The Insider’s Perspective On Google+ Local: An Interview With Yodle’s Louis Gagnon

Google+ Local recently hit its one year anniversary, and it’s been a busy year over there, with upgrades and changes. If you’re not aware, Google+ Local pages can help your business connect with customers, are indexed by the search engine, and include user reviews and Zagat ratings, which can help to boost your business’s online presence.

Yodle, an online marketing company that serves over 35,000 small- and medium-sized businesses, was recognized by Google as its leading Small Business partner and mobile champion. Louis Gagnon, Chief Product and Marketing Officer at Yodle, was kind enough to give us an insider’s perspective on how Google may further develop and monetize its +Local platform.

The following interview has been lightly edited for space and clarity.

SmallBizTechnology.com: How has Google+ Local affected small businesses?

Louis Gagnon: Some things have not affected small businesses. It’s still just as important as ever for them to claim and maintain a place on Google, and to follow the same Search Engine Optimization best practices when inputting the profile information.  For example, small businesses should still take measures such as inserting target keywords in the “description” and “category” fields, including their local area phone code, and incorporating photos in their profile.

What has become more important is for the small business to create a Google+ Business Page. Maintaining another social media page may sound like arduous work but there is anecdotal evidence that having a Google+ Business page positively impacts a Google+ Local ranking and it is clearly important to start forming connections via Google+ circles in order to increase credibility and authority on Google.

Getting a high volume of quality customer reviews on Google has always been important to improve rankings in the search results but Google upped the ante when launching Google+ Local.  On account of consumers having to join Google+ to provide reviews, both they and their connections on Google+ now see their recommendations on Google when they’re logged into Google and are conducting a search that brings up the small business name. Small businesses shouldn’t gloss over the importance of still securing reviews on the likes of Yelp or CitySearch but Google should now be the priority. 

SMT: What are the biggest updates that you’ve recently seen around Google+ Local?

LG: Over recent months there has been an updated layout on Google+ Local that includes an expanded map as the main cover photo display and business information blended into the map towards the bottom. Directions, favorites, sharing and review buttons are now also easier to find under the map/cover photo.

In April, Google released its new dashboard for Google+ Local and began to automatically add it to all U.S. business listings. Any new users who sign up for a Google account will automatically have the new dashboard. Before the new dashboard, multiple people, groups, or entities could claim a listing and request a postcard to verify ownership of a specific location. This meant there could be several logins that corresponded to one business. With the new dashboard, there’s a single login and ownership for every listing.

One of Google’s primary goals with Google+ Local was to merge duplicate listings, improving the accuracy of search results and better meeting the intent of consumers. This explains why Google recently expanded their results and invested increased resources to get those results to be more accurate. Now, search results are based on the longitude/latitude for mobile users or IP address for desktops/laptops.

SMT: What do you think could be improved on Google+ Local?

LG: To date, Google+ Local still doesn’t have the ability to handle multi-location businesses. The new dashboard doesn’t recognize when businesses have the same name but different locations. This is a big disadvantage to franchises who own chains, but Google is aware of this need and may add the capability to the platform.

(Also,) trigger terms can set off Google’s “nanny filter.” Google has strict guidelines around when businesses can show their address and when they can’t. If the email address you use to create your account has a city name in it, Google might send you a notification that it doesn’t meet their quality guidelines.

SMT: Where is Google+ Local going in the future?

LG: With the direction that Google+ Local is headed in – web, local and social signals – it is clear that Google is attempting to provide search results tailored as closely as possible to a searcher’s intent.  What this means is that monitoring general search results will become less relevant.  What is – and will – become more relevant is presenting the unique message of a business to their community.  Through Google + Local, individual local businesses can compete with a national brand.  This digital equality will be one of the biggest game changers that SMB’s have seen in some time.

SMT: What advice do you have for our readership on SmallBizTechnology.com?

LG: Over the course of my career, it’s become increasingly clear to me that people and relationships play such a crucial role in a company’s ability to succeed. Relationships that you form with customers, employees, partners, investors, vendors, or other stakeholders need constant nurturing. If I had realized just how important this was when I was first began my career, I would have spent even more time thinking about exactly how to do that in order to achieve even better results when it came to early and sustained customer satisfaction, recruiting great talent, building exceptional morale, and generating good will.

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Thanks to Louis for his time!

Is your business on Google+ Local? Link us to your page in the comments below! We’d love to hear your story.

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About Vincenzo Ravina

Vincenzo Ravina is a writer, journalist and giraffe enthusiast from Halifax, Nova Scotia. You can learn more at his website, http://VincenzoRavina.com, or follow him on Twitter at @RavinaSBT.