Do more to be found online, more than just Google Places
Are you confused about how Google Places is different from Google +, or how one or the other can help you generate new towing business? You are not alone. Do you need one, both, or neither? Google has not made it easy to understand, and it's left many frustrated and annoyed. Let's clear up the confusion, and get you on your way to attracting more towing customers.
What is Google Places? Google Places is the information that Google displays to people about your business. Google will probably already have your towing business listed in results, but your Google Places page allows you to control what information Google has and presents to people about your business. You can fill in your Places page with information such as a description of the services you offer, images of your trucks, hours of operation, and contact information. You manage all of this information in your Google Places dashboard so you can change it anytime you wish.
You have to sign up for Google Places, this wiki has step by step instructions for doing that: http://www.wikihow.com/Add-Places-to-Google-Maps, and then you're set to taking control of how people find you to tow their car.
Google + Local page
Google + Local pages are where you connect with customers and/or others in the towing industry by putting them in your circles (similar to "friends" on Facebook or "followers" on Twitter). However unlike your Facebook likes or twitter followers, your Google + rating show up in your search results. What is particularly interesting about Google+ is the idea that Google is starting to offer personalized search results based on your Google+ connections. For example, Person A puts your company in his/her circle, then when Person A searches for something related to your company you are more likely to pop up at the top of that search result. If person B types in that exact same query but does not have you in his/her Google+ circles, you might pop up at the very bottom of the search result instead. Those who have your company in their circles will be able to see updates from your company, whether it be blog posts or just a general comment on the feed. So the more people who add you to their circles or +1 you on Google +, the more towing business you will receive.
Your general business information and photos are also visible to help give social users the full picture of your company. You are in control of adding in all of this information as well as updating your feed as you wish (just like the way if works for Facebook).
Do Towing Businesses Need Either?
It's very important for towing businesses to get involved in Google Places as well as Google+ Local for two major reasons:
First, it helps to put you in control of your brand. Whether you like it or not, your company is going to be mentioned somewhere on the Internet by customers. You want to make sure that the right information about your company is displayed, and Google+ and Google Places allow you to do just that. You can update your contact information, images, etc. and you can connect with customers and answer their questions or respond to their online reviews.
Second, it helps you gain increased visibility. As discussed above, Google is beginning to move to a more holistic approach to search. Link building is still important, but social (amongst others) is starting to become just as much of a ranking factor. The more information you can give Google, the better.
In the end, both are free to set up and easy to use. With Google being the top search engine, maintaining visibility and control of your online presence, is a must.
Combining Google Places & Your Local Google+ Page
You can now manage your Google+ Business page within your Google Places dashboard, which means both are somewhat combined from a management standpoint. You will only see this tab if you have a Google Places dashboard and have verified your Google+ Business page account.
Here's where things get tricky.
You can verify a Google+ local page and your existing Google Places listing for your business will be merged with that Google+ local page. You then have one local page for Google that combines the features of both of the two different kinds of pages described above (reviews, scores, social sharing, etc.). This page is then called simply Google+ Local – complete with features from Google Places as well as an option to manage your Google+ Business Page.
You can verify your Google+ local page by clicking Manage this page > verify your business > adding in contact information > request postcard > wait for your postcard and receive a PIN number to verify online. Visit this page for detailed step-by-step instructions.
Now that you know the differences and how to set them up, next week we will dive into using these tools to make a real difference in your business traffic.