Business Categories Lists for Major Local Search Sites

Categories are the forgotten child of local SEO.

Though they don’t get much attention, categories do get respect: “Proper Category Associations” is the #1 “Foundational Ranking Factor” listed on 2013’s Local Search Ranking Factors study.  (I was one of the people who ranked them up there, and I’m glad other local-searchers agree.)

Picking as many relevant categories as you can is probably the easiest way to make progress on your Google+ Local, Bing Places, Apple Maps, Yelp, and other rankings.

Choosing the right ones is sometimes easier said than done.  Google no longer allows “custom” categories.  That’s nice in a couple of ways: You can choose up to 10 categories, and it’s nice that it’s much harder now to get penalized by accidentally specifying a custom category that Google doesn’t consider kosher.

Still, the categories you want to pick are either on Google’s list or they aren’t.  Which may leave you feeling hamstrung if your business is specialized or “niche.”

Fortunately for us, the categories you can pick on other sites seem to help Google determine what type of business yours is – and what terms you should rank for.

They’re also a huge factor in your rankings on pretty much every other site worth being listed on.

The name of the game is to know your options for categories, on as many sites as possible.  Most of them don’t make it easy to browse all your options.  That’s why I’ve rounded up a bunch of category lists, so you can find the relevant ones easily.

Check out these lists and see if you’ve listed your business under the best categories possible:

Search engines

Google – Browse Mike Blumenthal’s Google Places Category Tool

Bing Places – See my list of Bing business categories (new)

Apple Maps – Dig through this monstrous list put together by Andrew Shotland

Data-aggregators

ExpressUpdate – Pick from OSHA’s Standard Industrial Categories

LocalEze – See my post on LocalEze categories

Factual – Refer to this list when submitting your Factual listing

IYPs

Yelp – Dig through Yelp’s somewhat-buried list, or see my post on Yelp categories

InsiderPages – See this

AngiesList – Here you go

Those are just the category lists I’ve found so far or put together myself.  I’m sure you or I could easily find full lists of categories for rinky-dink sites that nobody’s ever heard of.  But there are a few category lists I’d still like to have.

The sites on my wish-list at the moment are CitySearch, YellowPages, Local.Yahoo.com, and Acxiom (MyBusinessListingManager.com).  Please let me know if you find or make a list of all the categories allowed on those sites!

BrightLocal Webinar on Local Reviews

Today I had the pleasure once again of speaking on a webinar put on by BrightLocal.  It’s part of the InsideLocal series of webinars that’s been going since July, and that will continue through the end of the year.

The one today was all about reviews.

Here’s the video, and below it is the slide deck.

Enjoy!

 

Thanks again to Myles Anderson for inviting me, and to Don Campbell (fellow speaker) and Linda Buquet (Q&A moderator) for a great job.

Any questions?  Thoughts on review strategy?  Feel free to leave a comment on Linda’s forum, or right here.

Top Excuses for Not Asking Customers for Reviews

Many people don’t want to do things that, deep down, they know are good for them.

Asking customers / clients / patients for reviews can be one of those things.

You probably know that reviews are important not only to your local rankings, but also to compelling would-be customers to say, “Hey, I think I’ll give this place a call.”

But you might have some reservations about asking for reviews (to say nothing of some of the obstacles you can’t do anything about).  You’re not sure how best to approach customers, and you’re not sure if it’s worth the trouble.

Many of my clients know that when it comes to reviews I’m like the drill sergeant on Full Metal Jacket.  I’m hard-nosed about reviews, because I’ve seen what a smart, sustained effort to get them can do for a business’s local visibility.

I’m not talking about reviews on one specific site.  True, reviews on Google+ and Yelp are important, but so are reviews on InsiderPages, Yahoo, industry-specific sites (e.g. Avvo, DealerRater, WeddingWire, etc.) – you name it.  I’m talking about why you need to bother with reviews in general.

But some people are still gun-shy.  I’ve heard every excuse there is.  And I’ve got a rebuttal to every one of them.

If you’re ambivalent about asking for reviews – or if you know someone who is and who needs a nudge – then this post is for you.

 

Most of my customers aren’t computer-savvy.

Make it so they don’t need to be.  Make it easy.  Offer guidance.  Give them simple instructions (examples here and here).  You still won’t get reviews from every customer, but that’s always the case, and it’s not the point here.  If you break the process down into simple steps, you’ll get reviews.

 

 

My customers don’t want to set up Google+ accounts.

Again, make it as easy as possible for them – like by telling them that they don’t need to spend an hour filling out their profile, for starters.  Also, if there is a subset of people who are dead-set against touching Google+, just ask those people to review you elsewhere.  You shouldn’t be steering everyone toward Google+ in the first place.

 

They forget.

Then remind them.  Sure, don’t be a pest.  But a polite, casual follow-up to your initial request is appropriate – and it’s a great pretext for getting in touch to say “howdy” and see how they’re doing.  It’s also an important experiment to run: you’ll want to know whether many of your customers really do “just forget,” or whether there might be other barriers to their writing reviews.  Also, mix it up.  If you initially asked someone in-person for a review, send him/her an email as a follow-up.  Or vice versa.

 

I’ve tried asking, and very few people end up leaving me reviews, so I feel like it’s not worth the effort.

You probably won’t have a high batting average – and that’s fine.  As long as you occasionally get a couple reviews, things are heading in the right direction.  On the other hand, if nobody leaves you reviews, that actually tells you quite a bit.  That bit of intel may tell you that you need to tweak your approach to asking for reviews, or that you need to spend a little more time getting to know your customers in the first place.

 

My reviews will only get filtered, so what’s the point?

You’re making the dangerous assumption that reviews are useless for as long as they’re visible on your listings (e.g. Google+, Yelp, InsiderPages, etc.).  What if one of your customers – just one little old customer – told you that the deciding factor in hiring you was your impressive reviews?

(Some of my clients have told me the deciding factor for them was my testimonials, and some have told me that their customers went with them as a result of their reviews.  One of my clients, a top-notch window cleaner in Oregon, said he won a customer just as a result of his Google+ reviews – and he’s only got two of ‘em to date.)

 

There’s never a good time to ask.

Even if it seems that way (emphasis on “seems”), ask anyway.  Experiment with different media, and with asking customers at different times after the transaction (e.g. a day after, a week after, etc.).  Also, what might not feel like a convenient time for you to ask for a review might be a very convenient time for them.

 

I don’t have their email addresses.

Then ask them in-person for reviews.  And try to get their email addresses from now on.  You should be doing so anyway – if only for the reason that if they need your services again, you’ll want to be top-of-mind and as easily reachable as possible.

 

My industry has regulations against it.

If that’s true, congratulations!   You may have the only potentially legitimate excuse reason I know of for not asking customers/clients/patients for reviews.

But, even so, I’m pretty sure there’s no regulation that says your customers/clients/patients are actually forbidden from writing reviews if they so choose.  If that’s the case, then your mission is simply to build “awareness” (I hate that word, but couldn’t think of a better one).  Have links on your website to your Google+, Yelp, and other listings, include those links in your email signatures, and otherwise just generally let it be known that you dig anyone who writes you a review.

Also, you need to look to your competitors on this one.  If they have reviews, either they’re doing something illegal / unethical, in which case you should report them to whatever powers-that-be, or you’re just granting them the upper hand with a shrug.

 

My customers are too concerned about privacy.

Surely not all of them are so concerned that they won’t put in a good word for someone who did a good job for them (you).  But for the ones who are extra-shy, you can ask them to review you on sites that don’t require their full names to be shown in the review.

 

I’m in an industry where people might feel embarrassed to leave me a review.

Some people, sure.  But not everyone.  Let them know that they don’t have to go into detail.

I can’t think of an industry where clients are simply mortified.  When I type in “DUI lawyer,” I see lawyers with reviews.  Likewise if I type in “marriage counseling.”  I once made a Google+ review handout for the owner of a sex toy shop.  Now that place had some glowing reviews.

 

I don’t feel as though it’s professional to ask.

Why?  You shouldn’t be groveling.  That would be unprofessional.  Just make the review come across as a personal favor to you.  Odd as it may sound, people like doing small favors for people who’ve helped them out (even when there was money involved).  It makes us feel more like there’s more of a give-and-take.  But if you still don’t see it that way, have someone else in your organization do it – someone who doesn’t have those reservations.

 

I don’t have the time.

Asking someone for a review takes 90 seconds to maybe 3-5 minutes, depending on whether you ask verbally or by email or through some other medium.  You’ll get even faster once you’ve done it enough that you don’t have to think about what to say every time.  But if you’re that harried – which I doubt – then delegate it to one of your more-senior employees.

 

I already have testimonials on my site, so I don’t need reviews.

They’re not the same thing.  It’s nice to have testimonials on your site.  But they won’t help your rankings, and they won’t help attract people from other sites and get them onto your site in the first place.  Only online reviews can do that.  You should have both reviews and testimonials.  You need social proof everywhere – in every part of your “conversion funnel.”

 

I want to focus on my rankings first.

Can you chew gum and walk at the same time?  How about pat your head and hop on one leg?  Yes, you can multitask.  Also, it’s less likely you’ll get rankings in the first place if people never click through to your Google listing or website after seeing them in the local search results.  Google knows how much (or little) searchers engage with your rankings/listings and – in my experience – those engagement stats influence rankings.  Reviews are signs of life.

Even more significant, rankings without reviews can be a waste.  People need a reason to click.

 

Yelp doesn’t allow business owners to “ask” for reviews.

Yelp is just one site of several that you’d be wise to get reviews on.  Still, you bring up a good point: It’s absolutely true that Yelp is absurdly opposed to your asking for reviews (even in a no-pressure way).  That doesn’t mean you can’t find ways simply to let everyone know that you’re on Yelp.

 

I don’t want to invite bad reviews.

You won’t.  Truly angry customers will write them anyway.  You’re not giving them any ammo, or capability that they didn’t have already.  If they slam you, they were going to slam you anyway.  On the other hand, if some customers give you a 3-star review, there’s probably some constructive criticism in there that you could learn from. Your #1 goal needs to be to deserve good reviews.  How are you going to do that if you just assume that you’re doing everything perfectly already?

Having some bad reviews is inevitable.  You can either crawl under the blankets and pretend that impossible-to-please customers don’t exist and can’t figure out how to post an online review, or you can do what you can to get the happy ones to speak up.

 

It’s all so confusing.

Then read the following pieces and apply the advice in them:

Principles for a Review Plan: Considerations in encouraging customer reviews

The Complete Guide to Google+ Local Reviews – and Especially How to Get Them

My SMX West 2013 Presentation on Customer Reviews

 

I’m afraid they’ll say no.

Right: some people will say no.  What about the ones who will say “sure”?

 

What are your reasons for being gung-ho about reviews – or your excuses reasons for not wanting to ask for them?  Let’s agree or argue – leave a comment!

Quick Thoughts on the Google+ Local Review Pop-up

You may have noticed the annoying pop-up (or lightbox) that appears when you click on a business’s “reviews” link in the Google+ Local search results.

google+reviews--link

Andrew Shotland discovered this review pop-up two days ago.  How about taking a couple minutes to go read his two posts on it (if you haven’t already), and then loop back here.

Here are my initial thoughts on Google’s latest half-baked concoction:

It is going to evolve.  Fast.  Why?  Because Google is pushing people to write reviews, but it’s not getting people onto businesses’ Google+ Local pages.  There’s not even a link on the pop-up that you can click on to visit the Google page.  Businesses won’t use Google+ if their business pages are cloaked from potential customers, and customers won’t write reviews on Google+ unless and until the pop-up does a better job of enticing and inviting them to write a review (think Yelp).

There is no mention of Google+ – neither in the pop-up nor in the steps you’d follow to post a review from within the pop-up screen.  That fact alone is very weird, and suggests to me that all we’re seeing at this stage is a bare foundation that Google will build on.

Assuming the pop-up sticks around, Google will stuff it like a Thanksgiving turkey with knick-knacks meant to boost engagement with Google+ (“Follow” buttons, “+1” buttons, check-in invitations, etc.).

This is a slight bonus for business owners who have upgraded their Google+ Local listings to include all the social features, because the “Google+ page” link still takes searchers to the Google+ page, rather than to the pop-up.

Now is the time to get Google reviews from customers.  Last year wasn’t, because of the draconian review filters.  The review filters are still here, of course, but this year Google has made it clear that they really want more Plus reviews: First they relaxed the filter, then they put reviews front-and-center in the “new” Google Maps and in the local carousel, then they started showing the review stars again, and now they’ve introduced the pop-up.  Google is making it (relatively) easy for you and for your customers.

What are your thoughts on the pop-up?

5-Star Review Ratings Return to Google+ Local Pages

Look at any business’s Google local listing.  Notice anything…different?

That’s right.  Google has returned to showing businesses’ average review ratings on a 5-star scale.

Didn’t happen a moment too soon.  When Google Places became “Google+ Local” in May of 2012, businesses and customers everywhere were confused by Google’s annoying 30-point “Zagat” system of rating businesses.

We’ve known for a little while that Google was about to take the “Zagat” system out to the pasture.

As Mike Blumenthal first noted back in May, when the “new” Google Maps rolled out and you used it to navigate to a Google+ Local page, you’d see its average ratings on a 5-star scale.

What’s different is that now you can see the 5-point ratings outside of the “new” Google Maps.  In other words, Google has finally rolled it out completely.

You don’t have to be logged into your Google account to see the average rating.  If you’re the business owner, you don’t need to have an “upgraded” Google listing in order to have your stars show up.

It seems to have rolled out to countries other than the US, too.

Your average rating shows up on your page only if you have 5 or more reviews – same as before.

5-reviews-average

The only trouble is that, at least temporarily, Google’s reviews system will look a little disjointed.  The 5 stars haven’t returned to every area where Google reviews are shown.

Even though the Zagat scale is no longer showing up when you search from the “Local” tab when logged in at plus.google.com…

…it’s still showing up in the “old” Google Maps and in the Google+ Local search results:

I’m sure Google will return the 5 stars to the search results soon enough.  The fact that they’ve returned to the business pages themselves is a good sign, IMHO.

What do you think?

Doesn’t it feel at least a little bit like an epic return – like when Odysseus came home after 20 years?

Authorship Photo Next to Google’s Own Search Results: Dogfooding or Bug?

I just saw something weird in the search results:

Weird, huh?  I’ve never seen authorship photos appear next to any search results for Google’s pages.

I’m even more stumped why the authorship photo is of a guy who seems not to be affiliated with Google.  Granted, +Matthew Rappaport is a power user and knows his way around a Hangout.  But if anyone’s photo were to show up in the search results for Google’s properties, I’d expect it to be of Matt Cutts’s smiling visage, or maybe a photo of whomever has the corner office in the Local/Maps department these days.

I’m also seeing the same authorship photo in the results when I type in “Google local support,” “Google + Local,” and other terms.

Is Google wetting its beak in its own authorship action?  Is it just a bug?

What are you seeing?  Am I missing something obvious?  Any ideas as to what’s going on here?

The Afterlives of Filtered Google+ and Yelp Reviews

There is an afterlife.

If it sounds like I’m saying that with too much confidence, it’s because I’m not talking about people.

I’m talking about reviews – specifically on Google Plus and Yelp, the two sites where it’s most important but hardest for most “local” business owners to get reviews.

What’s the big difference between those two ultra-important sites and others?  It’s that reviews don’t simply travel from the typing fingers of your customers, to your business listing, to the eyes of potential new customers.

Somewhere along the way, they can disappear because of Google’s or Yelp’s infamous review filters.

It’s possible for a review not to show up even when you know for a fact that a customer wrote one, and it’s possible for it to show up for a while but later disappear.  You name it, it can happen.

What happens to a review once the anti-spam filter mafia works it over?  Does it swim with the fishes?  Is it gagged and tied to a chair in a dingy basement, held captive until you meet certain demands?  Will it be freed?  What can you or others do to free it?

I’ve got some thoughts on those points, and so do Mike Blumenthal and Darren Shaw.

Those two guys were kind enough to share some excellent insights (as you’ll see).

 

Afterlife: Filtered Google Plus Reviews

 

You know some of your reviews have been filtered if your customers are the only ones who can see their reviews on your page.

Let’s say you asked Bob, a customer, for a review.  You know for a fact he went to the right listing, signed into his Google Plus account, and wrote you a review.  If he’s the only one who sees the review on your business page – if nobody else can see Bob’s review – then you know it’s been filtered.

If Bob signs out of his Google account, even he won’t see it on your page any longer.  Bob is in a séance with the ghost of the review, made possible by the hocus pocus that is Google Plus.

 

Where is the filtered review floating around?  Mike Blumenthal has some insight on that:

Google has not been totally transparent about their review filtering. In other words they have been totally opaque about the rules and technologies that they are using.

Reviews are kept in a separate index and not with the basic business data. This allows them to remove or move individual reviews. In the past there were also issues where some reviews were lost, misplaced or otherwise missing that didn’t involve their filter. So sometimes it was difficult to know whether they had just “misplaced” a review or had “misjudged” it.

I think most of those problems have been put behind them so at this point if they are not showing up (but do show under the author) then they are being filtered by the filtering algo.

Assuming that a review is visible under the author then if it were ever to be unfiltered by a human at Google. Google can now also move reviews from one business listing to another. These both mean that Google has obviously developed internal tools to allow support staff to this which they never had before.

[Links added by me, not by Mike.]

It’s possible for the review to come back.  It may return to your page – exactly where you and your customer wanted it to go – if Google relaxes its filtering algorithm.  This happened in January of 2013, after about 7 months of draconian filters that sent far too many innocent reviews to the gallows.  It was a great feeling to see many of my clients’ legitimate and hard-earned reviews reappear on their Google listings.

But is there anything you or your customer can do to resurrect your reviews?  I’ve never seen it done, and it doesn’t sound as though Mike thinks it’s doable:

Given that we do not know all of the parameters that cause a review to be filtered we don’t really know and can’t easily test if any given review can be unfiltered in some way. The review filter, unlike Yelp’s, seems more complicated and layered. If that is the case and Google scores multiple attributes of any given review it would seem that it would be unlikely that they could be surfaced by user activities. Possible but unlikely.

So, aside from wait and hope that Google later recognizes that your reviews were legit all along, what can you do?  I think all you can do is the following:

Ask your customers to log into their Google accounts, copy the review that they wrote, and email it to you.  (They have to log into their Plus accounts, click on the “Home” and then “Local” tabs on the left, then click the link under “Your places.”)

First study the review itself and see if you can discern anything that might have tripped the filter to begin with, and see if you can glean any insights that way.

Then copy and paste a sentence or two of the review text into Google, and see what comes up in the search results.  It may be the case that Google accidentally stuck the review onto someone else’s listing, in which case you may be able to get it moved to where it belongs.

Don’t give up.  Google reviews are never truly dead, as I’ve noticed, and as Mike explains:

Nothing at Google is ever thrown away. Not a listing, not reviews, not anything.

You can’t really even delete a listing. If Google thinks a listing should be shown that you have “deleted” in the dashboard they will show it. Only by “closing” a listing can you make it inactive.

Reviews are the same. They never go away and the system is always looking for a listing to attach them to.

However now that 1) they can unmerge listings and 2) move reviews around it is possible to get reviews off of one listing and onto another if they are there inappropriately.

 

Afterlife: Filtered Yelp Reviews

 

The “afterlife” of Yelp reviews isn’t nearly as mysterious.

They rest securely in Yelp’s “filtered reviews” section.  Like Egyptian mummies, Lenin, or poor cryogenically frozen Ted Williams, they can be seen by humans.

Yelp grants these reviews a little privacy:

Not all visitors are allowed in the mausoleum:

I’ve learned over time that reviews on Yelp get filtered out based on reviewers’ activity – or, more specifically, their inactivity – rather than on what they write.  I’ve seen Yelp both filter and allow reviews that are short, long, helpful, lousy, full of keywords, devoid of keywords – you name it.  I’ve seen helpful, appropriate reviews get filtered, and I’ve seen raunchy ones go through.

What Yelp seems to look at, above all, is how active a Yelper the reviewer is.  If your customer goes onto your listing, gives you 5 stars and a review, leaves, and isn’t already in the habit or doesn’t get in the habit of writing reviews on Yelp regularly, his or her review probably will never see the light of day.  The reviews of first-timers are marked for death.

What can you do if your reviews have been filtered?  Can you rouse them back to life?  Well, it depends on how close you are with your customers.  You can’t do it alone.  Here’s Darren Shaw’s advice

As far as I know, the key to unfiltering Yelp reviews is to engage the reviewer. Many reviews get filtered because the reviewer created an account, left a review, then didn’t use the site again. Yelp trusts reviews from its active users more than the inactive ones, so “activate” that reviewer. Friend them. Respond to their review. “Like” their review. Send them a message through Yelp. Encourage them to review other businesses on Yelp. With a bit of activity, we’ve seen reviews raise from the dead on Yelp.

One tip I’ve wanted to share is how to find people you know on Yelp. I discovered that this google search can help:

yelp “first_name last_initial.” city_name

(Try it on yourself)

Now imagine you have a database of customers, and you check them all with this search. You could put a little “flag” on their account and have your staff let them know you’re on Yelp the next time they come in.

Reviews on Yelp weave in and out of life.  As Darren says, the variable that determines whether they stay on terra firma is how active the user is.  Even if a review is unfiltered, it can get filtered again if the reviewer goes inactive for more than about 3 weeks.  I’ve personally seen it happen to reviews that I’ve  written for businesses I frequent.  Yelp reviews can die off and be resurrected more than once.  There’s not just one afterlife for them.  They can always go “poof” or rematerialize, depending mostly on whether the reviews come someone who’s part of or becoming part of Yelp’s “community.”

Pretty much all reviews benefit your business – a little or a lot.  Here’s my geeky way of thinking about their value to you:

length of time you’ve had a review X how positive the review is X your local rankings = its value to you

That’s why you need to do what you can to get reviews in the first place, and to do what you can to get them back if they ever go anywhere.  Now you have the ability to do both.

Last but not least…thanks to Mike and to Darren for their great insights!

Checklist for Keeping Google+ Reviews out of the Filter

Don’t you hate it when your customers’ Google+ reviews get devoured by the hungry “anti-spam” filter?

After all, all you’re doing is asking your customers in a polite and un-pushy way to leave some honest feedback on your business’s Google+Local listing.

They say “No problem,” they go to write you a review…and nothing happens.  They’re frustrated, you’re frustrated, and your reviews end up swimming with the fishes.

It shouldn’t be this way, but it is.  Getting reviews takes some finesse.

I’ve had a lot of success helping my clients and others get the results of their karma, in the form of Google reviews.

That’s why I’ve put together a quick checklist of what are, in my experience, the best ways to prevent customers’ reviews from getting gobbled by Google’s filters.  It’s a quick reference for business owner and local SEO-er alike.

Here you go:
(click to download PDF)

 

Obviously, there’s never any guarantee that your customers’ reviews won’t get filtered.  But if you’re following those best-practices, you’re probably not trying to spam or game the system in any way, and you should end up with the reviews you deserve.

(By the way, if you want even more info, check out my monstrous complete guide to Google+ reviews.)

How to Edit Your Google+Local Page – Step by Step

 Update – 5:33pm, 6/10:

Be sure to read Linda’s super-helpful and clarifying comment at the bottom of this post.  The steps I lay out here may help you, but in a different way from how I thought they would.  Long story short, it seems I got my wired crossed 🙂

The switchover from Google Places to Google+Local pages has probably been pretty hands-free for you: Your Places page automatically became Google+Local page.

Unless you’ve already gone into your new listing, it probably looks a little bare.  Some of the info from your old Places page may be missing on your new page.  But making edits or adding info to your Google+Local page can be confusing – especially if you haven’t logged into your Google+Local page yet.  It’s easy to get lost.

I think it’ll once again be easy to make edits to your local listing once Google goes through the next round of changes and switches over completely to “Google+ for Business” pages.

But in the meantime, during the long transition, you need to be able to navigate the confusion.  That’s why I’ve put together this step-by-step walkthrough on how to edit your Google+Local page.

(By the way, I’m assuming you created and claimed your Google Places page some time ago, and that you just want to know how to edit your listing through the new Google+Local interface.)

Follow steps 1-19 if you haven’t logged into your Google+Local page, edited it, or added information to it since May 30, 2012.  In other words, if you haven’t done anything with your Google+Local page, follow ALL the below steps, 1 -19.

Follow steps 13-19 if you’ve spent some time in your Google+Local page but simply want to know how to edit it (or forgot how to).  If this describes you, scroll down to step 13.

How to edit your Google+Local page IF you’re logging into it for the first time:

1.  Click the “+You” button in the top-left of Google’s homepage.

2.  Click “Sign In” and sign in with the Google account you used to create your Google Places page.  (If this isn’t possible, it’s still fine if you use a different one.)

 

3.  Fill in your name and click “Upgrade.”

 

4.  Feel free to skip the next few steps – the ones that ask you to find your “friends,” add a profile photo, etc.  You can always loop back to these later.

 

5.  You should now be on your Google+ page.  In the bottom-left corner of the screen, click the “More” button, then click “Pages.”

 

6.  Click “Create new page.”

 

7.  Under “Pick a category,” select “Local Business or Place, enter the phone number of your business on the right, then click “Locate.”

 

8.  Click on your business listing (it should have a red map pin).

 

9.  Select a category from the dropdown menu.  These are only rough categories, so just pick whichever one seems most applicable.

 

10.  Click “Create.”

 

11.  Add a main photo to your Google+Local page, or click “Continue” if you feel like skipping this step.

 

12.  Click “Finish.”

 

How to edit your Google+Local after the initial setup (above):

13.  While logged into your Google+ page, hover over the “Pages” button on the left, and click on your business name when it appears in the drop-out menu.

 

IF you don’t see the “Pages” button on the left, hover over the “More” button in the bottom-left, and then select the “Pages” button when it appears in the drop-out menu.

 

14.  Your business name should appear.  Click “Switch to this page.”

 

15.  On the left, click “Profile.”

 

16.  Click “Edit profile” (near top of page).

 

17.  You’ll see a menu of info that you can edit (“Introduction,” “Hours,” etc.).  Click once on each area you’d like to edit, make any changes you’d like, and hit “Save.”

(Make sure to use the same info you put on your Google Places page, if it’s not already showing up.)

 

18.  When you’re done editing or adding your info, click “Done editing” (near the top of the page).

 

19.  Grab a cold brew to reward yourself for a job well done.  Then get back to work on the other steps toward more local visibility in Google, getting reviews, etc. 🙂

(In case you weren’t sure, despite the switch to Google+Local, these steps are as applicable and necessary as ever).

Also make sure to request to be notified by Google when the next changes roll out.

 

Cheat Codes for Google+Local Customer Reviews

Cheat codes to get you to the next level...of customer reviewsIf you’re confused as to how to get customer reviews on your Google+Local page (the page formerly known as Places), your customers are probably confused-er.

Common questions from customers include:

Do I need a Google+ page to write a review?

How do I find your business in Google now?

…and

How do I write you a review?

If you’re like many business owners, your big question is: “How do I show my customers how to review me – without overwhelming them?

Here are some instructions you can customize to your business – which walk customers through how to post a review on your Google+Local page:

This handout is specific to one of my clients, as you can probably tell.  But feel free to rip off the layout or adapt it to your business.

If you’ve got mad PDF-editing skills, you can customize the handout to your business.

Or you can take the images I use and stick them in a design program of your choice. (Here’s a zip file of the images.)

Or you can doodle it on paper, scan it in, and then print it or email it to your customers.

Note that the PDF contains embedded links that take customers straight to where they can sign up for a Plus account and to your Google+Local page.

As an alternative, here are some written instructions you can send customers (you can use them verbatim, though you may want to make step #5 specific to your business):

  1. Go to https://plus.google.com/
  1. Create a Google Plus page/account
  1. Log into your Google Plus page (or stay signed in)
  1. On the left side of your Plus page, click the “Local” tab
  1. Search for us near the top of the page (in the boxes next to where it says “Google+”)
  1. Click the little pencil for “write a review”
  1. If Google asks you any questions, just click “Continue”
  1. Select a rating number (“0-3”), write the review, and click “publish.”

Right now, in this “transition” period , there are several ways customers can post a review for you.  I’ve simply found that the above steps – particularly the ones in the handout – to be the most straightforward and the least likely to change long-term.

I’d love any suggestions for how to make the steps easier, though.

(By the way, you can always have me custom-make a Google review handout – like the one above – for your business.  I give these review handouts to all my clients, and I’ve made them as standalone pieces for hundreds of business owners who’ve just needed more Google reviews.)