We all know that social media sites—Facebook, Pinterest, Yelp, etc.—are changing the way people shop. But did you know that Google, the most popular search engine in the world, has built what’s likely to become the most important social media platform for small retailers?
Google+ (Google Plus) is a social networking site and identity service that launched last summer offering all the social share-ability of Facebook, but with an added layer that aims to create search results that truly reflect the best local businesses in any given area.
Maximize Social Media, a bicoastal social media agency, recently launched a program specifically for independent jewelers, the Jeweler Local Business Listing Optimization Service, that strives to generate visibility on Google+ through the manipulation of more than 100 optimization tactics.
We talked to Chris McLaughlin, chief executive officer of Maximize Social Media, about how to move your business up Google+’s lists, and how the platform is poised to become this generation’s Yellow Pages.
JCK: Why is Google+ so important?
Chris McLaughlin: Google+ is where most of the traffic is. The layout of Google has changed dramatically over the last year and even the last month. It used to be that you would hire someone to do SEO (search engine optimization) for you. They would put backlinks for your company online, and you’d eventually start appearing on the first page. Now that’s no longer the case. Google is getting into the local business arena in a big way. They recently bought Frommers and Zagat. Google is saying that businesses that have a lot of social interaction are by default popular businesses. It’s very easy to do a bunch of backlinks and all of that. With social signals, it’s harder. Then they rank the businesses according to social [standing], among other factors.
What does your company do to optimize Google+ search results for jewelers?
There are over 100 different ways to optimize a business, but a lot of businesses are unaware that their website itself has to be optimized. We’ll put on an H card – which tells search engines, ‘This is my name, this is my address, and this is who I am.’ Without that, Google will see an address and a phone number and they don’t necessarily know they go with your business.
We also install a Google map on their actual website. Google likes people who actually use their tools. They reward that by giving higher rankings. If you’re in the first position on Google+, you get roughly 30 to 40 percent of the traffic from the search term. That’s where it becomes fun. You can pay thousands of dollars to Google for that top spot, or you can do our plan and get one of the top spots for a fraction of the cost.
Is optimizing all these factors easier than pay-per-click advertising?
We’re trying to avoid pay-per-click advertising, because it’s expensive. If there are 5,400 people every month searching for ‘San Diego Jeweler,’ the approximate cost per click is $6.16. There are over 100 factors that Google factors in to make the lists, you just have to know them.
Why is Google+ so valuable for small businesses?
There’s a preference built in for local addresses and local businesses. Google looks at your IP address and figures out what’s in your hometown. The result is based on where the user is searching from. It’s all going to be very local—everything is moving local, local, local. That’s where Google wants to play. They know by playing this they are going to get a great response from users. It’s a really neat way of getting results that people are going to be happier with, as opposed to a bunch of results that are the product of people gaming the system.
Google has put a huge emphasis on improving quality of search results. That’s why they’re moving into social media. We optimize by building citations, putting info in directories, and starting to encourage feedback on the Google+ page and grow their followers. Time on the task is what’s going to matter, and lots of retailers don’t have the time to do it. But what jewelers are going to find is if they get in early and start now, they’re going to have a [good standing]. A year from now everyone’s going to know what I’m talking about. Local SEO is basically dead. Google+ is the new thing.