuring in Google’s search results for many of the queries you perform.

Information from Google+ Local profile pages feeds into Google Maps, Google+ itself, and as map packs in varying formats in organic results, as illustrated below in these mobile screenshots:

http://www.blonde.net/sites/default/files/googleplus-local-profile-maps_0.jpg

Photos, reviews and company details pulled from Google+ Local pages also feed into local knowledge panels in desktop and mobile search results:

http://www.blonde.net/sites/default/files/googleplus-local-info-search-results_0.jpg

 

Consumers can obviously also access Google+ Local pages directly from search results themselves:

http://www.blonde.net/sites/default/files/access-googleplus-local-page-search_0.jpg

Google+ Local provides the perfect opportunity for businesses to not only increase visibility in localised search results but also to connect with customers by providing information that satisfies basic business-related search queries, help them get to bricks-and-mortar locations and influence decision-making processes.

For consumers, reviews, photos and even 360 tours can improve engagement and help drive decisions around whether they actually want to visit the business in the first place.

 

First Impressions Count
The prominence of Google+ Local means that for many businesses, these pages (and indeed information pulled from listings into Google’s search results) might be the first touch point in a transactional journey for potential customers.

First impressions count, so in order for businesses to maximise the potential of Google+ Local, it is vital that they treat it as an extension of their brand and take control of their pages. By doing so, businesses can help shape brand perceptions, control how they are presented in search results and connect and engage with consumers.

On the flip side, by neglecting Google+ Local profiles (or even leaving them unclaimed) businesses can lose control of how their brand is reflected in search results. Leaving any part of your public profile to chance is bad for business.

 

The Not So Good
The screenshot below of a company local knowledge panel for the UK-wide jewellery chain H Samuel provides a great example of how neglecting your Google+ local profile can affect the way your business is presented in search results.

http://www.blonde.net/sites/default/files/bad-example-googleplus-local.jpg

No doubt Samuel’s Chinese Takeaway is a fine establishment (according to the few reviews it has on Google it is) but unless H Samuel has developed a lucrative sideline in selling jewellery alongside Kung Po chicken, I’m pretty sure this image isn’t representative of the jeweller’s Leith store.

Although H Samuel has claimed the Google+ Local page for this store, the only image that has been uploaded on to the page is the company’s logo. The lack of official photos of the store means that Google is using an image it thinks is suitable and is getting it wrong.

By engaging with their Google+ Local listing and uploading official images of their store, H Samuel can attempt to influence the image that is featured here.

KFC on the other hand, don’t appear to have even claimed their Google+ local profiles.  In doing so, they are missing out on the opportunity to promote and enforce their brand identity.

http://www.blonde.net/sites/default/files/no-googleplus-local-profile.jpg
 
More importantly, they are also missing out on the opportunity to respond to reviews and engage with their customers.

http://www.blonde.net/sites/default/files/no-googleplus-local-profile-reviews.jpg

Customer feedback is important as it enables businesses to identify areas where they are succeeding as well as areas where they can improve services, products and the customer experience as a whole. As such, Google+ Local provides a valuable channel by which businesses can monitor brand experience online.

By claiming their Google+ Local listings, KFC can respond to customer feedback - whether good or bad. Not only is this good PR, but it could be the difference between retaining or losing customers in the long run.  

The Good
The Voodoo Rooms, part of an independent group of bars and pubs in Edinburgh provides an excellent example of a business utilising a Google+ Local page to its full potential.

http://www.blonde.net/sites/default/files/great-example-googleplus-local-profile_0.jpg
 
The Voodoo Rooms care about their brand and it shows. They include a branded main page image, have taken time to upload images of the venue, and actively post to their Google+ Local page, promoting upcoming events as well offers and deals for their customers.

They even provide a 360 tour of the venue so potential customers can get a great idea of what the venue is like before visiting.

Engagement with their Google+ Local page also pays off in how the business is presented in local knowledge panels – with particular effectiveness in mobile results. 360 tours can even be accessed directly by potential customers from these panels.

http://www.blonde.net/sites/default/files/voodoo-rooms-mobile-search-results.jpg
 
Another business with a strong Google+ Local page is the Waldorf Astoria Caledonian Hotel in Edinburgh. Aside from posting regularly to their page, they recognize the effectiveness of this channel as a means of monitoring and responding to customer feedback:

http://www.blonde.net/sites/default/files/great-example-googleplus-local-profile-2_0.jpg
 
For potential customers, the high level of customer service provided here gives a great indication as to the kind of service they can expect to receive should they stay at the hotel.

Tips To Improve Your Google+ Local Page
If some of the points in this article have hit home, here are a few tips to create more effective Google+ Local pages:

  •     Create or claim your Google+ Local pages. It’s free!
  •     Customize your Google+ Local main page image and brand your page
  •     For businesses with multiple branches, treat each Google+ Local page as a unique business and give each profile the care and attention     it deserves.  Consider appointing a brand ambassador to manage each local listing
  •     Upload official photos of your business location
  •     Add an introduction for your business – describe your services
  •     Encourage, monitor and respond to reviews
  •     Include accurate address and contact details
  •     Pick relevant business categories to increase the visibility of your business for relevant queries
  •     State your business hours
  •     Post regularly – if necessary tailor your posts to local audiences, and promote events and in-store offers
  •     Consider 360 tours as way of increasing customer engagement
  •     Utilise LocalBusiness schema on your main website for your business and/or branches
  •     Engage in activities to promote the positioning of your Google+ Local pages in search results.  Read more about various factors that can help local search ranking

In short, Google+ Local pages should be viewed by businesses as another opportunity to extend their brand’s online presence and connect with potential customers. Failure to treat Google+ Local as a valuable online channel can have a negative impact on how businesses are presented in search results as well as consumer perceptions.

Original Article


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