Put Your Small Business on the (Google) Map with Google+

With a new Facebook algorithm making it harder than ever for businesses to reach their audiences without investing in ads, there's never been a better time than now to set up a Google Plus business page. While the platform may not yet be as popular as some other social media behemoths, having a presence there is crucial for putting your small business on the map - in more ways than one.

Having a Google Plus business page not only places your company on Google Maps, but it also boosts your rankings in Google search results. Setting up the page is a simple, five-minute process of providing basic information about your business and what you offer. But don't stop there. Having a successful Google Plus business page depends on practicing the same good business habits that you use every day.

Present a Good Face to the Public 
Make sure that your Google Plus page looks good. Your profile and cover images must clearly represent your company, and they should be clean, properly sized and responsive to all types of browsers - including mobile devices. The overall look needs to be consistent with the rest of your company's branding.

From hours of operation to your physical address and even to your company description, the information on the page should be thorough, accurate and easy-to-understand. This is the information Google pulls from when it indexes its searches. Take the time to officially verify your page via phone call or postcard.

Be Active 
Many businesses make the mistake of creating a Google Plus page and then leaving it to stagnate. Instead, update your page regularly with company news and useful, original content. Post as many high-quality photos as you can. Think of it as a micro-blog for your company, and have fun with it.

That said, stay on-topic and leave the cute kitten photos and Buzzfeed links for your personal page. Google Plus posts are searchable, and you want everything you share to represent your company in a beneficial way. Use hashtags to increase your visibility.

Be Community-Oriented 
Don't isolate yourself on an internet island. Add relevant people and businesses to your circles and join, or even create, communities related to your field. Follow, comment on and "Plus One" others' pages and posts. By interacting with other people and pages, you organically will drive traffic to your own page.

Engage Your Audience 
Encourage your customers to follow you on Google Plus and to leave reviews of your services. When they comment on your page, be sure to respond promptly and professionally. Mention other users (by inserting the + symbol before their name), and take advantage of this opportunity to engage directly with followers who just may have discovered your company through Google search.

Hang Out and Help Out
Google Plus boasts more business-friendly features than most social media platforms. Two of my favorites: Hangout and Helpout. Google Hangout allows you to connect with followers while promoting your services and expertise via live video, which can later be viewed on YouTube. Similarly, Google Helpouts allows you to monetize these video sessions.

Look and Listen 
Follow influential people in your industry as well as competitors. Be aware of which topics are trending and what the people in your communities are talking about. You may just come up with some fresh ideas for your own business.

Consider Advertising 
Once you've established a presence on Google Plus, think about investing in +Post ads, which allow users to turn any Google Plus content into an interactive ad. +Post ads are a fairly new offering, but early users already have reported significantly increased engagement.

Do you have any other ideas for creating a successful Google Plus page for small businesses? Please leave your tips in the comments!