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Vikram Rajan
Time to tap Google+ Local to market your firm

Learn how to take advantage of Google’s location-based business listings and maximize the benefits of good ratings and reviews.

November 5, 2012
by Vikram Rajan

Google is again affirming itself as the Yellow Pages of the internet. Google+ Local, also known as Google+ Pages or Google+ for Business, is a new marketing opportunity that could be great for your CPA practice.

Google+ is the search giant’s third attempt at creating a social network, and this time Google got it right. Google+ has many features, but one important distinction is that Google+ profiles are for individuals and Google+ pages are for businesses. The article focuses on Google+, or G+, pages.

Go look at a G+ page. Open up another tab or window in your browser and do a Google search for the term “CPA” or “accountant.” What comes up will most likely be a map in the upper-right corner, with a series of location pins (A, B, C, D, etc.). Scroll down a little bit to see that the firms associated with these pins appear in the list of search results in the middle column. (Clicking the name of the firm takes you directly to its website.) Below the name of the firm is a link to its G+ page.

If you are familiar with Google Places (once an extension of Google Maps), this may seem familiar, but Google has added many new features for G+. Click on a G+ page link and you should see some of these features—provided that the CPA practice is making full use of the G+ features and benefits. Unfortunately, most accounting firms have not done much, if anything, with their G+ pages. This gives you a chance to gain a competitive advantage.   

Think of a G+ page as your “official” Google website or profile. Because G+ is location-based, your firm shows up in the results only when someone searches for your keywords in your locale. Moreover, G+ pages are highlighted above natural or context search results and even above those who have paid for Google advertising (pay-per-click Adwords). It is free (for now), so you should embrace G+ right away and in the right way. Here’s how:

  • Determine if your firm already has a G+ page. Do a Google search for your firm’s name. If you have set up your website correctly, your firm should appear at or near the top of the results list. If you see a link to “Google+ page,” under the name, web address, and a brief description of your business, click on it. That should take you to the G+ page that Google automatically has created for your firm. Once you are on your firm’s G+ page, click on the “Manage this page” box, which should appear in the right column under the header “IS THIS YOUR BUSINESS?”
  • If you don’t see a “Google+ page” link, go to google.com/+/business/ and click on “Create your Google+ page.” This puts you on the same path as those who clicked on “Manage this page” from an existing G+ page.
  • The next step is to verify that you own your firm. The process for doing this depends on whether you are logged into an existing Google account—Gmail, for example. If you are logged in, Google automatically sends you to a page where you can “Add, Edit, or Suspend” a business listing. If you are not logged in to a Google account, you are taken to a page where you can sign in to your account or sign up for a new one. Once logged in, you are taken to the “Add, Edit, or Suspend” page.
  • From that point, follow the prompts and verify or fill in the required information. At the end of that process (which can take a few seconds or a few minutes, depending on whether your business already has a G+ page), Google will allow you to choose how to verify that you are the owner of the firm: either by mailing a verification code to your business address or calling you on the business’s listed phone number.
  • Update and upgrade your G+ page. Once you have verified ownership, you can edit the description and keywords associated with your firm, upload your professional headshot or firm logo, and add office hours, payment options, and even a YouTube video.
  • Ask clients and colleagues to visit your G+ page and write a review (testimonial) and/or +1 your page. This is where you can harness the power of G+. The rest of this article examines how to do that.

Maximizing the positive impact of Google+ Local

Your clients can quickly and easily draw attention to your firm’s G+ page by clicking the +1 icon. This gives you a quick thumbs-up like on Facebook or LinkedIn. Even better, those connected to your clients and colleagues via G+ would see a +1 icon next to your practice’s name in all Google search results (not just from the map). Your practice name and link would also appear in a special +1 section of your client’s G+ profile.  

The review process is a bit more involved and substantial. Clients can give your firm one of four ratings, ranging from “Poor-Fair” to “Excellent.” They can also write a description of their experience with you. Only people logged in to a Google account can write a review, and all new reviews not only show up on your firm’s Google page, but they also show up on the writer’s G+ profile pages, if the writer has set one up and not opted out of displaying reviews.

G+ holds great potential because there are millions of Gmail users. As more Gmail users set up G+ profiles, they increase the possibility of a positive review of your firm spreading virally or by word of mouth.

How do you get clients to write you a review? A great approach is to ask them when they are in your office and you are presenting them with a deliverable, such as a tax return. If they are happy with your work, ask them to write a testimonial in the form of a review and rating on your G+ page. When they say “yes,” don’t let them just go home, where they’re likely to forget to do the write-up.

Instead, have at the ready a computer or tablet with your G+ page already loaded. The client can type a sentence or two, +1 you, and be out the door in a couple of minutes. Moreover, you can now use the testimonials in your other marketing materials (make sure you get clearance by email, even though the client just “publicly” praised you).

The next step is to make your G+ local page part of your other marketing: It ought to be part of your email signature so that everyone you communicate with has an opportunity to write a review. Of course, if they don’t know you that well, there’s no way they’d feel comfortable writing a testimonial.

This is where the “Share what’s new” posting option on G+ plays a role. This is Google’s version of Facebook updates, LinkedIn discussions, or tweets. It can feature excerpts of articles or blog entries you’ve written with links to the full text. It is also a way to share articles and other resources that may help your clients and colleagues.

You can connect your G+ page with your Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo account (or Twitter, Flickr, and others) and invite specific people to join your Circle (similar to Facebook Friends, LinkedIn connections, or Twitter followers). As your Circlers appreciate your posts, they will comment, write reviews, and +1 you. You should return the courtesy where you see fit.

G+ pages started in May 2012, and we’re seeing the exponential gains as the months go by. Eventually, Google will begin to monetize G+ pages. But it is free word-of-mouth marketing for now. I look forward to answering your questions.

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Vikram Rajan is the author of the PracticeMarketingBLOG.com and 365 Marketing Thumb-Rules. He is a co-founder of phoneBlogger.net, a word-of-mouth marketing service for CPAs and attorneys.