With 70 percent of households using the Internet to gather information about local businesses and services, what are you doing about your online presence?

I often search for local stores or service providers online and am routinely amazed at the lack of information and presence some prominent businesses in my community have online. But I get it, if you’re a small business owner and maybe a little bit of technophobe, the last thing on your mind is going to be spending the time and money on a website. If you are in the business of providing a service or a product to a local market your business plan is focused on getting your physical business presence organized.

But you can’t ignore the internet. Your business probably already has an online presence and is building a reputation, with or without you.

It is in your best interest to spend a little time – seriously less than thirty minutes — fixing up the first place that any local customer will find you on the internet, and it’s free.

Owning your Google+ Local profile
Google+ you say? While Google+ has been scoffed at and largely dismissed by social media gurus, it has staying power, and no where is this more evident than in a local business search. The Google Goliath gets to control what’s displayed in a Google search, therefore the Google+ Local profiles for business are prominently displayed, whether they’re ready for primetime, or not.

When I do a search for a local business in my community, what I see is a couple of websites for the “big guys” and then a Google business listing that includes the names of local businesses along with addresses and phone numbers and the Google Places map. In a recent search for local landscapers in Eugene, Ore, it appears that many of the businesses actually have a website — great. But very few have customized their Google+ listing. This means that the social marketing piece is not being monitored or controlled. What customers see when they click on the blue link (which shows up better than the actual web address link) is either a generic page with a map and the basic info, or a colorful descriptive owned Google+ page.

So how do you want to present yourself to customers? Like this?

An uncontrolled Google+ profile

Or like this?

Small business Google+ profile


Big difference, right? Especially if your customer is imagining a total landscape transformation.

Just a couple of photos or even a company logo can spiff up your online presence. And all you need is an email address, phone number, simple digital camera, and a few minutes.

Setting up your Google+ profile is pretty straightforward. Just grab your business plan and follow the steps at Google+ Business.

You can keep your actual website development on the back burner if you’re not in a business that needs to sell products online. But controlling the messaging on Google+ is a fast way to establish your business in your local community.

After you get it set up, encourage satisfied customers to visit the profile and leave their feedback. Controlling your Google+ profile will quickly make you aware of any negative feedback and respond to it with a post on your profile page or allow you to contact the dissatisfied customer and work with them to change their tune.

When you’re ready to take the next step and create your own website there are some resources to make it happen for very cheap or even free.