As an internet marketer that works just with local businesses, I’ve seen a lot of blog posts lately about why businesses need to be on Google+.
A lot of them start off with “8 reasons why you should be on Google+” or “The 5 immutable laws of Google+” or whatever. I am not a cynical person but after reading a lot of “lists” posts and “Top 10 reasons why…” posts, I’m honestly just sick of it. These posts add no value, teach you nothing someone else hasn’t already said before and quite frankly, waste my time.
So, after reading about 3 posts over my breaking point, I decided to write this post myself to counterweight.
So let’s cut through the crap and talk about why YOU as a local business, need to be on Google+…or do you?
Target Market (Direct Sales)
To think the same reasons an e-commerce company or national brand should be on Google+ transmutes into good reasons for you to be on Google+ as a local business is a fallacy.
In all marketing, you need to focus on your target market because your target market turns into direct sales for you. About the only thing your target market has in common with their target market is the word “consumer” and…that’s about it. A national brand’s target market may be on Google+. Heck, we’re a B2B company and our target market is on Google+ because businesses are on Google+ trying to use it mostly for SEO (more on this later). If you’re a B2B business, then your target market is probably on Google+ but if you’re a B2C company you need to ask the question:
Is your target market on Google+?
Literally, do people in your city use Google+? If they don’t, your target market and consequently, direct sales is not a reason to be on Google+. To be honest, I don’t know any city where consumers are on Google+ en masse. I think you’re probably kidding yourself as a local business if you think your consumers are on Google+. Google+ is full of tech people and companies trying to use Google+ for SEO.
Out of the lists of reasons to be on Google+ as a local business, “because my target market is there” is not a reason.
I Do It For Local SEO
We’ve done a fair amount of testing on Google+ here, especially with Tutelary Marketing’s clients and we have not seen a definitive correlation between Google+, +1’s, followers, reshares or anything else Google+ related that we can point to and say, “Hey, that right there increased our ranking 1 spot”.
There are tons of blog posts and studies out there claiming Google+, +1’s etc help your ranking.
And for every one of those posts or studies, there’s another “proving” Google+ and +1’s don’t work.
At this point it’s just a toss up and I probably won’t read another post written by someone else on Google+ and SEO anytime soon.
Here’s the truth:
Unless you have just an unlimited amount of time to do your Local SEO, your time is better off building links. Links still work and will always work.
So, Josh, you’re saying I shouldn’t be on Google+ for Local SEO then? Not unless you’re building for the future.
As soon as Google can understand social signals (really, just control the spam) then +1’s will be very, very relevant. I also believe for Local SEO, with merged Google+ Local pages being able to have followers, +1’s, posts, etc. that eventually those will all factor into your Local SEO.
I firmly expect one day to wake up and see all of Tutelary Marketing’s clients and our students at the Local Business Internet Marketing Universty jump to the top of Google’s local pack because of the work we’ve done on Google+.
But that won’t be tomorrow, or the next day, or the next.
Being on Google+ for Local SEO is fine as long as you’re not trying to increase your Local SEO right now.
If that’s what you’re on Google+ for, you’re more than likely wasting your time.
I’m On Board For Personalized Search
For those of you that don’t know what personalized search is, personalized search is when a Google+ user interacts with your Google+ business page, your posts and pages can actually show up in their search results. Say you’re a cleaning company in Baltimore and a Google+ user just +1’d your Google+ page and then searched for “cleaning companies in Baltimore”, there’s a really good chance you’ll show up on the search results for that search.
Not really, not yet. Google+ just does not have the local consumer base to justify you putting resources (namely time of course) into Google+ just for personalized search. For there to be personalized search, you need consumers to interact with. Your local customer base is not on Google+ in an amount that makes personalized search worthwhile for your time.
Again, your time is better off spent building links so you can show up in those same search results.
Relationships, A Different Type of Target Market
Chances are there are a lot of other businesses in your industry, in separate locations (so their not competitors) that you can build relationships with on Google+ that will benefit you.
You can share things that are working in your business, things that aren’t working, marketing ideas, sales ideas, talk about business efficiency, get help, etc.
These relationships can also benefit you in Local SEO. I’ve even seen people in certain communities start to leave reviews for one another on each others’ Google+ Local pages. In my opinion, this isn’t reviewer fraud because in most instances, they each state they haven’t used the service but own a cleaning company in another part of the country and know that “John” knows his stuff. At the end of the day, that’s still a review.
Do you know how hard it is to get Google reviews? And eventually, those reviews from those people will be worth A LOT when Google+ kicks into gear on grading a review based on that person’s interaction on Google+, much like Yelp already does. It’s going to happen.
These business owners can also help you build links. I won’t go into detail on that because that’s something we cover in the private membership area of the University and something our members pay for but it can be done and I’m sure even now you’re thinking of ways to make that happen. Attack them.
These are just a few of the reasons why relationships on Google+ make it worth your time to be on Google+ as a local business.
When you add in building for the future when it comes to Local SEO and even personalized search if Google+ ever catches on, it’s a no brainer in my opinion.
To Be Or Not To Be
I’m sorry for the title, I had to…
I think that it is worthwhile for a local business to be on Google+. However, if you are averse to relationship building, which is perfectly common, I think it’s probably a waste of your time. As common as “relationship building” is in marketing advice, it’s absolutely true in context.
If you don’t like to build relationships (again, let me stress this, that’s okay) then you’re banking completely on target market, Local SEO, and personalized search, which I think is a bad decision for the reasons already mentioned above, unless you’re okay with waiting for that SEO help to kick in later on down the road.
However, if you do like to build relationships and now how to use them but also how to provide reciprocal value, I think Google+ is probably a no brainer for you.
Here’s The Bottom Line
If you choose to be on Google+, just know WHY you’re on Google+. When you know why, it helps you spend your time on Google+ wiser which is an invaluable asset. I know you’re in the same boat as me where I’ll be on Google+ for 2 hours only meaning to be on there 10 minutes and most of that time was spent in an area that wasn’t optimal for my growth and I’ll do this if I don’t concentrate on why I’m on Google+.
Don’t spend so much time worrying about how Google+ can help you with your Local SEO, or your target market, or personalized search because right now, it really can’t.
Focus on the relationships.
If you’re not interested in the relationships, then there’s probably no reason for you to be on Google+ to be honest, and that’s okay.
Comments and questions are always welcomed and encouraged. Whether you agree with our assessment of Google+ for local businesses or have a dissenting opinion, we just want to hear from you. Also, don’t forget to share this around your social media circles and give other local businesses a chance to ponder why they should or shouldn’t be on Google+.[social4i size=”small”]