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Claiming the top spot on social media

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Claiming the top spot on social media

Quiz time: What’s the difference between “Google Local Business,” “Google Places” and “Google+ Local”?

Give up? Well, technically the answer is nothing; each was replaced in succession by the other. However, in reality, the answer is “everything.” Each was a dramatic improvement over the other, according to Google.

In April of 2010, Google Local Business Center was replaced by Google Places. In June of 2011, Google+ and Google+ Pages for business were introduced. They are direct competitors of Facebook for people and businesses — more on the significance of this later.

In May of 2012, less than one year later — which is a long time in cyberspace — Google+ Local replaced Google Places in its entirety. In fact, Google converted over 80 million Google Places pages to Google+ Local pages automatically.

According to an recent article in searchengineland.com (May 2012), here’s a brief overview of what’s new and what’s changing:

• The substitution of the new Google+ Local pages for Google Places pages.

• The appearance of a “Local” tab within Google+.

• The integration and free availability of Zagat reviews (including its entire archive, across categories).

• The integration of Google+ Local pages across Google properties (including search, Google Maps, and mobile).

• Integration of a circles filter (found in Google+) to find reviews/recommendations from friends, family and colleagues.

Zagat is a trusted, well-known leader in rating systems

Static Places now give way to more dynamic Google+ Local pages. Google’s star ratings also are being replaced by the Zagat 30-point rating scale (for customer reviews as well).

The old rating in Google was a five-star rating. This took all ratings, merged all categories, and averaged them to produce one rating per business.

Zagat maintains ratings for separate categories like food and atmosphere and scales them on a 30-point rating. This gives a much truer rating on each business and maintains ratings for each category.

In addition, Google is using a well-respected, known leader in consumer ratings.

Consumers will be able to discover and access the new Google+ Local pages in several ways: through a search on Google.com or Google Maps, in mobile apps, or through a search on Google+. By using Google+, consumers can search within a “circle” of friends or colleagues and filter the results to only places trusted reviews have been provided.

[PAGEBREAK]

Google+ takes on Facebook

Earlier, we learned that Google+ is now a competitor to Facebook. A recent post on investorplace.com compared Google+ to Facebook. Here are some of the facts the post presented about users of both sites.

“The numbers change rapidly, but they currently look roughly like this: 170 million for Google+ to 845 million for Facebook. Google+ is technically still in beta release, and for a time, membership was by invite only. Despite that, it grew rapidly. While Facebook took two years (plus two years at a limited-access level) to reach the 100 million-user mark, Google+ did it in seven months. Google+ is adding 750,000 new users daily. In 2009, Facebook was hitting similar numbers, but its user base growth rate has since slowed and is expected to be 6.6% for 2012 (compared to near 40% in 2010).

“Even if Google+ keeps up its growth rate (analysts have it possibly hitting 350 million to 400 million users by the end of 2012), Facebook is likely to remain on top for at least the next few years in terms of user numbers. What remains to be seen is whether Google+ can maintain its current growth rate given the demographics of its current user base.”

Perhaps you can begin to see the significance of all this. Google is making a play to lure users to become members of Google+ by offering powerful search engine tools through Google+. Additionally, they are making Google+ Local pages dynamic and interactive. Businesses can now communicate directly with their customers via Google+ Local pages and likewise customers can do the same. This opens the door for Google to compete with the likes of Yelp, Foursquare and other social media review sites. They are positioning to become the dominant player for all social media activities.

Google+ Local pages will be indexed

The conversion of Places pages to Google+ Local pages is taking place regardless of whether Places pages were claimed by business owners or not.

However, nothing on the back-end will change immediately for merchants. Google says this in its Google and Your Business post: “If you are a business owner, you should continue to manage your information in Google Places for Business. You’ll still be able to verify your basic listing data, make updates, and respond to reviews. For those who use AdWords Express, your ads will operate as normal as they’ll automatically redirect people to the destination you selected, or your current listing.”

Despite this temporary calm, business owners are effectively being dropped into the social fray with more customer-interaction potential but also greater demands to learn how to use Google+ to their full advantage; those who do will be rewarded. There’s a lot of SEO potential here. Most notably, unlike Google Places pages, these new Google+ Local pages will be indexed.

With regard to the management of multiple locations from a single page, Google said that there’s no news for the time being, but that’s the ultimate goal:

“A single page through which businesses can manage their online presence is a top priority, and we’re committed to ensuring business owners have a clear voice in how their business is represented on Google, via Google+.”

So what’s the big deal?

Let’s start by noting that Google is the most popular website in the world. In addition, it’s the number one search engine used by far.

In previous MTD articles, I pointed out the importance of having your business being ranked as high up as possible in search engine results. Sixty-two percent of all traffic comes from the top three spots of the search results. As a local business, consider the importance of being as high up as possible on Google+ Local. This can mean everything to you with respect to consumers finding your business via the Internet.

Stay tuned to see how far Google climbs the social media domination ladder. Remember, a year in cyberspace is like a lifetime to many.

In the meantime, I urge you to make sure someone is watching out for your business on Google+ Local; ignoring it will be a big mistake.

You need to make sure you are doing everything you can to increase the number of high quality reviews from customers, addressing customer complaints, keeping your website fresh with new content, and sweeping the floor each and every day.

Claim the top spot on Google+ Local, it could be worth millions.    ■

As CEO and president of WECnology LLC (www.wecnology.com), Wayne Croswell is a “complimentary technology advisor” for independent tire dealers. Croswell can be reached at wcroswell@wecnology.com or (603) 249-5530.

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