How Google+ can boost your local business

The launch of Google+ has been one of the most talked-about social media events of the year. Here's how it can help your local business.

The new social network, which this month launched Pages for business users, presents businesses of every size with interesting new ways to connect with their customers.

Small, local businesses have traditionally been reticent about using social media - but Google+ has clearly been built with local firms in mind. Here’s how it can help you.

What is Google+?

Google+ is the search engine giant’s latest foray into the world of social networking. It has been described as sitting somewhere between Facebook and Twitter, allowing users to connect with the friends, with people in whom they are interested, and, crucially, with businesses.

While Google+ is still in its early stages of development, it is already clear that businesses will sit at the heart of the new platform. Of particular interest is the fact that Google has built a focus on small, local businesses into the product. Google+ is already a fantastic means by which small firms can connect with potential customers in a simple, meaningful way.

Over the last few years Google has begun to focus more intently on local businesses. Improved Google Maps integration within the search engine has meant that users are increasingly relying on Google to help them identify relevant local businesses, and find them ‘in the real world’.

It is already clear that Google+ will become an increasingly integral part of Google’s search product, as well as a product in its own right. This has important implications for local businesses – not just those that transact online.

There are three main ways in which a Google+ Page can help your business.

1. It is a simple, free way to build a web presence.
It is increasingly important for businesses of every size and every type to have some sort of web presence. But many small firms are put off making the digital leap because of the perceived difficulty in setting up a website. Google+ addresses this problem by providing a simple, free way to build your web presence – without having to worry about hosting or coding.

2. It will dramatically increase your business’s visibility.

Google+ can help to ensure that potential customers can find your business as easily as possible. There are a few key ways in which the platform will increase your firm’s visibility. To begin with, a Google+ Page will help to ensure that you rank well on Google (and presumably on other search engines) for relevant keywords. In addition, your firm will have a listing on Google Maps – an increasingly important means by which potential customers are finding businesses.

3. It can help you connect with your customers.

Finally, Google+ offers an exciting new range of ways in which businesses can connect with current or potential customers. Hangouts are a particularly interesting feature, enabling businesses to video chat live with other Google+ users. Read more about the best Google+ features for business.

How do I get started?

Happily, Google+ Pages are very simple to set up. Here is a simple step-by-step guide to setting up your Page.

1. Register for a Google account. Every Google+ Page must be linked to a Google account. This is free; you just need to enter your details here.

2. Find Google+ for business.
Navigate to the Business page.

3. Choose the relevant category.
You probably want to go for ‘Local Business or Place.’

4. Identify your business. Google uses telephone numbers to identify local businesses. Type your business number into the box. If your business is already listed on Google, the system will find it. Otherwise, you will be asked to add your business. This simply involves entering the name, address, and category of your business. You will then be able to see your firm listed on the map on the right-hand side.

5. Customise your Page. Once you have claimed your Page, you can start customising it with the relevant details. Click here for more information on building your Google+ Page.