Local SEO and Google+ Local: What Small Business Owners Need to Do Now

Google Places and Google+ Local map marker symbol

Google+ Local SEO News

Local search and Local SEO experts are buzzing about Google’s May 30 action in the local search arena and what it means for small business owners.

If you don’t know what happened (and most small business owners probably don’t know, and don’t understand the implications for their business) — Google replaced 80 million Google Places pages with Google+ Local pages in one fell swoop on Wednesday, May 30.

I realized something significant had happened when I started to send a client the link to my Google Places page to make it easy for them to write and submit a review about my Facebook and social media marketing consultation service.

To my dismay, I discovered that the red Write a Review button on my Google Places page had disappeared — which meant there was no longer any way that they could submit a review about my business through my Google Places page.

Fortunately, I had already set up a Google+ account and was able, with a few minutes research, to locate the link for my new Google+ Local page where the client could review my services now.

Why Google Reviews Matter to Local Businesses

Herbst Marketing Northern VA website design on Google+ Local

Herbst Marketing Google+ Local page

Local business reviews can make a big impact in local search results. Businesses with lots of positive online reviews from happy customers have more social credibility, and tend to rank higher in local search results, than businesses with no online reviews.

What Local Business Owners Need to Do Now

Google Local Search expert David Mihm recommends that local businesses take the following steps immediately in response to Google’s latest changes:

  1. Claim both your Google Places and your Google+ pages. (Don’t know how to do this? Ask me for help!)
  2. Get your Google+ page linked from your website, as well as your business name, address and phone number
  3. Get a small amount of Google+ activity going immediately.
  4. Message all existing customers witn an @gmail.com address that your business is now on Google+ and you would appreciate it if they would follow you on Google+ as well.

Links for Further Reading

For more information, please check the following authoritative articles about the Google Places / Google+ Local merge.

Local Search Just Got More Social — Google Places Pages Moved to Google+

Rankings on Google+ Local: Some Observations

Google Places Pages Are No More — But What Has Changed?

Google Video

Google also has published a series of videos about Google+ Local. Here is one:


Ethical Bribes: How to Use Free Give-Away Offers to Grow Your Business

Are you using ethical bribes to grow your business?

Free giveaway itemFree give-away offers (also known as ethical bribes) are a classic, time-tested method for building buzz and gaining valuable exposure that can lead to greater sales for your business.

What is an Ethical Bribe?

An ethical bribe is something you give away for free in exchange for a prospect’s name and contact information (usually just an email address, but you can request a phone number and additional information as well in exchange for the free give-away item.)

Benefits of Ethical Bribes

Ethical bribes can help you:

  • Build buzz, gain attention and generate more exposure for your business, your products and your services,
  • Give potential customers a taste or experience of your product(s) or service(s)
  • Qualify leads and develop a list of ideal prospects
  • Position you as a “welcome guest” instead of an “unwelcome pest” in the prospect’s mind.
  • Obtain permission to continue communicating with your ideal prospects.

Studies show that people don’t buy something until they have been exposed to it between 4 and 7 times and sometimes up to 10 times. 

On the internet in particular, your prospects aren’t seeing you face to face or speaking with you directly. They probably don’t know who you are yet, so they aren’t likely to open their wallets and make a purchase when they first come across you. 

Examples of Ideal Ethical Bribes

The ideal ethical bribe provides a taste or experience of your product or service, and/or educates your prospects about your business, so they can decide if you have something of value to offer them.

Depending on the nature of your business, an ethical bribe could be:

  • A coupon or gift certificate to induce prospects to try your product or service
  • A free report
  • An excerpt or sample chapter of a forthcoming book
  • A free consultation or session with you
  • Access to a free educational video

Ethical Bribes Help You Overcome Buyer Resistance

People love free items, so ethical bribes make it easy to overcome price resistance from potential customers and clients. Many people are happy to provide their contact information in exchange for something that is free.

Once you have their contact information, you have the beginnings of a “marketing funnel” that can become a valuable and profitable sales tool.

The better your ethical bribe – the more value it represents to your target customer – the greater your chances of growing a database of leads and qualified prospects.

If people are visiting your website but not providing their names and email addresses to obtain your give-away item(s), then you need to offer something different with a greater perceived value. 

You won’t know if you need to offer a different ethical bribe until you have at least offered something. 

Setting Up Your Follow-Up System

Before offering your ethical bribe, you must set up a follow-up system to deliver the freebie offer and continue communicating with your leads after they sign up to receive your freebie offer.

Your website should be designed to present your ethical bribe in an eye-catching and appealing way, with a prominent sign-up form and inviting, persuasive images and copy.

You should also subscribe an autoresponder email service, such as Constant Contact, Mail Chimp or Aweber, and set up this service to immediately deliver the freebie offer as well as a series of pre-written messages that will be delivered in a predetermined sequence over a period of time (a week, a month, or longer).

Action Plan

Ethical Bribe Action Steps

Here are the action steps you need to take to start growing your business through ethical bribes:

  • Decide on one or more free give-away items or services you will offer.
  • Design and write your online invitation to obtain your give-away item.
  • Subscribe to an autoresponder email service (I recommend Aweber and Constant Contact)
  • Create an opt-in form (lead-generating form) through your email service to obtain prospects’ names and email addresses.
  • Set up your autoresponder service to immediately confirm and deliver access to your ethical bribe after prospects fill in the opt-in form.


  • Yvonne Herbst owns and manages Herbst Marketing, a Northern Virginia website design and marketing agency that helps local businesses use the internet effectively to grow sales and revenue. Her PiedmontWomen.com blog showcases influential women and women entrepreneurs serving Culpeper, Fauquier, Rappahannock and Prince William Counties, Virginia.

    Sign up for the Piedmont Women email list to receive free offers, free gift certificates and other give-away items from featured woman-owned businesses.