If you don’t have your business on Google+ yet, now might be the perfect time. Google recently introduced another update to their search algorithm that aims to make local searches more relevant and helpful than ever before. So if you want to increase your chances of appearing higher in the SERPs, it’s a good idea to get yourself on their maps and social media platform. Like it or not, Google represents the majority of local search traffic, and their algorithm will give you a nice pat on the back for doing things their way.

Enter Google+ Business. It’s marketed as a way to engage your customers, but it has a definite impact on whether or not your business ranks during a local search query (for now, anyway; the algorithms are constantly changing, but that’s a topic for another blog post). Business Pages are designed to be the Yellow Pages of Google, complete with basic business information, customer reviews, and other content that can appear in SERPs even when your main website wouldn’t.

Don’t know how to set up a page? It’s easy!

Creating a Page

It’s free to join and list your business on Google+, but first, you need a Gmail account. Even if you have a personal e-mail through Gmail, it’s best to create another account solely for your business.

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Next, go to google.com/business and click on “get your page.” There are a few different options here: storefront, service area, or brand; choose the one that’s relevant to you.

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When you’re taken to the map screen, enter your full business address into the text box in the top left-hand corner of the screen.

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A lot of times, Google is aware of your business and will be able to provide your existing street address. If you see your business’s current data, click on it. If, however, your business data does not appear after entering the full address, click, “No, these are not my businesses,” and a new set of text boxes will appear where you can fill in your business information.

Verifying Your Business

This is probably the most important step you can take with Google+ Business, because if you don’t verify, your page won’t go public. Verifying ensures no one but you can claim your business. To prove to Google that you are, in fact, the owner of your business, you have to obtain a unique code to complete the process. Google does this via postcard.

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To get the postcard, continue through the prompts after you’ve entered your address and click “Mail me my code.” This signals Google to send out the postcard, which should arrive in 1-2 weeks. Be warned, though: sometimes it takes longer, and sometimes you have to request a postcard more than once. (Word on the street is that we had to request a postcard four times for one client to get verified. It’s Google’s world, and we’re just living in it.)

You can skip this step and verify later if you want, but since there’s a chance for delay, it’s best to request that postcard sent as soon as possible.

While you wait with bated breath, you can get to work setting up that page. You’ll need:

Basic Information: Provide accurate business hours, your address, contact information, and business categories. Google uses categories to index these pages, so choose wisely. Since you can only pick from their pre-populated options, pay attention as you’re typing—relevant categories you may not have thought of could pop up. You can put in as many categories as you’d like, but you should absolutely list a minimum of one, or else Google has no way of knowing what kind of business you have!

An Introduction: Use some of that keyword research data (because you did some keyword research, right?) to craft a conversational description of your business and services. It’s the perfect opportunity to showcase your personality as a business, so take some time here and think about how you want your potential customers to perceive you.

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Some Photos: To further personalize your page, you can add a cover photo and a profile photo. A cover photo is the largest photo on the page, and it would be the perfect place for a group picture of your staff, the exterior of your store, or an example of your product. The profile photo, on the other hand, would be great for a logo! For more detailed information on photos sizes, visit Google’s support center.

Additional Administrators: You don’t have to be the only one that manages your Google+ Business account. You can add any other administrators you’d like as long as they have a Gmail account, too. One caveat: If they’re admins, keep in mind that they will also be able to make changes to your page.

Google will let you know how complete your profile is, so keep checking the status bar. Until you get your business verified, you’ll only be able to get 90% completion. Potential customers won’t be able to see anything you post yet, so this is a great opportunity to start crafting a content strategy while you wait for that postcard!