We’ve always stressed the importance of maintaining an active Google+ Local Page. And, as we see more businesses converting their Google Places to a Google+ Local Page, we’ve noticed that some business owners may potentially be hurting their local search optimization by making critical mistakes.
As with each of their services, Google sets guidelines regarding what is and isn’t appropriate when using their products for marketing. Any of these five tactics could result in poor rankings:
1. Adding location-based keywords to your categories: Currently, Google allows you to associate 3-5 keywords or “Categories” with your profile. As an example, a dentist’s categories may be “dentist”, “cosmetic dentist”, “dental clinic”. If this same dentist changed those categories to say “Boston dentist”, “cosmetic dentist Boston”, “Boston dental clinic”, the addition of “Boston” would cause their profile to be marked as SPAM.
2. Claiming to be located in the closest large city: If your business address falls in a small or rural town just outside of a large city, like Houston, don’t claim you’re located in Houston. Google can pinpoint these false entries and mark your page as SPAM, and may even remove your page entirely. Use your website to mention that you “serve patients in your city, Houston, etc.”.
3. Using a P.O. Box as your address: Google+ Local tries to streamline user-interaction, allowing users to get maps, directions, and tons of details about your location. If you list your address as a P.O. Box, it becomes impossible for patients to find your physical location. As a result, Google will likely list you below most of your competitors.
4. Using an 800 number: In their attempt to thwart SPAM on their services, Google requires a phone call or postcard verification of a business page. When their automation system calls your practice 800 number, it cannot navigate through the prompts to eventually reach a person. Because of this, businesses that use an 800 number are not likely to be ranked well due to the fact that Google knows patrons will suffer the same annoyance.
5. Purchasing fake reviews: Nothing angers Google more than lies. Paying for reviews or having employees leave them for your own practice will eventually be discovered by Google’s account monitors. And, even the slightest suspicion of a fake review stands grounds for banning your profile to the bottom of search results for all eternity. Quite simply, earn positive reviews because you have excellent service, not because you have deep pockets.
What’s the Big Deal?
As everyone tries to game the system, Google is cracking down on legitimacy. 800 numbers and P.O. boxes make it difficult to verify the validity of your business. Additionally, Google’s business listings are an effort to provide Google users with current, relevant information about your practice. Paying for good reviews weakens Google’s reputation. Think about it; if users are turning to Google for reputable information, reading about fake experiences makes Google less reliable.
The Bummer of Google Penalties
If you’ve experienced one of these penalties, you know that Google doesn’t just kiss and make-up. Instead, they place you in time-out until you make necessary changes and submit your profile for review. Only after the Google team has scrutinized your changes with a fine-toothed comb will you have a shot at being ranked well again.
If you’ve made these mistakes and haven’t been caught yet, it’s time to make the necessary changes before your Google+ Local Page gets shot down.
To learn more about local search marketing on Google+ Local, download your free copy of The Ultimate Social Media Guide to Google+, or contact us at 888-932-3644.