Everybody wants their business to rank high on Google. Ranking well on Google means more exposure for the business, which will in turn provide more clicks and eventually more business leads and even customers. However, in order to do so, you need to play by Google’s rules.

One such way to rank higher on Google is to have Google+ page reviews for your business. Google reviews matter the most. You may have tons of Yahoo reviews or reviews from other such sites, but without a Google+ Local Page or Google Places Review, your local business is unlikely to rank well on Google.

Download our Google+ Guide for marketers

How do Google Reviews for Local Businesses appear on Google?

Here’s an example. I searched for ‘Chinese restaurants‘ in my area in the Google search box. Reviews and ratings on Google would typically appear like this:

Google_Reviews

Good ratings and Google Reviews for Local Business is what every marketer must aim for to rank well on Google.

How can I get customers to write Google Reviews for Local Businesses?

Here are a few best practices:

  • If you don’t have one already, create a verified Google plus local page for your business. Take a look at this post for the steps.
  • Encourage all your customers to write reviews for your Google+ Local Business Page and Google Places Account.

For example:

Liked our food? Please give us your feedback ‘here’.

(Hyperlink ‘here’ to your Google Plus Local or Google Places page)

1. Customers will rate and review your product or service only if it is of value to them. Work towards that.

2. Provide links to your Google plus local page so it’s easier for customers to land on that local business page.

3. Respond to all reviews, whether they are negative or positive. Customer satisfaction should be at the top of your agenda.

Given below are the steps in involved in writing reviews. You could share this with your customers, in case they have trouble doing so.

Steps involved in writing a review for a Google Plus Local Business Page and a Google Places Account:

Step 1:

Sign in with your Google+ Account (Only members with personal Google+ Accounts can write reviews).

Google Reviews for Local Businesses

Step 2a:

In case of Google Places Account – Go back to Google Search once you have signed in. Let’s take ‘Chinese Restaurants‘ as the example. After you have searched for ‘Chinese Restaurants‘ on Google Search, select the restaurant you want to review and click on ‘ Write a review‘ (encircled in red). Thereafter. proceed to Step 5 directly. (For the purpose of this post, we have taken ‘Mainland China‘ as the example.

Step_2a

Step 2b

In case of Google plus local page – Go to ‘Home‘ in your personal Google+ account and click on ‘Local‘ (encircled in red), to review a local business.

Google Reviews for Local Businesses

Step 3:

Here, you have to search for the local business you want to review. Type the name of the business in the search box. (For the purpose of this post, we have taken Hard Rock Cafe as an example)

Google Reviews for Local Businesses

Step 4:

Click on the ‘pencil icon‘ (encircled in red) to write a review for Hard Rock Cafe

Step_4__Write_a_review

Step 5:

Rate, review and publish! The step is the same, whether you want to review Google Places (Mainland China) or a Google plus local page (Hard Rock Cafe).

Google Reviews for Local Businesses

Now that you know how important reviews are for your business, encourage your customers to write reviews today!

Google Reviews for Local Businesses

When I say ‘Good Strategy’, I definitely mean that it is an effective solution to reconnect with your visitors on the Google Display Network and probably more useful than your traditional Remarketing strategies.

Now, instead of spending it on creating ads for each and every product, you can invest your time in re-engaging your leads and pushing them down the sales funnel. All you have to do is to begin with Dynamic Display Ads on the Google Display Network (GDN).

Dynamic Display Ads rolled out in June this year. Since then it has been an effective strategy for marketers in retail and e-commerce business. Google has been piloting this feature for travel and education businesses also and by the end of this year we are likely to receive some good news for other business sectors also. So let’s see…

What are Dynamic Display Ads on Adwords?

Dynamic Display ads help you “Create rich media ads that match people’s location and the content they’re seeing. For a more compelling message.”

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This ad type is typically beneficial for product-based businesses who have an existing Google Merchants account for their business. All you need to do is to link your Google Merchant account through a product extension with Google Adwords ad by creating a display network campaign. Here is the step by step procedure to create a Dynamic display ad for your business:

Step 1: Go to your Adwords account

Step 2: Click on a display network ad campaign (this procedure is for already existing display ad campaigns)

For new campaigns, after you have created an ad group for it, just skip creating the ads and save the ad group. You can go back to the ad group and follow the same steps mentioned below, so that all the ad gallery options are available to you.

Step 3: Go to Ads tab and click on +New Ad button to create a new display ad

Step 4: Select Ad gallery option from the drop-down bar

Step 5: Hover to Dynamic Ads option and click on Create

Step 6: Click on any one of the two ad types available- either image ads or text ads (described below)

Dynamic Image Ads:

1. To create image ads, you will have to select an ad layout out of the various options given.

2. You can customize the ad size, insert your business logo, write a suitable headline and give a CTA button.

3. You will have to link the ad to your Google Merchant account and Adwords will automatically pull your product information to displays it to your audience, depending on their search pattern.

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4. You may choose to optimize layouts, sizes and formats of your ad or show your ad in the specific format that you select.

5. Take advantage of the advanced field options to customize your ad and make it look more attractive.

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Dynamic Text Ads:

1. This ad type also requires you to link your Google Merchant account with your Adwords account. The product title, price and the Merchant name will be automatically pulled and displayed with the ad.

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2. Like all other text ads, you will have to give a display URL, destination URL and creation ad. But instead of a headline or description, all you have to give is a promotional message (optional) for your displayed product (this message can be according to the product category)

After you have set your preferences and customized the ads, you can preview and save the ads to let Google review them. As soon as the ads get approved, Google will display these on the GDN and target your audiences accordingly. Make sure you have your budgets and bids in place, so that the ads automatically get active on the display network after approval.

Now let’s talk about the…

Benefits of Dynamic Display Ads:

1. You don’t need to create separate ads for each product/category. All you have to do is create one dynamic display ad (image or text as per your preference) and link it to your Google Merchant account. The product details automatically get pulled and displayed to your audiences over the display network.

2. You can focus more on engaging the visitors that come through these ads, rather than spending time managing your ads separately for all products to cater to your audiences choice.

3. The option to automatically optimize your ad format or layouts, doesn’t make your ads stagnant and boring. These ads will be displayed in rotation, thus, helping you reach your audiences dynamically.

4. Last but not the least, you do not have to pay for each product ad separately. Adwords will rotate your product ads depending on your visitors’ search trend and you will only pay when your visitor click on the ad. Thus, you get to show hundreds of products at the cost of just one ad. Wow, isn’t it!

dynamic display ad

To be, or not to be on Google Plus, that is no longer the question.

Google Plus is important to Google, and what is important to Google must be important to you (unless, of course, you are a badass, and organic search rankings are too cute for you).

Benefits of Google Plus - Even Leonard Nimoy is on Google Plus (even though they are just fake profiles)

Of course I am joking! All the badasses (in the business world) I know have a Google Plus as well.

I know that non-business users are only trying to resist the way “big bad” Google is using their dependency on it to “push” its social network. But, you Oh Business User must want to rank organically and get other benefits of Google Plus, so why the resistance?

Why you (as a quality Publisher) shouldn’t resist?

Google IS trying to rank the best, most relevant content higher, therefore as publishers, it is your responsibility to not only create high quality content, but (for your own sake) to help Google identify your content as high quality. Presence, and quality participation on Google Plus would help you achieve this and get several other benefits of Google Plus.

Nuff said Publishers, it is high time, stop resisting the change and embrace the benefits of Google Plus. It is way past the time to ‘Wait and See’ how Google Plus works. It must already be an integral part of your digital marketing strategy (hell I know this post is too late). Here are a few reasons why:

Benefits of Google Plus for Businesses

1. High Correlation between Google Plus Ones and Search Rank

The quantity (numbers) and the quality of shares on Google Plus on a particular piece of content were found to have a very high correlation with higher organic search rankings, according to these SEO Ranking Factor Correlation analyses by Search Metrics and MOZ. One thing that should be understood before evaluating any Correlation analysis is that correlation does not imply causation.

Benefits of Google Plus 1 - Google Plus Ones are correlated with higher search rankings. But, correlation does not imply causation

Also, in no way does it mean that Google uses number of Plus Ones as a direct metric in its algorithm. A high correlation just means that the posts that ranked higher also had more number of plus ones, compared to those that ranked lower. Also, this correlation was stronger than the other factors considered in both the analyses. It probably stems from the fact that being on Google Plus actively would give some additional SEO benefits (hence, more visibility), which ultimately lead to higher search ranks.

The bottom-line would be to create quality content that is worth being shared on G+ by influential users.

Yes, I know people would try to abuse this, (by adding more people to their circles and also creating dummy accounts, so that their content gets more views and more shares), but so does Google. Therefore, Google states in its User Content and Conduct Policy that adding people aggressively to your Google Plus network is considered Spam. In addition, various other factors affect search rankings, so this really shouldn’t be a biggie. 

2. Google Authorship and growing importance of the ‘Author’

Google Authorship markup

Let us begin with the basics – for those of you who do not know yet, Authorship is how you (individuals/authors) claim ownership over their content. This is how it would help:

  1. It helps authenticate the author and thus the credibility of the content.
  2. It would ultimately prevent content plagiarism.
  3. Posts with authorship established reportedly get higher Click-through Rates.

3. Posts with Authorship are recorded to get better search ranks

We have actually seen our clients jump ranks from complete obscurity to Pages 1 and 2 within a matter of weeks after establishing authorship. This can be attributed to the fact that posts with verified authors get better click through rates.

(Of course, the catch remains that you have to create high quality and relevant content. Here’s an example of quality content that beaks away from mundane, while providing value.) 

What if you don’t create high-quality content?

At first you might get the benefit of doubt, and consequently rank higher. However, eventually when Google discovers that authorship for you is mere deceit to mask the low quality of your content, you would face the wrath of Google (and lose rank).

And, HOW would Google find out if your Content is low-quality?

Initially, because of authorship, your blog posts look nice and clickable therefore the CTR is higher. The searcher thus clicks through and reaches your blog post. He then discovers that your article doesn’t answer his query, thus bouncing off. The on-site time would consequently be low (signaling low Page Relevance).

Repetitive signals like this and Google would assume that your blog post does not answer the query at hand, and you would eventually be pushed down the search ranks.  (Google’s algorithm should consider Good CTRs, high bounce rates and low on-site time in organic rankings as well. This makes sense because CTR and Page Relevance affect Quality Score in Paid Rankings.)

Benefits of Google Plus - Google Plus Authorship CTR signals

Oh yea, here’s how you can establish the authorship for all your authors.

Side-note: If you want to check how an author’s posts are performing, webmasters allows you to check the performance of the posts for which you are the verified author. This is how it appears:

Author's Performance in Google Analytics

All said and done, people have still reported no measurable traffic increase after establishing authorship. Reasons can be multiple, from maybe incorrect Authorship implementation, or quality of the content to the quality of the profile picture (yes, has happened).

4. Author Rank

Stems from Authorship, the concept of Author Rank. It is a measure that Google (supposedly) would use to see how credible an author is, and how knowledgeable he/she is in his/her respective domain. So, if you have some expertise, original ideas and blog about them, you would just be on the losing side by resisting Authorship, because Google would not see you as the knowledge authority that you are, thus denying you the praise/ranking that you deserve.

I don’t really have complete clarity of how it is going to work going forward, but for starters, it would definitely help Google separate wheat from chaff. Depending on the social traction (number of Plus Ones) particular author’s posts receive, the frequency of posting valuable content, Google would push his/her posts up, whenever a search query related to what he writes about is made.

There would also be a correlation between the domain authority of sites an author blogs for and his/her author rank, and thus page rank. So, if I blog for a Publisher with high domain authority, like Mashable, then I would have some more credibility in Google’s eyes, and thus better Author Rank. Ultimately, the other websites that I blog for, say LeadSquared, would also benefit from this association and get a better page rank.

In case you are wondering, there is one tool developed by Mark Traphagen that measures AuthorRank. It’s still in beta. You can try it here. You must note that it’s not Google’s Author Rank, but a metric developed by Mark and his team to measure the credibility of authors.

This is one of the most important benefits of Google Plus. Unlike Twitter, and other Social Networks out there, the links shared on Google Plus are ‘Do-Follow’, thus giving you a benefit of Rank as well.

Check out the following image of LeadSquared’s Google Plus page. The green highlighted portion represents dofollow links (in case you are wondering, I have used Moz’s toolbar to find the dofollow links). Now, if you know a bit about SEO, you know that dofollow links pass link authority, thus help ranks. No other social platform allows this, so this is a big deal.

Benefits of Google Plus - Links are dofollow on Business

Now, compare this with shares on Facebook page. As you can see, only links within Facebook are dofollow; all the external links are nofollow. Therefore, if you share a link on Facebook, it does not pass link authority to your website.

Benefits of Google Plus - External Links on Facebook are no-follow

6. Publisher Markup

This is another benefit of Google Plus specific to businesses. Yes, much like Google Authorship, you need to establish yourself as a credible publisher also in the eyes of Google. For this, once again the first step is for your business to be on Google Plus. Having established yourself as a Google Publisher, you get multiple benefits:

i) If someone searches for your business on Google, an information box (pulled from Google Plus Page) like the one you can see in the image below appears in the position where knowledge graph usually appears. Therefore, your presence and interactions on Google Plus would impact how you would appear in Search results. People also have an option of circling you here directly.

Benefits of Google Plus Publisher Markup

ii) Another very important benefit that you would get with Google Publisher authentication is better credibility in Gmail Inboxes. For instance, email from your company would appear like this in a Gmail recipient’s inbox. As, you can see, on the right side, just above ads, is information pulled from my Google Plus business page.

Benefits of Google Plus Publisher Markup in Gmail Inbox

7. Searchable Hashtags

Google has started ranking hashtags mentioned in Google Plus in search results, so if you don’t want to miss this benefit of Google Plus, you should have a page and profile there and participate in the community actively.

8. Social Extensions in your Google Ads

With a linked Google Plus page, you can enable social annotations in your ad campaigns. In case of enhanced campaigns, the annotations appear on their own, whereas in case of non-enhanced campaigns, you would need to link your Google Plus with your Adwords account.

Shared Endorsement is the new addition to the benefits of a link-up between your Adwords and your other Google accounts.

So, this is how they would help – It would work like Facebook’s Sponsored stories. So, the users recommendations, Plus ones etc. would be shown to their friends (whoever they choose to show it to), along with their names and pictures in ads, therefore, working in a word of mouth kind of way. This would help advertisers active on Google Plus, with all the Rich Snippets (Reviews, Local etc.) working. Google takes care of users’ privacy as well, by allowing them to opt out from such endorsements.

Social Endorsements

Yes, Google wants better CTRs; as Larry (Kim) explains it here, and attributes this to the fact that the average cost of CPCs is down, so by making the ads more attractive, Google wants to leverage the ads. But, it would definitely benefit advertisers as well, because their ads would be more attractive, therefore getting them better CTRs from relevant (more informed, therefore, more interested) visitors.

9. Helps Businesses in Local SEO

i) Local Businesses with a Google Local Page or a Google Places account get organic search placements, for local searches. Given that majority (82%) of online local searchers wind up calling or visiting the local merchant, this is one advantage that you don’t wanna miss (if you are a local business). User reviews can influence the searcher’s decision.

You can create a Google Plus Local page (or, a Google Places account) to get such organic listings. Here’s how you can create one.

ii) A Google Plus Local Page like this can also help local merchants compete with bigger e-tailers. For instance, check out these jewelry shop listings. They appear just below the Sponsored Ads of bigger e-merchants. The best part is that these are free listings.

Benefits of Google Plus Local

10. Each Post on G+ has its own URL

Unlike any other microblogging or social networking site, each post on Google Plus has a separate URL. This giving businesses and people an opportunity to draft each post as a full-length article. It even has options to customize the content by adding italics, text bold etc.

11. Posts shared on G+ get indexed easily

Once again, unlike other social platforms, like Twitter, that block Google’s crawling activity to some extent, posts shared on Google Plus get indexed almost immediately.

12. Users now need to login to Google Plus to comment on YouTube

And that is not the end of it. A couple of weeks ago, I shared a YouTube video from LeadSquared’s YouTube channel onto my Google Plus profile; that information shows up too in the comments section. So, if someone is engaging with your YouTube content on their G+, it would show up on YouTube as well.

Google_Plus_account_for_YouTube_users

From the user’s perceptive, mandatory sign in to your G+ account to comment on YouTube might irk many regular users. However, it might also make sure that the quality of comments improves; less people would troll using their personal G+ IDs. The users aren’t too happy about it though.

So, alright, I think you have reasons enough to now actually go and create a Google Plus business as well as individual account. If you still have reservations, let us know what they are.

Facebook is constantly rolling out new features to help businesses connect better with their audiences and customers. Things became a lot more effortless when they recently introduced the option for marketers to be able to add their Custom Audience right from their ‘Create an Ad’ tab. This option was earlier available only on Facebook Power Editor but has now made its way to Facebook’s self serve ad tool. In an earlier article, I have already discussed how marketers can reach out to their leads & contacts via Facebook Custom Audience. 

facebook custom audience

How Adding Facebook Custom Audience has become easier

Step 1: As earlier, you have to go to the ‘Create an Ad’ tab to be able to create an ad and choose what kind of result you want for your ads. Once you have decided what result you want from your ad (like you can see in the second image, I have checked the ‘Clicks on Website’ for our website).

facebook custom audience

Step 2: In the next step, like you can see the image below, you will be asked to create your target audience. This is where, you will get the option to create your custom audience. 

facebook custom audience

Step 3: Once you click on the ‘Create New Audience’ tab, you will see the window as shown in the image below. Here you will be asked to choose the type of audience you want to create on Facebook. (this process is secure and customer details are kept private).

You can choose your customer list from a file saved on your computer or a MailChimp custom audience list.

facebook custom audience

Step 4: Once you have chosen the custom audience file (they need to be in .cvs/.txt format only with one email address/contact number per row), the email addresses or contact numbers will be matched with people on Facebook to create your custom audience.

facebook custom audience

Step 5: Once you have uploaded the file and agreed to Facebook’s terms and conditions, by clicking on the ‘Create Audience’ tab, you are set to go. The rest of the process of creating an ad is same as earlier.

Easy as a cake walk right? Create your own custom audiences today and target them better with your ads.

step by step guide to generate leads from facebook

Add custom tabs on your Facebook pages that link to LeadSquared’s landing pages here.

The webinar on ‘9 Lead Generation Sources you may NOT be using’ threw light on the various lead generation sources and emphasized on those which aren’t commonly used. A number of interesting questions were asked by the attendees. If you missed it, you can watch the webinar here.

9 Lead Generation Sources you may NOT be using

View the Recording

Okay, so during our webinar on the topic ‘What and Why of Google Plus for Business‘, many post-worthy queries came from our attendees. One topic that attracted multiple queries was ‘Google Places for Business and Google Local’ – (Whether businesses should have a Places account or Google plus Local account, what are the differences, and what makes sense for which business etc.).

I have tried to answer the basic queries in this post; let’s first understand what are Google Places for Business and Google Plus Local.

1. What is Google Places for Business?

Google Places for Business allows you to control what information shows up for your business in Local Listings (local searches). You can specify information including Business Address, Contact number, hours of operation etc. Google generally pulls information (about your local business) from multiple sources to show in local listings; creating a Places account gives you control over what information is displayed.

This is how a Google Places listing would look like:

Google Places Local Listing for Business

This is how the Google Places for Business Page would appear:

Google Places for Business

As you can see, there is a map, operating hours  and an option to write reviews. Under the map, you can see the About and Photos tabs.

2. What is Google Plus Local Page?

Google Plus Local combines the functionalities of Google Places for Business and Google Plus, thereby allowing businesses to control how they appear in local listings, in addition to allowing them social sharing capabilities. All the features of Google Plus pages, like sharing content, interacting with followers etc. are available.

Here’s how a verified Local Page would look like:

Google Plus Local Page for Verified Business

There are a few things you would spot that makes both Google Places and Google Local Page different from one another:

a.) In Google Local, you have Posts and Videos tab in addition to Photos and About Tabs that are present in Google Places as well.

b.) There is a Follow button in case of Google Local, unlike Google Places. This allows people to follow the business on Google Plus.

c.) The Post tab indicates that the business can interact socially with its followers, and others in its circle by posting updates etc. Note that it is not possible for a business to post updates through a Places account.

d.) You can see a ‘Verified’ sign next to the business logo (profile picture). That’s because it is a verified business. In case of Places account, the ‘Verified’ sign doesn’t appear even for verified businesses.

3. How to Create a Google Plus Local Page?

We have written a step-by-step tutorial for creating a Google Local page. Read it here.

4. While creating a Google Plus Page, can a business owner go back and change the category to Local Business?

When you create a Google Plus Business page, Google gives you multiple options (for business category) to choose from: Local, Product etc. If your aim is to appear as a Business in the local listings, you must choose Google Plus Local in the first step itself. If you choose any other option, and later realize that you wish to appear in the Local Listings as well, there would be no going back. The only option available to you then would be to delete the existing page and create a new local one. I don’t think anyone would want to do that, so you must take care of that as you create the account.

This is how the step looks like, and you have to choose ‘Local Business or Place’ option:

Google Plus Local

5. What should I create: A Google Places Account, Google Plus Local Page or Google Plus Page

Google Places: It has a pretty neat interface (much neater than Google Plus). If you are a business catering to a local audience (aiming to appear in Local Listings), and Posting as a Business is not very important to you, then you can go for this. If your business is verified, Google would eventually upgrade your account to a Google Plus Local account.

Google Plus Local: If you want to appear in Local Listings (address is important for your business), and you want to post socially as a business and engage with your followers, Google Plus Local is what you want.

Now, if you already have a local listing (Google Places), and you create and verify your Local Business (from Google Plus Local page), the listings get merged with the Page, thus enabling the functionalities of both Places and Local.

Google is also auto-upgrading some verified Google Places accounts to Google Local Pages; if it doesn’t happen for you automatically, and you have a verified business, you might see the upgrade option in your dashboard.

Google Plus: If your business address and locations are not very important to you, and social interaction is your main aim, Google Plus Page (other than Local) is the way to go.

6. Google hasn’t upgraded my Google Places for Business Dashboard to Local Page. Can I do it myself?

If Google doesn’t do it for you, you have an option to make the merge yourself. However, before doing that you have to make sure that your Places for Business account fits the following criteria:

a) You have verified the local business.

b) Your Places for Business email address must have a Google Plus profile.

c) Your Page must be in a Category eligible for Google Plus

If you fulfill these criteria, your dashboard would have a call to upgrade to G+ Local Page. If you see it, click on the button and you are set. If you don’t, wait while Google does it for all the older profiles.

7. How do I verify my Local Business?

There are two ways to verify your local business:

1) By Phone

2) By Postcard

While creating a Local Page, you would be prompted to Verify your Business. This is how the step looks like.

Verification of Local Business is needed for both Google Places for Business and Local 8. How does it help me to have the Business verified?

If a business is verified, only then does it appear in local listings. Also, people can write Reviews only for verified businesses.

9. How do I identify if a business is locally verified?

Generally, in case of a Local page, you would see a verification mark near the Business name. However, in case of a verified business’s Places account, that hasn’t been upgraded (or merged) to Pages yet, you would not see the verification mark. Also, the option to write reviews is there only for verified businesses.

These were a few of the basic queries about Google Places for Business and Google Local that came our way. If you would like to add something, or have some queries of your own, please feel free to post them here.

Google Places for business