Google-Business-Listings-300x184Remember that teacher you couldn’t stand, but you sucked up to anyway because you know that doing so had a huge influence over how high your grade was?

Admit it, we all had one at some point and if you didn’t, you do now. Your “teacher” is Google, the “sucking up” is being active on all of its platforms, and your “grade” is your website ranking.

Google has been all over the place with their local listings, Google Plus, and business reviews, but we can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s still a mess, but we can take the box of Google puzzle pieces and figure out how to put them all together.

Consider the cold, hard facts:

  • Google is claiming to have over 1 million businesses and brand pages and over 500 million Google+ users.
  • Google will use the existence and popularity of Google+ pages as yet another ranking factor in the Google search rankings formula.
  • The more content and activity linked to your Google+ page, the better.

If you’re looking for a simple explanation of what to do and how to do it, keep reading for a break-down of what all of these Google terms mean, what you need to know, and what you need to do to increase your visibility online.

Google+

Think: Facebook profile. Basically, Google+ is a social networking account. You can have connections to other people and organize them into “Circles”, which are nifty groups of related contacts. You can share an update publicly or with the people in your circles in the form of text, photos, links, videos, or events.

You need a Google+ account to create a Google+ Local Business Page.

Need it? YES. It’s a prerequisite to other Google puzzle pieces.

Google+ Local Business Page

Think: Facebook business page. As previously mentioned, you need to first set up a personal Google+ account. Make sure this page is updated as frequently as possible and that you provide a steady stream of new content. Set your profile to “public” to allow for optimal sharing and increased visibility.

Need it? YES. Maximum activity highly recommended.

Google Reviews

Think: Yelp reviews. Anyone can write reviews about your business and trust me, when it comes to these reviews, Google means business. What I mean by that is, they’re pretty strict on what you’re allowed to edit or remove.

Need it? Even if you don’t, too bad. You’re getting it whether you like it or not. Your best plan is to respond to both negative and positive reviews alike in a friendly and professional manner, remember that less is more, and get your loyal customers to review your business (assuming they’re loyal because they really like you).

Google Places for Business

Think: Mapquest listing. There are two things you need to know about Google Places for Business: the first is when people search on Google Maps specifically, only the Places for Business listing will appear. The second thing to know is you need to claim your business listing.

There are subtle, confusing differences between Google Places for Business and Google+ Local Business Pages. The Google+ Local Business Page is principally a social media tool. Google Places for Business, on the other hand, is primarily about search and connects with maps by default.

Google has thus introduced two similar and confusing products which can both be managed through your Google+ account. What’s also wacky: both Google Places for Business and Google+ Local Business pages will appear in a general Google web search.

Chances are that Google is already serving up your business listing when someone searches for it. Having a Google Places listing that is claimed and managed by you allows you to control exactly what information Google provides.

Once you claim the listing, you can have Google verify your business location by having a postcard sent to your address. This postcard has a pin number which you enter into your account to complete the verification process.

You can easily manage the listing from your Google+ Dashboard. Have multiple business locations? No problem, as long as you make sure you set up the second location under the same Google+ account.

Need it? YES! This is essentially a “set and forget,” unless you have to change contact information.

Parting Advice on Something to Never, Ever Do

Whatever you do, don’t create multiple Google+ accounts. Merging duplicate accounts is a long and nightmarish process. You’ll see the word PENDING in your sleep for months.