A few years ago, Google very generously gave business owners a gift. The gift was a free website. There was only one catch; the business had to claim and then verify it.

Some businesses did, some didn’t and still others were hijacked by the business across town and sabotaged. At the time this was known as Google Places. Over the past year, Google has been phasing out Google Places and renamed it Google+ Local. Google+ Local shares the same basic premise as Google Places, only with far more features valuable for your business. Chances are if your business is 2 years old, or older, you already have a Google+Local business page.

So, how do you know if your business has been verified?  The simplest way, of course, is to Google your business. For demonstration purposes I?ve chosen Fire Island Rustic Bread in Anchorage, AK. (If this is your business, I apologize for giving you free marketing advice and exposure.) When you Google your business, something like this usually will appear:

Fire_Island_search

If you don’t even see something like this, it’s a good bet that you have some internet presence issues.

Click on the Google location flag and something very similar to this will appear:

Verified_NSM

Compare Fire Island’s profile photo on the left against our profile photo on the right. You will notice that Next Stage Marketing has a check mark next to the photo. That signifies that the site is verified.

Next, scroll down a bit on the page until you see this box:

Manage_your_page

Click on ?Manage this page? and if you get this:

Google_verify

Your page, my friend, has not been verified.

Well why, you may be thinking, does this matter? For one thing, if you have not verified your page anyone else can! It’s called hijacking and it happens far more often than you may think. Just imagine your competitor across town hijacking your page and simply changing the phone number. He gets first crack at your customer! That, in itself is reason enough to verify your page.

Chances are also fairly good that the information about your business is either incorrect or outdated. 40% of information about businesses online is simply wrong! It happens when you’re not in control of the posting.

Another great reason to verify is the very power of Google. Google is the most visited website on the planet. 67% of all searches are made there. You may have noticed in a paragraph above I suggested you Google your Business. Google is so engrained in our culture and vocabulary that it has morphed from noun into verb. Google simply loves to reward businesses that use their products. Yes, other social network sites show up on Google, but only Google+ is treated like a web page during Google searches. Use Google+, post your business information there, post pictures, post videos, make regular social posts. All of these count highly in the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) algorithm that Google uses.

And that’s only the beginning. Realistically, Google+ is another website that Google is providing to you absolutely free of charge. The examples above only scratch the surface of what a verified Google+Local page accomplishes for your business. There are many other features provided to you free of charge by Google. So, why not use them?

There is one last caveat I need to mention. Even if you have verified your Google Places page, once it is replaced by the Google+ Local page it will need to be re-verified in order for it to be searchable.

Still not sure? Let’s talk. We invite you to visit with us on Google+ Hangouts. We chat with our clients every Friday at 2:00pm Eastern. Follow us, we’ll sent you an invitation.

We’re in the 14th year of the 21st Century. Isn’t it time you caught up?