By Daniel Edward Craig
With over 1500 hoteliers from around the world having registered for our latest webinar, Google For Hotels, we expected a lot of questions. But we received so many we’ve had to split our answers up by theme. In this first instalment we tackle attendees’ questions related to Google Local.
Note that terms and links may vary by country. If a link doesn’t take you where you need to go, well, try Googling it.
Can you explain what options hotels have when it comes to local listings on Google?
As we discussed in the webinar, a website is no longer enough. A Local listing is the linchpin of your hotel’s presence in the Google universe because many products, including Search, Maps and Hotel Finder, either pull content from these listings or drive traffic to them.
Guest presenter David Zammitt, UK Travel Industry Manager with Google, explained that hotels have three options, all of which are free of charge.
1) Google Local Business Page. Also known as Google Places, this is the most basic option and is intended for “bricks and mortar” businesses only, not hotel groups or brands. These listings were created automatically by Google, so it’s likely your hotel has one already.
Recently Google converted these pages to a new format consistent with the Google+ environment. So your page will look like a Google+ page but will lack some of the interactive features.
Information on Local pages includes a business description, contact details, location, photos, reviews and ratings. At a minimum, verify your page and ensure the information is accurate, complete and optimized for search. You can do this by clicking the “Manage this page” link on your listing or by searching for your business here. Once that’s done it’s a matter of maintaining content and monitoring reviews over time.
Google Local pages are identifiable by two tabs at the top of the page: About and Photos.
2) Google+ Page.
Google+ is a social network with brand pages like Facebook, although its integration with other Google products, most notably Search, extends its reach and influence well beyond the Google+ environment.
Unlike static Local pages, Google+ pages offer interactive social features: you can build followings, share and comment on posts, and engage with users and other businesses. However, users cannot see reviews and rating or review a hotel from a Google+ page unless it has been merged with the hotel’s Local Business page.
To create a page, click here. Like a Facebook page, it will require time and resourcefulness to maintain, so create a page only if you have the time available. If you’re a hotel, choose the “Local Business or Place” category. If you’re a hotel group or brand, choose the “Product or Brand” category.
Google+ pages are identifiable by four tabs at the top of the page: About, Posts, Photos and Videos.
3) Merged Google+ Local Page. Once you have created a Google+ page you can merge it with your Local page, which Google now recommends. Note that this feature is available for individual businesses only, not for groups or brands.
Once your pages are merged, links in Search, Maps and Google+ will lead to this page, where users will find everything in one place—contact info, reviews, imagery, posts and even rates and availability through Hotel Price Ads—and can interact socially with your hotel.
For instructions on how to merge your pages click here.
Merged Google+ Local pages are identifiable by a verified checkmark below the four tabs at the top of the page—About, Posts, Photos and Videos.
A merged Google Local and Google+ page. Note the four tabs at the top, the pencil icon for writing a review, and the rating and reviews.
Now if all this sounds confusing, it’s because it is. In part it’s because these products are in transition and different names are used for the same products, even by Google. During the webinar David assured us that things will get simpler soon.
What can we do if we have problems verifying our Local Business page?
For information about verification and troubleshooting click here.
How do we correct information on our Google Local listing?
Once you have verified your listing, you can correct information such as business name, contact information and description by simply signing in to your Places for Business account.
If you can’t fix the issue there, go to your listing and click “Edit details” or “Report a problem”. Here you can report a duplicate listing or an incorrectly assigned photo or review. To flag an incorrect photo or video, you can also click on the image and select “More” and then “Report abuse.”
If the map pin is in the wrong place, click on the map, choose “more” in the info box, and then click “Edit details” or “Report a problem.” For more information on correcting listing information click here.
How should we address multiple outlets at one physical address?
If you have a separate business in your hotel with a different name, such as a restaurant, spa or boutique, create a separate Google Local Business page for it. If possible, list a different phone number, categories and web page to ensure that Google doesn’t think it’s a duplicate listing.
Whether you take it a step further and create a separate Google+ page for each business is up to you. But again, only do so if you have time to maintain it.
We are a hotel group, so we have one Google+ page for our brand and 30 Local Business pages, one for each hotel. How can we merge them?
You can only merge a Google+ page with a Local Business page if the Google+ page is set as a “Local Business or Place.” Since a hotel group doesn’t qualify as a local business, you won’t be able to merge the pages.
An option is to create a separate Google+ page for each hotel. But, as David cautioned during the webinar, “For Google+, if a brand has multiple properties we recommend having an umbrella page rather than creating lots of different Google+ pages. It gets messy. Users will still like to engage with the brand.”
However, he added, “When it comes to Google Places, you should absolutely have a separate page for each property.”
Might Google street view go inside hotels in the future as it has done recently with the tallest building in the world?
This is already possible. To enhance your Local listing and visibility in Google Search, Local and Maps, you can inquire about hiring a Google-approved photographer to take 360 degree interactive shots of the interior of your business. For more information click here.
Stay tuned for upcoming instalments of the Google for Hotels Q+A series, when we’ll address Google Reviews, Hotel Finder, Price Ads and Google+.
ReviewPro clients can view this webinar and all previous webinar recordings in the Learning and Support Center, accessible from the ReviewPro dashboard.