If your business has a local presence — anywhere — you must take advantage of Google+ Local. Creating and optimizing Google+ Local profiles is a critical marketing practice for local small businesses, multi-location enterprises, national franchises and companies with a single physical location. It will help you reach 97% of consumers who search for local businesses online.

Google+ Local not only helps web searchers find and share local business information, but it can also help your business get displayed near the top of Google SERPs. When a search is made with local intent, Google typically displays “blended results” that include Google+ Local listings at the top and organic results underneath — or, in some instances, the Google Local carousel will be shown at the top of the SERP.

What follows are five simple tips to help you dominate search results, own more “real estate” on the SERP, and beat your competition.

1. Complete Your Profile 100%

Yes, this may sound obvious, but it is unbelievable how many listings are only 50% complete. Google often gives preference to profiles that are 100% complete — providing them with as much information as possible allows them, in turn, to provide the best user experience for searchers.

Google also takes into consideration hours of operation, i.e., whether your business is open during the time period in which a search is conducted. If your hours of operation are not completed in your Google+ Local profile, you could be left out of search results. Don’t forget about photos which can help showcase your business and help your listing stand out from the crowd.

2. Make Your NAP Consistent

This is true for all listings, not just Google+ Local. Make sure your Name/Address/Phone number (NAP) is accurate and identical everywhere online. For example, if your address has a suite number, be consistent. Don’t write “Suite” on your website and “Ste.” on your local business listing. Don’t use a local phone number in your business listing and a toll-free number on your site.

NAP inconsistencies can trigger Google+ Local to auto-generate listings, which are not as effective as your self-provided profile information.

Lastly, I strongly suggest having your name, address and phone number in the footer of every page of your website using structured data such as Schema or an hCard, if possible.

3. Use All Relevant Categories

Make sure you take advantage of Google+ Local’s categories to add depth and interest to your listing. Make sure you check off all categories that directly relate to your business — for example, a pizza delivery franchise might select the categories Pizza Restaurant, Delivery Restaurant and Fast Food Restaurant.

Note: Google no longer allows custom categories.

4. Solicit Legitimate Customer Reviews

Google loves to see lots of reviews on your listing, and studies have shown that Google reviews strongly determine local carousel rankings. But reviews aren’t just good for search engines — users also use reviews to determine which local businesses they’re going to patronize. (According to one study, 85% of those surveyed said that they read online reviews for local businesses.)

Do not prompt your family and friends to write “fake” reviews. If you get dinged for suspected fake reviews, Google may suspend your listing or give you a penalty, hurting your rankings. Do ask your customers to post a review and specify what service or product they purchased. (Google looks at reviews for “keywords” that are related to your listings products or services.)

For more info on how to do reviews right, check out 4 Go-Tos To Make Online Reviews Work For Your Business.

5. Add A Google Local Map

Add a Google Local Map to your website’s Contact Us page to help Google+ Local link your website and your Local Business Listing. Make sure to add your business’ Google Local Listing Map — not just a Google Map.

To do so, go to Google Maps, search for your business, click the “Link” button, and copy and paste the HTML to embed the map in your website, preferably on your Contact Us page.

Here is an example of how to add Google Local Listing Map:

Take Advantage of Google+ Local

Make sure your business is listed on Google+ Local. This is a critically important way to promote your company online. It enables people to easily find, share and recommend your business. Google+ Local also helps you to monitor customer reviews and improve your customer service. If you can’t, you can simply hire the professional Local SEO Company Melbourne for all your needs!