If you are going to spend any time on social media then make Google + your top priority. The social media platform will pay off by attracting local customers to your store locations.First a little background on what Google + is.
Google + is, in essence, the local business listing for Google’s search engine. If you want your business found on Google maps and search results, then creating a Google + page for your business is paramount.
Google launched Google + in fall 2011—making it one of the latecomers to the social network scene, where Facebook and Twitter had already been established. In October 2013, Google’s 300 million users were active in the “stream,” i.e., people who were adding updates, likes, videos and photos to their Google + profile page.
In addition to acting like a business listing, Google treats Google + as a “social layer” that enhances and integrates with its other tools, such as Google maps. That integration is a special bonus for retailers with brick-and-mortar locations that target local customers, such as those in the flooring business.
The most important two features on Google + that will boost your local traffic are:
1. Your business location will appear on Google maps—with enhanced details including photos, phone number and reviewers’ scores.
2. Integration with Google + local. Your Google + business page will appear in Google + local, where people can post reviews and scores for businesses.
As a result, your business will attract attention for local customers who are:
• Searching on their mobile devices for a floor retailer near their home.
• Looking for a retailer with positive reviews.
• Checking out portfolios and looking for special promotions.
The following are some examples of how a Google + listing has enhanced search results, making these retailers more attractive to Google searchers.
This outlet’s images, reviews and business hours appear when someone on Google, for example, types in the term “wood laminate floor store in Scottsdale” (see photo No. 1).
Your business will show up on Google maps, and be given top listing or special features that attract clicks.
Please note that some businesses have place labels—these are the bright red markers that appear on the map. Google displays labels in its own arbitrary fashion—determined algorithmically based on a large number of factors.
Google does say that: “One factor these algorithms consider is the accuracy of the business listing and the richness of the content associated with the listing. Therefore, we suggest you claim your business in Google Places. This will not guarantee that your business will be shown with a place label, but it does improve your chances” (see photo No. 2).
A Business Location Page
The following illustration is a good example of a Google + page created by a California flooring retailer with high quality photos, videos and easy contact information(see photo No. 3).
Page Location Features
Google + allows for unique pages that feature each business location—a bonus for flooring retailers with multiple locations across many cities or states. Having a unique page for each location enables you to reach the customers who want to find the nearest location to their home or business.
Each business page can have unique profile images, phone numbers and promotional announcements. As a result, you can tailor each Google + business page for the customer base. For example, if one location does particularly well with high-end tile residential customers, then a savvy marketer will highlight those products in the Google + images and promotional updates.
Google + allows you to post videos and create photo albums. You can post images of your projects and products. The videos can be shared with YouTube—which is the largest social media site of them all, and second largest search engine.
Google + also allows you to post updates and news items about your business with ease. You can share your updates with people who follow your business page—via a + button.
You can organize and promote events, and use Google + to send out invites and notify people about grand openings or special sales.
If you want to do a special Webinar about tile installation for example, use Google hangouts to broadcast your event in HD. The Webinar will be recorded and then automatically saved to your company’s YouTube channel, allowing people to view at their leisure.
Or, you can host a live interactive chat via video with multiple people online around the world, allowing you a place where you can talk about flooring ideas to an engaged audience.
Google + page also encourages your customer base to interact with your company information. In other words, your loyal fans can:
• Post reviews.
• Share your business with other Google + users.
• Participate in your special events.
How to Get Started
The first thing to realize is Google Places is being phased out by Google and replaced with Google +. Many local businesses are already listed on a Google Places listing. If your business has an account with Google Places then log on to your Google Places account and check the dashboard for links on how to transition to Google +.
The best option on starting a Google + page for smaller, mom-and-pop retailers who have a strong association with the owners in their branding is via your own Google + profile
To create a Google + business page, the owner must create a personal Google + account. Then, create a page that is associated with the business.
You will need to claim a Google + page. Google might have already created a Google + page for your business location. If you do find a Google + page with your business location listed on it follow the instructions on the page that invites you to claim and verify the page as the legitimate business owner.
Creating a Great Google + Page
The following are some tips for creating a great Google + page, one that will help boost your online traffic.
• Your cover image matters—a lot. Find a high resolution photo—or pay for one—of your business. Consider hiring a professional graphic artist to create the cover image for the page—as well as other cover images for your Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels. Essentially, they should all have the same look and feel in terms of promoting and broadcasting your brand.
• Link the page up to your YouTube channel. This will enable you to easily upload any product videos.
• Link your Google + page to your website. Technically, you should be linking all of your social media platforms to your website, as it should be considered your central hub in the digital world.
• On your website, add a Google + badge that links to your Google + page. This will also invite people to “plus 1” your business. This is similar to a like on Facebook and allows users to interact with your content.
• Encourage your customers to post reviews on your Google + page.
• Fill out as much details in the “About” section, including business hours and your business description.
• Post as many quality photos of your products in your stores and especially installed in your customers’ homes and businesses to showcase the quality of work you do.
• Feel free to reach out to your customers by adding them to your “circles,” and commenting on their pages or personal accounts. Circles are essentially groups, such as friends, family, residential customers, commercial customers, etc. Thank them, and extend any special promotions you are offering to repeat customers.
• Use the customized URL feature to change the URL of the Google + page to match your business name.
• Consider attaching your Google adWords campaign to your Google + page.
• Lastly, create brief videos—30 seconds or less—of finished projects and post them on your Google + page every time you complete one. Create photo albums that groups different kinds of projects together, for example: restaurants or bedrooms.