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Importance of Online Presence

If your business doesn’t have an online presence and you are still relying on Yellow Pages and classified ads to send you customers, then literally the only people who are going to find you are people who have already done business with you in the past.

It is vital that you have either a business website or a strong ptresence on the social media networks. The issues of not having an online presence can be devastating for your business. For example:

  • You will be unable to ‘upsell’ your business and its exact products and services to prospective customers and clients. A directory listing (such as Yellow Pages) is literally just that, a listing. Even if you took out a quarter page ad, it cannot contain the full details and features that set your business apart from your competitors.
  • Your listing may only mention one benefit or service and yet the majority of your business could be for something that you don’t feature in your ad listing. If potential customers don’t know you provide extra services they will go to your competitors who DO have a website or social media pages with their brand. Your completion will get the business instead.
  • You will get little to no exposure on the search engines.

Having an online presence is also a lot more cheaper than paying for expensive advertising in the offline world which only offers limited exposure for your business.

As you are probably all well aware, small businesses are always searching for inexpensive ways to promote their businesses and attract new customers and that is when having a website comes into it’s own.

Google Makes It Easy For You

One advertising avenue that is open to all businesses is to have a Google+ Local page.

When local consumers search for local products and services online, businesses can show up high in the search results with a well-optimized Google+ Local page.

According to Google, one in five searches includes a “location,” which prompted them to create Google+ Local, now known as “Google My Business”.

Just as the Yellow Pages once listed services according to their locations, Google Places compiles lists of local businesses that offer the services and products that consumers search for online.

Therefore, having a claimed, verified, high-ranking Google+ Local listing is now crucial to every small business’ local success.

Google My Business – In a Nutshell

  • “Google My Business” connects you directly with customers, whether they’re looking for you on Search, Maps or Google+.
  • Google My Business puts your business info on Search, Maps and Google+ so that customers can find you, no matter what device they’re using.
  • Give customers the right info at the right time, whether that be driving directions to your business in Maps, hours of operations in Search or a phone number they can click to call you on mobile phones.
  • Google My Business helps you build a loyal fan base. Your customers can show their appreciation with ratings and reviews, use the +1 button to endorse your content, and re-share your Google+ posts across the web.

Get Your Business On Google Free of Charge

Google usually generates the Google+ Local pages for businesses automatically, so it isn’t always necessary for a business to create one from scratch. Instead, they only have to claim the page that has been already created for their business by going to the Google My Business homepage and following the ‘find your business’ links.

The service is completely free and if your business doesn’t already have a Google+ Local page, setting one up is as simple as creating a new Google account.

Filling Out Your Listing

If you already have an existing Google account, log in to your account, go to the Google+ local website (http://www.google.com/business/), and create a listing for your business using the ‘add new business’ tab on the home page.

To get real value out of the Google Places listing for your business, it is important to take it a couple of steps beyond just creating the page. Your goal is to ensure that you get the highest ranked listing possible in your business niche.

In order to make your business show up at the top of all the ranked businesses listed in your area, it is necessary to make sure that your listing is fully optimized.

For starters, be sure to fill the listing out completely. Enter your real location address, phone number, email address, and website address. Be sure to choose the proper categories that fit your business profile and do not leave any sections blank and make sure you have a 100% score.

Add your service areas, hours of operations, payment options, and as many videos and photos as you can (preferably add the max of 10 photos and 5 videos). Also use the free coupon section. All of this adds to your listing’s importance in Google’s eyes. So fill out everything so you can to get the best results.

Claiming and Verifying Your Listing

The final, and probably the most vital, step in the process of claiming your page is to verify that you are actually the owner of the Places page.

All new users and businesses that have claimed a Places page will be prompted to do this at the end of the registration process.

Google offers three verification options; by phone, by SMS message or by snail mail. After this is finished and Google has verified ownership, Google will then connect your websites and your business details with the Places page listing for your business.

To get the most out of your listing, it is important to make sure that the verification is completed and that the connection has been done correctly by going onto Google and doing a search for your business.

The Importance of Citations and Customer Reviews

Once you have claimed your Google+ Local page, the next step is to make sure that it is ranked high enough to be shown in the search results.

Two factors that play a part in this process are:

Citations and Customer Reviews

Although similar, these two elements have different sources. While you can’t do much to affect the reviews that you get, there is quite a bit that can be done to increase the online citations, giving your Places page a better SEO ranking.

Citations

Citations are the references to your business and its products or services that are found on the various local directories like ShopCity.com, SuperPages.com and Yellowpages.com.

Currently, Google lists the basic ones, so one way to really boost your citations is to look at your competition’s citation listings. Then, add your business to those sites so you can have a citation there as well. This will put you closer to your competitors in terms of ranking.

Because the crawlers visit these sites more regularly than static pages, it is best to have a strong list of citations on sites known to have a high trust rank with Google like Wikipedia or the Yahoo directory. The more citations that appear for your site, the higher the Google ranking for your business is going to be.

The real grunt-work of optimizing your Google Places listing involves creating a comprehensive list of citations across the Internet that point back to your business.

By submitting your business details to as many of the trusted sources as possible, you only increase your chance of boosting your rankings and beating your competitors.

Obviously, this process takes a lot of time, effort, and skills to get the best results. Therefore, most businesses get the help of an experienced Internet Marketer who is comfortable performing this task. While there will be an investment, this route will save you a lot of time as well as increase your exposure more quickly.

Customer Reviews

In addition to citations, Google also considers the number of customer reviews you have when ranking your listing. In fact, the more reviews you have, the better.

Having awesome customer reviews is great because that is what consumers want to see when they are trying to decide whether or not to do business with a company.

However, when ranking your listing page, Google doesn’t rate the “quality” of the reviews and simply focuses on the “quantity” of reviews.

This means that even having 200 ordinary reviews is going to improve your SEO with Google more than four or five really good reviews. There is even evidence to suggest that having a lot of reviews can outweigh the quality and quantity of the citations.

Either way, encourage your customers to review your business, as it can be a good, cost effective way of building your online exposure with little risk or financial investments to make it work for you.

Having reviews posted on an on-going basis is very important too. Don’t ever stop asking your customers to leave online reviews for your company because even if you have hundreds of reviews, it isn’t going to help your ranking if they’re all over a year old.

This is because the spider bots are always searching for fresh content when updating the Google indexes.

In other words, Google loves “fresh” content and this is why it pushes your page up the ranks if you have a lot of citations and customer reviews.

Google Places and Mobile Internet Usage

Another value that a Google+ Local page will add to your business is the reach it has for the mobile Internet market. A very high percentage of shoppers look for businesses online using their mobile devices.

Statistics are showing that searches done from mobile devices are growing at a phenomenal rate, so this is the perfect opportunity for any business to convert online traffic into foot traffic.

One obvious advantage is that mobile Internet users have been shown to take more immediate action on their searches in the real world than PC shoppers do.

Current statistics show that Google dominates the mobile search engine market with as much as 96.8%5 of all mobile searches using Google.

This means that the most effective way at the moment to advertise online to mobile Internet users is through an optimized Google Places page.

Recent predictions show that by 2015, mobile Internet usage will surpass wire line usage. Therefore, having a strong web presence that is mobile-friendly will be vital to all companies in the coming years.

One enduring challenge for most small businesses is finding a way to be competitive in their marketplace. Implementing cost effective strategies to get your company’s message in front of consumers is one of the keys to successfully promoting any business.

Google+ Local is an avenue that every small business should take advantage of if they really want to compete with the corporate giants in their industry.

Setting up a Google+ Local listing page is not that difficult. However, it can be daunting and ineffective if not done properly.

If you would like some help claiming and verifying your Google Places listing, contact us for a free consultation. We look forward to speaking to you.

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