If you hadn’t noticed, Google Places has become Google Plus Local. Local marketing is especially important to you as a small business owner. People use Google to search for businesses and services, and the last thing you need is to have that messed up.
The changes in Google Plus Local (GPL) will affect you, so here’s the low down on what’s going on.
One of the things that many small local businesses have found was that after Google switched to GPL, the new roll out has been quite buggy. This may have affected your listing and ranking. As you probably know, you work hard to get your ranking just right, and each new glitch can hurt it. It doesn’t help that Google hasn’t been very communicative about the changes. A good example of a bug problem is a recent one where the merge of your old Google Places listing with your new GPL listing had category issues. They put wrong categories into your category section and now businesses listed have nothing to do with yours, but affect your ranking. Not only that, your listing could be penalized for being listed in irrelevant categories!
For local marketing, your best bet is to make sure your website is locally optimized and in good standing with Google. This is the most important thing you can do. Google Citations and customer reviews are still important, but optimization of your website is most important. Next, make sure your listing on GPL has been claimed by you and has no rule violations. Some rules to watch specifically: keyword stuffing your description – this can cost you points with the algorithm used by the search engine; another one is multiple listings. This can become an issue if Google finds old outdated listings on the internet with different phone numbers, addresses or names. Google will create a listing which creates the multiple. Also, another person can create an account and you don’t know about it. Then there is the headache of whether Google merged the old account right.
Sounds like a lot of work, and it is. Your best bet is to hire someone who knows how to handle GPL and local listings and rankings. Let them handle the headaches while you handle the business of your business.