Encouraging Google +1 votes For Local Business Websites
Posted on January 19th, 2012
Search has been going through changes. Lots of changes. A search ranking position is no longer a number as much as it is a probability within a range. Localization, personalization, search history, logged in or out Google users, mobile device users – from one searcher to the next your position in the search results will vary considerably.
Now enter “Search Plus your World“. Google’s latest big shake up in the search ranking algorithm. Here Google is looking at social media clues, specifically through it’s own social network Google Plus. In a nutshell, if you are a Google Plus user and do a search while logged into your Google account you may see some results from pages people in your network have shared in G+ or have clicked on a +1 button for that page. Those pages, regardless of how they ranked without these social clues, will now rank much more favorably for that searcher. Plus the searcher will see icons of the people in their network who have +1′d that page. In other words, people they know have already vouched for that page/site.
This will become important for local businesses. As Google + use grows, and now that they inject this stuff into the search results it’ll get more exposure and see more growth, average users will mainly have networks of friends and family and those networks will be predominantly local.
As a local business you want to encourage mainly locals to be plus 1 voting on your pages. This will cause your search results to be favored for more and more local searches by local people logged into a Google account.
Forget the new schemes popping up to buy hundreds of plus 1 votes. Those will be meaningless to a local business as it is very likely nobody in that network are local to that business. That and it is likely a manufactured network just to sell +1’s in bulk so again the people within the circles of those accounts are not likely to be local either.
Here are some ways to encourage +1 action on your small business website.
Place +1 Buttons on Every Page of Your Site
This is a no-brainer. Most of us have seen the proliferation of Facebook Like buttons, Tweet This buttons and now the Google +1 button. Place these in a prominent place like your header or near the top of a sidebar. Simply having them on your pages means some people may actually click them. As a small local business it is likely the bulk of your website traffic is local, so most the +1’s you obtain will be locals.
An example is this website I just put together for a friend who is a painting contractor in Kelowna, BC (it was a Christmas gift from his wife and myself ). You’ll see +1 and FB like buttons in the header area just below the phone number. These appear on every page.
Include the +1 Button with a Message in your Contact Form Thank You Pages
If a user lands on a thank you page after submitting a form (or making an ecommerce purchase) you’ve just had a conversion. Yay for conversions! Now that user is a special user, they’ve made an action that makes them more connected to your business. This person is probably more likely to take an extra action to share you on their network. Show them a special message on that thank you page about sharing your link in Google+, Facebook and/or Twitter.
Be sure to set your buttons here to share your home page, not your thank you page. When creating a +1 button use the Advanced options to set that button for a specific page.
Here’s a screen shot of the painters thank you page with a section about sharing.
The thank you page could also include links to your social media profiles, if your business has them (this painter does not, yet), and ask for a follow on FB or Twitter and an add to Circles on Google +.
Include a Message About Sharing your Link in Thank You Emails
Are you collecting customer emails and sending them a little thank you note after doing business with them? You should, or try to as much as you can (not everyone wants to give you their email addy). These thank you emails are great places to be asking for online reviews with links out to your Google Places listing, Yelp listing and maybe a couple other local review websites. Some of your customers may take action from those emails and go leave you a coveted review.
Besides reviews you should now be placing links to your social media profiles and asking for the share, like, tweet or +1. Some may take action.
Create a Google + Profile for your Business
Google has now opened up Plus to businesses and brands. Set up a business profile here. Once you have a plus account for your local business go about building circles and try to add locals.
Link to your Social Profiles in your Email Signature
Are you using an email signature? You should. It should have your name, phone number and website address at a minimum. It should also link to your Google Plus profile, Facebook page, and/or Twitter page. Below is a screen shot of my current email signature.
These are just a few simple ways to give more exposure to Google Plus buttons for your website. Over time people will slowly click those buttons and you will expand your local reach in personalized social search. It likely won’t be long before Google Places listings become more integrated into Google Plus and those listings become social profiles for local businesses.
Like it or not, Google Plus will become more of a contender in the Social space. By placing these Plus signals right into search results Google is becoming very aggressive about promoting its social network and have decided that beating Facebook is worth selling their soul. Expect it to have an impact in local search too.
If you have more ideas on how to encourage more +1ing for local businesses be sure to add them in the comments below.