It's coming; another new Google search algorithm to contend with. This time the 'Google Merchant Quality Algorithm', announced by Google's head of search spam Matt Cutts at this year's SXSW festival, aims to penalize low and poor quality merchants in local search results. 

With Google's increased focus on local search and its own Google + social network, local search results and reputation management have become vital for small and medium sized businesses alike.  The old motto 'There's no such thing as bad publicity' may no longer be true in the age of social media, but there are ways in which a social and web-savvy business can make this work in their favor.

Optimize All Your Pages

First, by optimizing your business' Google +, Yelp, Trip Advisor and other such pages for targeted keywords Google will recognize what services you provide your target market.

Second, by responding often and professionally to both negative and positive comments on your pages, you're engaging users.

If you even remotely follow the latest SEO news, you know how much Google loves 'providing its users with new and engaging content'. This 'engaging content' helps these various profile pages (which are now optimized and contain a link to your page of course) to rank higher amongst other websites in Google's organic and local SERP's.

Protect Your Business From A Google Penalty

More penalties from Google are inevitable, so diversifying your internet marketing efforts is extremely important.

Taking control and optimizing your business' listings on these social platforms is a must, and it gives your business an easy opportunity to make as many impressions on the first page of the SERP's as possible. The only cost to you is the time you take to optimize these pages and respond to customers.

Earning Your Piece Of The Pizza Pie

Imagine this scenario: You're a small local pizzeria and you respond to most of the reviews on your Google + profile. You've offered concise explanations to those who have complained, and maybe even offered a free pizza or two to make things right. Now, someone doing a search for a local pizzeria is more likely to view your profile, complete with its many reviews and ratings, over the one with few reviews and ratings. Reading the comments and your responses, the user is more than likely going to choose the local pizzeria with the caring and involved owner over the competitors with less to say. Clicking through to your website, they read your mouthwatering menu, learn a little more about you and order. There you have it; you've just earned a potential new best customer.

Now, while one person's complaint could turn into an avalanche of negativity, if handled properly, it can not only allow a previously scorned customer to give you a second chance, but potentially draw new business  You've engaged users, been a 'quality merchant', potentially increased your rankings, made a few positive impressions, and maybe even gained a few new customers.

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