The verdict is still out on whether Google+ can make itself more appealing to the everyday social media user. But at a little over a year old, the don't-call-us-just-a-social-media-platform Google+ now has over 26 million users. And, in case you haven't noticed, Google has a powerful sway in how we search for, find and market content on the web. More and more small businesses are jumping on the Google+ bandwagon and for good reason. They know the value of having their Google+ Local pages in the search mix.

When you are courting local business, your Google+ Local business page is one of the easiest ways to link those looking for your products and services to you. And it's free. If you haven't made yourself known locally online, you have little chance of your local target audience even finding you there. And since Google is the place most people rely on for search, your Google+ Local page is a crucial part of your local SEO foundation. Do a quick search for something like "plumber" or "movie theater" and you'll see the local results prominently displayed. If you haven't claimed and optimized your Google+ Local business page, you are missing an opportunity to be in those results.

We know how important data is in Google's quest to provide the best search experience it can. It is enticing its users to integrate their activities on the web so search can become more intelligent, tailored and relevant to each user. The same goes for your small business. The more information you can provide about your company, the more opportunity you have for connecting with relevant users in your local area who are searching for or whose habits/indicate that they would be interested in your products and services.

Claiming and optimizing your Google+ Local business page is the biggest thing you can do to kick off your local SEO efforts. So make claiming your Google+ Local page a priority. And do it right. To quote our very own Eric R, "If your page doesn't look good (no photos, incomplete info, etc), then that searcher will just look to a competitor's page and get the good or service from them. You lost a potential visit or sale before someone even visited your website, saw your store, or talked to a representative from your company."

Want to learn more about Local SEO? Take a peek at yesterday's webinar, Understanding and Selling Local SEO.