Claiming Your Business on Google+: What’s All the Fuss About?

Do you remember the last time you relied on a printed map? Unless you were stuck in the middle of nowhere, I’m willing to bet it was probably years ago.

My smart phone is my primary means of navigation, particularly when I’m headed somewhere I’ve never been before. I’m a highly visual person, so having an idea of what a place looks like in addition to an accurate address is pretty much a requirement.

So when a friend suggested we meet at a popular local café in downtown Lansing a few months ago, I fired up Google to find the listing. And here’s what I got:

Photo of a Google search for Avenue Cafe in Lansing

Okay, so I’ve got the address, but that’s about all I have to go on. Contrast this listing with another one in Lansing:

Photo of a Google search for Artie's Filling Station

I’m presented with a picture of the façade, which will help ensure I don’t merge into oncoming traffic when realizing I’ve already passed the business.

Now that you’ve seen these examples, you probably have an idea of what I’m getting at: as a business, claiming your Google+ Local page (or pages, if you’re a franchisor like many of our clients) is a no-brainer.

As a business owner, you want your listing to be as accurate as possible. Only by claiming and verifying your Google Places listing and upgrading to a Google+ Local business page will you have control of how your business’ information appears on Google and the ability to respond to user reviews.

I’ll be the first to admit it can all seem a little confusing when you get started. These were the questions running through my head: Do I create a Google Places for Business listing, or a Google+ Local page? While the answer turned out to be BOTH, I’ve found the following process to be the most efficient, particularly when you’re dealing with multiple locations:

  1.  Create your Places listing. Don’t sweat it if your listing is already out there. Google will check for you once you’ve entered all of your pertinent business information. (Yes, there is the option for bulk uploads of locations if you’ve got more than ten.)
    Screenshot of a Google Places Add a Listing prompt
  2. Select the appropriate search result if there are multiple listings for your business.Screenshot of multiple Google Places listings
  3. Get verified. This is the most important step in ensuring you can actually edit or add information to your business listing. Google must verify that you are real, either by calling your main phone line or sending you a postcard with a PIN number. Of course, if someone has already verified your business listing and you’re not sure who, you’ll have to do the legwork in asking Google for help.Screenshot of Google Places verification promptOnce you’ve received the PIN via phone or snail mail, head back to your Places for Business Dashboard. Click on the location you need to verify, and hit the white “Enter PIN” button on the top. If you’ve accidentally sent yourself more than one PIN, it might not work, so be sure to track when you made the initial request for a PIN. Postcards take 1-2 weeks to arrive at your business location.Screenshot of Google Places PIN prompt
  4. Once verified, upgrade to a Google+ Local page! The merging process between your Google Places listing and Google+ Local page has become much easier. With just one click of a blue button, you can create a Google+ Local page, or Google will simply merge the one you already created with your verified Places listing. Just click on the blue button below.Screenshot of Google Plus Local Page Upgrade Prompt

Making sure your business information is accurate and verified on Google is more important than ever with the introduction of the Google Carousela horizontal display of images users can scroll through at the top of a Google results page, usually triggered by commonly used keywords.Screenshot of Google Plus image carousel

Luckily, all of these results have images. But imagine if one of the results didn’t. Now, given the choice, who would you go with: the business with a photo of their delicious pepperoni pizza, or a map?

With the majority of your prospects relying on search to give them an idea of where to go for pet care or pizza, you’ve got to stand out from the crowd. Making your relationship official with Google gives your customers assurance that your products and services are a real thing—and also that you’re listening to what they’re saying about you.

What do you make of Google’s business options? Got any best practices or tips? We’d love to hear them.

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