In 2012, Google integrated their local business Places listings with their social network, Google+. Now, a Google+ verified business page can be found in local Google search results, complete with customer reviews and information about the business for potential customers.

When a customer searches for the name of your business, your Google+ profile may appear in the right sidebar on the Google homepage. From there, a customer can click on the listing and is directed to your Places or Google+ Page for more information.

Taking the time to review and complete your Google+ Page is important for local businesses, as Search may be the first point of contact for a new customer. In fact, Google themselves report that 97% of consumers search for local businesses online. Optimizing your Google+ presence can help your company appear more often, and higher up, in local search results as well as on their social network.

Check out these seven Google+ tips and see if you’ve optimized yours for maximum search and social benefits:

1. Write a Catchy, Succinct Introduction

You only have a few seconds to make an impact on a decision-making consumer. Use the tagline space available and write a brief but catchy introduction to your business. Think about the questions you’re often asked, or what a new customer might need to know to make your business their business of choice.

2. Make Your Company Easy to Find Elsewhere Online

Add links to your website and social profile on Google+

Google+ has space for a company website, a custom Google+ URL, and links to other social and web presences. Make it simple for customers to choose how they would like to connect with your company online.

3. Make Your Business Easy to Find in Real Life

This might sound obvious, yet some Places or Pages have incorrect address information. Always double-check the location information Google provides customers about your business, especially if your location has moved in recent years.

4. Verify Your Business

Verify your business to appear in Search and on Maps. In addition, verification allows you to port images and information from an existing Google Places listing to your new Google+ Local page. This combination of the two types of pages also allows users to leave reviews that appear in your Google+ page.

5. Add a Cover Photo and Profile Image

Add a cover photo and profile image to your Google+ Page.

A visually appealing cover image catches the reader’s eye as soon as they land on the page, while a profile image appears around the Google+ site, wherever your company posts activity. Any text in the profile image should be large enough to read when the image appears as a thumbnail on the screen.

6. Add Your Hours of Operation

Add your hours of operation for local customers.

Add your business hours for local customers who may be searching for information on the go.

7. Add Optimized Content

The content posted to your Google+ business page should be highly relevant to the audience you want to attract. Use keywords and topics your own customers are likely to search for information about. This tells readers and Google what your page is about and where you should appear in searches on these topics.

Are you using a Google+ page for your local business? Share your experience in the comments!