It is no secret that Google has been working hard to combine its services to make a more seamless experience for users whether they are searching for information on Google Search, sharing that information on Google+ or promoting their business with Google Adwords or Google Places. With the release of Google+ Local they have incorporated Google Places with Google+. Why is that important for local franchise owners? When you consider that 94% of smartphone users have looked for local information on their phones and if they used Google Mobile Search (most do) Google+ Local, formerly Google Places will be part of the search results. If someone uses Google Maps to search for business or a restaurant, the Google+ Local listing will be part of the results. HubSpot has a great blog on What Local Businesses Should Know about these changes. I think the changes are positive for local businesses but at times it seems that it is a full time job just keeping up with Google.
What is Google+ Local
If you have a Google+ account you will now notice the new “Local” tab in the lower left side. When you open it you will see recommendations for restaurants, stores and other local businesses very similar to Foresquare, which has been getting an overhaul of its own. If you have Google+, Google Maps or Google Local installed on your mobile phone or tablet you will see businesses based on your location. The important thing now is that everything is connected. According to Google, “With one listing, your business can now be found across Google search, maps, mobile and Google+, and your customers can easily recommend your business to their friends, or tell the world about it with a review.” In that one listing you will see information about the business, directions on Google maps, images, comments, reviews and Zagat ratings. Remember Google bought Zagat last year? OK, now do you see how things are starting to fall into place?
Your One Google Listing
Google’s goal is to have everything under one umbrella. What should a local franchise business do to be sure they stay on Google’s radar? Let’s face it, if you are not listed in the services that Google owns it will be harder for people using Google to find you. If you are a local franchise business, or really any business, there are two things you should do right now.
· Get a Google+ Business Page: This is very similar to a regular Google+ account and it will only take you a few minutes to set up. It needs to be associated with a Gmail account but Google has made it a lot easier to invite managers so small business owners can have their marketing manager help administer your Google+ business account. Probably the best guide for setting up and using your page is HubSpot’s free “How to Use Google+ for Business” eBook.
· Claim your Google Places: The big change for Google Places is that it will now be connected to your Google+ Business page (it is important to use the same Google account for both) and when people search Google+ Local what they will find is your Google Places listing. For now businesses will create and manage their Google Places accounts as they have always done. Our free eBook: Claiming Your Google Places is a great guide for setting up your Google Places account.
The important thing for local franchise businesses to realize, especially if the brand has a national reputation, is you can no longer ignore mobile online search. For example, if you run a Pizza Parlor franchise and someone from out of town is in your neighborhood looking for a pizza, over 50% will pull out their smartphone and search for pizza. In the past your brand name may have been enough to pull them in, now the search results will show your competitors complete with customer ratings, driving directions, a link to their menu and quite possibly a panoramic view of their dining room. If you brand name can compete then you have nothing to worry about. If not is important to get your Google+ Local on the same footing as your competitors.