Google's reach extends far across the various products they have and now across industries with their pending acquisition of Motorola Mobility. Starting with search and then advertising with AdWords, to their Gmail, Documents, and of course YouTube and Maps, among other features, there is a reason Google is the dominant force online. However, in relation to growing business in international markets, there are no features, outside of organic SEO and paid search, more important than Google Plus and Places utilizing Google Maps.
Google PlacesThe simple fact is that when consumers search online for companies, specific products, or services that have local or regional significance, what they click through to and ultimately act on will be greatly influenced by Google's features. It will be directly influenced by what appears in the Map functionality and by extension, what is registered with Google Places. Registering company X so it is included in Google Places allows people who are searching information about a specific industry or a specific location to find company X more easily and gives them the opportunity to learn more about the company, what they offer, and where they are located. If no location terms are used, the SERP shows results for relevant companies close to the geographic origin of the search itself.
These Places pages can be additionally optimized like any other on or off-site content relating to a company's website. This work is typically done by an expert SEO company partnering with the businesses to get the most out of their web presence. This is especially important for companies that rely on searches originating from foreign locations that include location-specific terms. These searches will also have relevant terms that the company will want to be optimizing their content for, as assisted by the partnered SEO company. Even though businesses can be localized, their target audience search-wise can include people from all over the globe and thus needs to be optimized for that.
Google PlusMany companies are already overloaded with the amount of social media accounts they actively maintain, however, a Google+ account is a must for any company going forward. It is a fast growing platform that will allow companies to engage with many target-audience members and as it is being rolled out internationally, so the reach of the platform is not restricted. Also, based on the functionality of Google Search Plus Your World, search results include information from Google+ accounts that increases exposure during potential customers' search queries from around the world. Like mentioned above, all of the content contained in these pages can and should be managed for optimal gain.