Should you care about Google+? What is Google My Business? And then what about Google Places and Google Local? I know, it is quite confusing. Especially because Google has made so many changes in the past few years to how things work in Google world. If you haven’t been keeping up with the changes you may have been left in the dust.
Let’s go back in time a few years. To get your business listed in local Google searches you would create a listing in Google Places for Business. This would put you on the map and let people find your business location in Google searches as well – given that you successfully verified your listing.
Then Google+ came along and people got totally confused. “What happened to the old listings? Do I need a Google+ now?” Many people created new Google+ pages only to find out that Google automatically upgraded Google Places listings to Google Local listings… and left many businesses with multiple listings and pages. Which we know is not a great thing as it can not only hurt your search ranking but it can also confuse your clients or patients (and even your staff). You may have reviews on one page and updates and other shared content on the other page; talk about a nightmare. While there isn’t a simple way to merge these different listings into one, there is a workaround way by transferring information from a Google Local page to a Google brand page and then deleting the local page and upgrading the brand page to a verified local page. Or you could just contact Google and ask them to help you with the problem.
I know, now you are wondering what a brand page is. There are three different types of Google+ pages:
- Google+ Personal Page: This is the page that you create with your own personal information when you sign up for a Google account. It lists your name and other info you decide to share with the public. You use this account to create and manage Google+ pages for your business (similar to Facebook).
- Local Business Page: This is the page of a local business. You include the correct address for your business so your customers can find you. Once verified, this listing will also appear on Google maps and in Google search results. Given the fact that you need a valid address for maps, PO Boxes do not qualify as valid local address.
- Brand Page: These pages do not have local addresses listed and will not appear on Google maps. Usually brands, artists, institutions, public figures, organizations or other groups create these pages who use them to keep in contact with fans or followers but do not wish to have physical contact with them (e.g. see them at their offices or stores).
As a dental professional, you want to make sure that the page you have is a verified local page as you want patients to be able to find your location on maps. You may know that the web presence of a business has many different components. Having a beautiful and functional website is one component. Having a verified local listing on Google is another one. While the two are connected and are related they will not necessarily have the same ranking in search results. When searching for your practice your website may come up on first page of Google search results but your local listing may not come up on first page of Google maps search results. Again, the two are connected but are not the same. This is a question that we hear quite often: “Ok, my website is on first page but why am I not listed on the map?” Well, because map search results are driven by different factors that I will talk about in a minute.
I can hear your next question already: “So then what on earth is Google My Business? Is it the same as Google+?” Well, yes and no. It is more than just Google+. Think about it as a dashboard: you input your business information and the different Google services will pull data from it and also submit data to it. Once you complete and verify your information it will be populated to your Google+ business page, your Google maps listing, you can track data related to your Google+ account, see information on your related Google Analytics account and YouTube channels, AdWords campaign, etc. It really makes life much easier not having to log into all these different Google services separately. Convenient, isn’t it?
You won’t be surprised to hear that Google has very strict guidelines for representing your business on Google. Following these guidelines as closely as possible will help improve your Google Local search results. Some of the requirements are pretty simple and self-explanatory, others are not so obvious. To have a local Google+ page your business must have a valid address where you make personal contact with clients or patients during your stated business hours. The name of the business should be the same that is used everywhere when you conduct business and it cannot include a tagline or other unnecessary information. For example your dental office can be listed as “Smith Family Dental” but not as “Smith Family Dental – The Best Dentistry in Town”. However, individual practitioners such as dental professionals may list their title or degree certifications as part of their names (e.g. Dr., DDS, DMD, etc.). List your real website URL and not one that forwards to another page or a landing page. Also, it is best to use a real phone number that is associated with your business elsewhere online (such as your website or directories) and not a forwarding number or a 800 number. Selecting the closest category that best describes your business is also very important. Do not use categories as keywords or categories that are only related to your main activity. If you cannot find the exact category, use something that is more general. For example if you are a dental specialist and your specialty is not an available category, it is best to use the “Dentist” category. An individual practitioner should create a dedicated page if he or she operates in a public-facing role and is available at the location during the stated business hours. Support staff should not create their own pages for the same business. Also, a practitioner should not create multiple pages to cover all his or her specialties. What about practices with more than one doctor? In this case the practice should create a page for the organization separately, such as “Smith Family Dental”. The individual doctors may create separate pages for themselves with only their name listed and not the practice name. In the case when a single doctor owns the practice the page should be named as the following: “Smith Family Dental: John F. Smith, DDS”. The doctor should not create a separate page for himself only.
As I mentioned above, search results on your usual Google search page and on Google Local or Google Maps can be different. A practice can be found very easily using a general search term such as “dentist in Winnetka” but if you try the same search term on Google Maps you may not see the same practice right away. Search results on Google Maps also have rankings and there may be several pages of results for the same search term. The business marker on the map may not show up until you get to the page with the practice listed. You may be wondering why this is. The reason is that Google ranks local results differently from regular search results. Local results are ranked based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence. Your listing for the search above is relevant if it is located in Winnetka and it is categorized as a “Dentist”. Business description is also important because even if you are categorized as a dentist but describe your business as a spa, Google may deem you to be irrelevant to the search and rank you much lower. Distance is understandably important because even if your dental office is categorized properly and you used great description, you will not be at the top of the search if you are located miles away from Winnetka. Prominence is a bit harder to measure and this is where the overall web presence comes into play. If Google can find you listed in directories, you are mentioned on web sites, you wrote articles or keep a blog, people refer to you in their social media posts or share your content, you have a lot of reviews, etc. it is likely that Google will think that your business is prominent and should be ranked higher in local searches. Google is very secretive about how their search algorithms work and they keep changing them periodically to make it hard for people to figure them out and “try to cheat the system”.
You may feel that all these Google rules and requirements are simply overwhelming and you do not have time to piece the puzzle together. Don’t let an incorrectly set up Google page hurt your search results and ranking! Contact Clue Dental Marketing today and our SEO experts will take the burden off your shoulders.