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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

An Updated Step By Step Guide for the SMB to the Google + Local Page Transition

Updated 6/8 7:00 pm.
Updated 6/9 12:25 pm.
Updated 6/11 3:00 am

In the change over from Places to Google+Local (and then to Google+ Business pages), Google is upgrading a very complex system. Over the next few weeks and months changes will continue to roll out.

During this process issues are going to occur. It may be painful or fear inducing but these issues will be resolved and for the most part an SMB can just sit back and wait for the dust to settle. For a FAQ on the many changes that occurred last week see this post.

If you want to be more proactive in approaching your local listing at Google here is my advice and a course of action:

1- Be sure that you upgrade your Google account to a Google+ personal account. Life will be much easier if it has the same email as your dashboard account as it will make the coming merge go more smoothly. If your Google+ Business page is created under a different account than your Places listing, then add the email for the Places Dashboard as an additional manager of the G+Business Page. The Places email must be associated with an individual and that individual must have a G+ account. This will make it easier for Google to match the Google+Local page that was created to the Google+ Business page.

Note if the email is a business email and can not be associated with an individual you will need to wait for the implementation of Google’s manual merging process.

2-Go into your (Places) dashboard and view your Google+ Local listing to make sure that the Dashboard is connected to your listing correctly. Note that 1)the link will say “See your listing in Google Maps and 2) the local listing that the link takes you to in in Google+ will NOT show as verified. That badge is still coming and will show after the listings have been merged with the new + page.

3-I think it wise to not muck with your data in the dashboard or your listing too much during this transition. Let the dust settle if at all possible and move on to the next steps.

4-Give Google your email via this form to be alerted when they have merged your new Google+ Local listing with the Google+Business pages

You can stop here and all will be fine. Google will do the rest in the next 6 weeks or so. They will convert the Google+ local page into a full blown Google+ business page and you can move forward.

If you want to start experiencing more of what your page will become you can try any or all of these optional activities:

1- Consider creating a Google+ Business page from your Google+ account so that you can learn about how the pages work.

2- Particularly focus on adding attractive photos as this will become what was your Places Landing page

3- When someone clicks on reviews in the main search results they will be taken to your Google+ Business About page. Pay particular attention to this page. Effectively what was your very limited 200 character description will morph into a rich page of content about your business. You can add links and a fair bit of text to this page.

Note: That your photos and About page business description will become the first things that visitors see when they come over from the main search results. It is important to keep your description brief so that the user doesn’t need to scroll too far to see your reviews (unless of course they are bad).

To see an example of a “merged” page that I have worked on you can see Barbara Oliver & Co. Jewelry. I have already trimmed back the About content but not quite enough.

Last I checked the new “merged” page was working pretty well although I was unable to leave a review response. I have heard that this particular “bug” has been fixed but I am not positive and it will be rolling out very soon if not already.

4- Search Google+ for some folks in your industry that you would like to follow and add them to your circles to learn how that is done. Read their posts and see what they are sharing.

This will become a client communication tool going forward so getting comfortable with circles is useful (but not yet required).

5- If you are the early tester type and want to get your Google+ local page merged with your Google Plus Business sooner rather than later (with the risks of experiencing more bugs) you may request to do so via this form.

Obviously this is a rapidly evolving product. So particulary if you are going whole hog you will want to track the bugs and not stress over them. This Google for Business (Places) Forum wrap up covers the state of bugs in the change over so you know where the “gotcha’s” are:

400 Errors on links from Google+ Local should be mostly resolved
– Google Dashboard now linking to the new redirect to the Google+ Local Page
– A known Bug that is still unresolved is that there is no way to access Google+ Local pages or to leave a review from mobile
– Missing categories are not actually missing but are only showing the first few. You can see additional categories via pop up bubble. (Note we have seen listings will too many categories and inappropriate categories. This seems to be due to a data push from MapMaker. Report them via the new report a problem procedure by clicking on the edit this listing link.
– Google WILL be merging the Google+ Local Page with the Google+ Businesses page in the near future. The stand alone Google+ local page which is essentially the same page as your Place page, will be integrated into the full interface of Google+ Business Pages. If you would like to sign up to be a guinea pig for this merge process you may do so on this form (caveat emptor).

Other known bug: Google has been losing a number of legitimate listings to the “We do not currently support this location” bug.