This article is published in the January, 2014 issue of The Business News, a semi-monthly newspaper related to business. The Business News serves Brown, Calumet, Door, Fond du Lac, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Marinette, Oconto, Outagamie, Shawano, Sheboygan and Winnebago counties in Wisconsin. Subscribe online at thebusinessnewsonline.com
Google Place Pages. Google+ Pages. Google Places for Business. Google+ Local. Have you seen all these names and been confused? You're not alone. Google hasn't made it easy for local businesses to understand. I'll try to clear up the confusion.
A Google Place or Google+ Page helps your potential customers sift through the noise on the Web and helps your business stand out from the crowd so you can be found when your prospects are looking for you.
Google Place Pages
Several years ago Google gathered information on businesses throughout the United States. They took pictures, created maps, and stored all the information in their databases.
Even if you didn't realize it, you have probably seen Google Place Pages. They are indicated by the red Google Map Pointers when you do a search for a local business. Pointers correspond to a Google Place Page for a business. If you own any type of local business (whether brick and mortar or service-based), a Place Page will help move your website to the top of the Google search results.
Claim your page
If your business existed a few years ago, it is probably included in Google's database and you have a Google Place Page. It is important for you to claim your business page. Until you, the rightful owner, claim the page, it can potentially be modified by anyone. Claiming your page allows you to keep information up-to-date and accurate. You will also be able to add photos, a business description, and business categories to your page. The description and categories will greatly help Google find you when potential customers are searching for your type of business. And the photos will help personalize your business.
What if you don't have a Google Place Page?
If you don't yet have a page, your business won't be listed on the map or in the top, local search section. What's worse, your competition may be listed there. You can create a page for your business at any time.
In comes Google+
You may have been told no one uses Google+ so you shouldn't waste your time with it. I disagree. The power of your Google+ local business page lies in the fact that Google likes itself! Information on your Google+ page will be noticed by Google and displayed in Google search results.
You can create a business account in Google+ similar to your Facebook business page, where you connect with people and other businesses and you promote your products or services. If you set your Google+ account up as a local business, you will be creating your Google+ local page, which is similar to a Google Place Page.
Google has created some confusion
Early in 2013 Google began to merge Google Place Pages with Google+ Local business accounts. If you already had a verified Google Place Page you can continue to edit the page as you have in the past, but you may notice your Place Page has a new look. That look is similar to a Google+ Local Page. If Place Pages are phased out by Google, I believe it will only be as they are merged with Google+ Local accounts. That means if your page already exists, you want to claim it and connect it with your Google+ account.
Not Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
I don't want you to mistake any of this for SEO - search engine optimization. This is not part of your website, nor does it make the content in your website more accessible or optimized for search engines. This is about giving Google the best information about your business for their directory so they are able to match queries with best results. When the search is local or location-based, Google will use this information.
As I mentioned, Google likes anything Google, which simply means your website will get a better Google ranking if it's also posted on or linked to your Google page or account. But your website still needs to be optimized so this can all work together.
If you own a local business, create or claim a Google Place Page and create a Google+ account today. If you post something on your Facebook business page or your LinkedIn profile, post it on your Google+ page as well. You won't find any easier method of getting Google to notice you.
A Google Place Page and Google+ account may seem like just one more thing you need to do for your business, but couple these tools with a well-written and search engine optimized (SEO) website and you have a huge opportunity for promoting your business. Take advantage of the free tools Google offers. Your competition is!