As a car dealer, you’re probably familiar with Google Places, the free listing service for Google Maps where customers can find you in a local search.
For many auto dealers, Google Places has been a gift and a curse. While it may have gotten your dealership more exposure to local shoppers, it’s also prone to being hijacked by dissatisfied customers, even if they represent a very small minority of your clientele. Unless you’ve regularly asked happy customers to write reviews of your dealership, you’ve risked having that dreaded”1 out of 5″ star rating hovering next to your business name and hurting your reputation.
Thankfully, Google’s latest update is an opportunity to reclaim that rep. Google Places is now evolving into the new Google+ Local page, which withholds your business rating until several reviews have been published. Just as importantly, it’s much easier to set up and gives you more control over your image than you’ve ever had in the past.
If you’ve never managed your Google Places listing before, here’s how to get started, straight from the Google website:
To start creating your free local business listing, go to the Google Places and sign in with your Google account. If you don’t already have a Google account, click Sign up now to create a new Google account. You can also use an AdWords login and password, if you have one.
Google Places may already have gathered basic information about your business from local directories like the Yellow Pages, but to start managing your listing, you’ll need to verify your business address the old school way: by snail mail. Once that’s done, the Google account you used to set up your business listing can be used to manage your new Google+ Local page, which visitors will see if they click More Info on your Google Places listing.
Setting up Your Google+ Local Page
Google+ Local bears a lot of similarities to a Facebook fan page, but it’s also where shoppers will go to read full customer reviews. To start editing your page, click the Manage This Page button on the right-hand side.
This takes you to the old Google Places account screen. (We’ve heard that this will soon be redesigned for the new format.) You’ll see a big tabs for Dashboard and Offers in the middle, but today we’re just going to focus on the column at the far right that says Your business info. This is where you make sure your profile is complete by clicking the Edit link and adding content to any fields that are blank
You’ll want to decorate this page with flattering pictures of your dealership and its friendly employees — images that will make online shoppers want to visit. You should also fill out any basic business information, like hours open and forms of payment accepted, that aren’t already completed from your mail-in postcard.
Google+ Local also lets you add videos to your dealership page, but only ones from YouTube. (Wouldn’t you know it; Google owns YouTube.) And, as on Facebook, you can post short updates to visitors.
User reviews still mean a lot in Google+ Local, but Google has moved from a pretty imprecise five-star review system to a 30-point scale employed by Zagat. How this will apply to dealerships is still a bit unclear, since it appears that the point rating doesn’t show until you have a number of reviews from verified Google+ users. But it means that it will be harder for rival dealers to sabotage you with nasty fake reviews.
Perhaps the biggest news here for car dealers is that Google plans to start adding relevant Google+ Local pages to its main search results, putting them right in the middle of your main traffic source. This probably means if your page is set up early, you could grab a significant amount of traffic from your competitors.
As always, AutoManager is staying on top of the latest tech developments that affect your dealership. To stay on the cutting edge of internet marketing, call (800) 300-2808 to ask an account representative about adding WebPlus service to your WebManager dealership website.