A look into Google’s ever-changing endeavor to deliver the ideal local user experience
WHAT IS GOOGLE+ LOCAL?
Unless you’re a caveman whose only method of social interaction is a sharp rock and a wall, you’ve undoubtedly noticed how Google Places has become more and more prevalent in local searches, moving from the middle of the page to its current nook directly beneath the PPC ads at the top of the page. Google Places, now known as Google+ Local is a critical component of any apartment website SEO strategy. Recent numbers indicate that 60% of all Americans search for local business information at least once a week¹. Of those local searches, 30% convert immediately and 60% convert within an hour.
Since so many people are spending quite a bit of time looking for local businesses, and translate into rapid conversions, it’s pretty important to have a fully optimized Google+ local page. However, if you’re like me and find yourself performing local searches constantly, from pizza joints to plumbers (to multifamily housing communities), it’s obvious that the majority of Google+ local pages are lacking information. Do you think users are more likely to be interested in a business listing like this:
The choice is pretty obvious, right? So that leaves you with one solution: Claim your listing, optimize it, and enjoy the benefits.
WHY IS GOOGLE+ LOCAL IMPORTANT?
A claimed listing in Google is important for a variety of reasons, and each with a direct impact to your online presence:
- Improving exposure for search engine traffic
- Ensuring consistent, accurate business information
- Link-building from the Google+ Local listing to your apartment community website
- Increasing activity/engagement for local search
- Generating customer reviews
- Adding photos featured in Google
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I UPDATE MY GOOGLE+ BUSINESS LISTING?
Once you’ve claimed your brand-new, shiny listing and optimized it with correct business information and photos, should you call it good and move on? No. Google doesn’t want you to set it aside and allow it to collect dust. They want you to update information and interact with prospective residents. Continuously. Since Google is constantly improving, they want you to constantly improve with them.
Most industry experts agree that a business owner should access their Google+ Local account AT LEAST once a month. It’s also a very good idea to post content to your Google+ page at least once a month, as well, although every week or two would be best. Google is constantly rolling out new features such as Custom URL’s, the Reviews tab in the Places Dashboard, and Google Analytics reporting in the Google+ Dashboard. Since they’re constantly rolling out new products, they not only want to make sure you have tools to succeed, but that you’re using them.
Google sent an email to Google+ Local business owners last February that they would be automatically updating listings with up-to-date information, so a manual refresh would be required of all listings—which took effect on March 24. While that’s a simple matter of continued account monitoring (…logging into your Places account, clicking the edit listing button and submitting the correct information…), it’s painted a clear picture of Google’s intentions.
Google, as I mentioned, has millions of listings to manage and rank accordingly. Many of them remain either (1) unclaimed or (2) lie dormant after having been claimed long ago, in the Jurassic period of Google Places, and have incorrect information or no information at all. By Google asking you to manually resubmit your listing, it’s clear that they’re trying to weed out outdated listings to help give the user the most relevant experience possible. They want users to be led to businesses that are ready to serve them. If listings remain untouched after this recent change, it is likely they will be removed, requiring you to go through the process of claiming and updating a listing once again.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
It’s important to have a Google listing. It’s equally important to update that listing regularly. And if Google sends you an email requiring action on your Google listing? Get on in there and do it! By having a current listing that helps user experience, it not only will be smiled upon by the powers that be at Google, but will be seen and discovered by qualified prospective residents.