Since I first began trying to correct Texas A&M’s listings in Google several years ago, the program has changed its name from Google Maps, to Google Places, to Google Local, to Google+ (which still exists), to Google My Business. Whatever it’s called, it’s your best way of influencing Google’s search results for your department or division. You could wind up with a big illustrated info box in the upper right on Google Search, with links to your posts, photos and videos, as well as to maps, directions and reviews. When people are logged into their Google account, results from their Google+ circles (that could mean you) will appear at the top of their search results. Other information comes from your Wikipedia article (most colleges have one) or from Google’s Knowledge Graph.
Before you start, keep track of which Google account you’re logged into – you probably want to set up a shared one for your department. Make sure you have set up a Google Webmaster account using that Google login. Unfortunately for us, the two pages I was working with had been set up under different accounts: my shared webmaster account and a shared social media account. In an attempt to transfer ownership of my Google+ page, I added the social media account as a manager for the webmaster page and vice versa.
Google tries to make it easy to get involved. Search for your division or department in Google Search, Google Maps, or Google+. Look for links such as “Is this your business?” “Claim your business.” “Are you the business owner?”. Those links are the first steps to putting you into the driver’s seat for your organization’s presence on Google. You can also follow links such as “Suggest an edit,” “Feedback,” “Follow,” and “Review.” Anyone can add pictures, reviews and suggested edits to Google Maps results. But as the owner of a Google+ page in Google My Business, you have more power.
To connect your Google+/My Business page to Google Maps, you first need a verified Google+ local page. If you don’t have one already, you can start the process by searching for your department on the Google My Business home page. Click on the Storefront button. Or you can find yourself in Google Maps, then click on the link “Are you the business owner?”. Fill out as much information as you can – Google wants to know all the good things about you. You will receive a verification code by postcard or phone call (phone is faster, of course). Enter it into your Google My Business account. If you’ve already verified your page, you might follow the instructions under “I’ve already created a page for my business, but it’s not connected to Google Maps“. You can link your Google+ page to your website’s home page through Google Webmaster Tools or by adding a snippet of code to your website.
How does the result look in the right column of Google search results for your organization?
- If you own a verified local page, you should see a “Follow” button.
- If Google has your location on their map, you should see a “Directions” button (unless Google thinks you have multiple locations).
- You may see a “Write a Review” button.
- If Google has collected data from sources such as Wikipedia or the Knowledge Graph, you may see your address, phone number, logo, or even enrollment.
- If Google can’t find enough information for a right-column infobox, they won’t display one.
So what shows up or doesn’t show up depends partly on whether you have created and enhanced your Google My Business page. These campus examples may have changed since I looked at them, but they should give you an idea of the variety of results:
- Department of Chemistry
- College of Veterinary Medicine
- Department of Visualization
- Mays Business School
- Department of English
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