Google has integrated Google+ content into its search engine results to improve relevance for users. Whether or not you buy the reasoning, opportunity abounds for nimble brands that embrace Google+. Remember, Google+ represents more than just another social network since its content now spills over into Google's search engine results pages, sharing real estate with more traditional SEO and pay per click results—two of the most profitable online marketing channels for many brands.
Never fear. Asking a few simple questions can get your brand headed in the right direction.
Are we thinking locally to boost visibility and success?
Some national and regional brands have found great success leveraging local dealers, agents, distributors, retailers and franchisees to boost the national brand along with local visibility and sales. Automated local search marketing technologies help brands scale programs focused on Google Places, Bing Local and more. This makes it easier to build and maintain a national web of visibility made up of hundreds or thousands of local entities. If your local and search marketing teams aren't working to leverage local in this fashion, ask them why as soon as possible.
Will Google+ deliver the same local benefits?
Even though Google+ is impacting search results in a big way, scalability for brands on the social network is limited until Google opens up an API for Google+ to anyone needing access. Unfortunately, that means brands must spend significant time to create and maintain Google+ Brand pages for their brick and mortar locations.
Some brands that want to proactively embrace Google+ have chosen to run local marketing pilot programs on the social network to learn the ins and outs of Google+ and its potential impact on local marketing efforts. The test programs position brands for future success by learning now so they can scale later.
Anatomy of a Google+ local marketing pilot program
CMOs should talk to their teams about the potential benefits of starting now with Google+. Brands choosing to move forward with a local marketing pilot program should start by:
1. Choosing local entities that already have an active local social strategy to participate in the pilot
2. Enrolling a manageable number of locations in the pilot: five-ten percent of all locations to start
3. Building all Google+ pages to be locally relevant by using keywords that describe the business, services, location and areas served
4. Maintaining the pages: keep content fresh by posting often (every 48-72 hours), localizing posts and encouraging interaction with circles
5. Leveraging existing resources: link all business profile websites, mobile pages, Google Place pages and other resources to Google+ to drive +1s; conversely, incorporate these links into your about and introduction sections of your Google+ Brand page
6. Encourage employees, vendors, customers and partners to create pages and build circles with your Google+ pages
When tracking the success of your brand's pilot program, make sure your teams focus on followers, engagements, +1's, comments and shares. They should monitor these social trends weekly and study the impact a Google+ local business presence has on your local search engine rankings.
As Google+ grows, lessons learned during the pilot stage will provide ample benefits to the brands that make the early investment.
Jon Schepke (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president and founder of SIM Partners.