google_plus_local_search_resultsMany business owners don’t know this, but they have a Google Plus Local page on the internet. Not only that, but that Google Plus Local page matters when it comes to driving business their way…online or in person.

So…What is “Google PlUS”?

Several years ago, Google got super local and created pages for businesses without even asking. They took the info from directories and other sources and voila- your business was represented on yet another online platform…only this time it was Google so hopefully you paid attention!

Name, address and phone number were included, and eventually other vitals crept in like business hours, description and customer reviews. Some businesses “claimed” their page, while others continued on in ignorant bliss, totally unaware that Google was making a webpage for them.

It’s essentially a free business listing, akin to Yelp, Top pages and the like. Few years ago Google Plus Local was still Google + and Google Places. Than is 2012 became something else …something that has direct bearing on your business, your site’s traffic, and really: your livelihood!

Google Plus + Google Places = Google+Local

Let’s go back a step: Google+ was Google’s answer to Facebook.. Launched in 2011, it was their attempt at building a social network and it seems to be catching on. Then in 2012, they merged Google+ with Google Places to create Google+ Local.
So now you’re already smarter than half the business owners in the world: you know that Google Places is no longer officially the term to be used for their local business pages. Any SEO marketing person who talks about Google Places should probably be double-checked to see if he’s been updated recently!

Why you Should You Care about Google+ Local ?

Names are names, but the real meat of the subject lies in how Google+ Local (Google local search results) ranks your page. What matters? One company took a close look at ranking factors of Google Maps and found that a few factors determined whether or not your site shows up in local results. Here they are:

  1. Your category term matches your business description
  2. Your category term appears in your Google reviews
  3. Having at least 5 Google reviews
  4. Your business location term (i.e. London) appears in the business description section for your business
  5. Your business category term (i.e. “Restaurants“) appears in your business description section
  6. The search term appears in your business name (IL Bordello)
  7. The search category appears in the business description section

This research was conducted by studying about 550 search terms and looking as far as 70 results deep in the Google Local rankings. They also found a few surprising factoids regarding the results:

  1. Physical address was less important than distance from the epicenter of the location search term. That means businesses just outside a city’s borders will still rank if they’re physically close enough to matter. But the further away the business got, the lower it ranked.
  2. Lacking a business description did not harm results for a page
  3. Having 4 Google reviews did very little but getting that magical fifth review did wonders for ranking
  4. As expected, having a bad Google review harmed your ranking

What can you take away from all this? Your Google+ Local page is important! If you haven’t claimed it yet, do it now. If you haven’t updated it recently, likewise: do it now!