Google Places becomes Google+Local

This week, Google announced the launch of Google+Local a service to replace Google Places.

This is a potentially huge deal for local businesses and their online marketing. If you want to skip the detail and go to the bottom line (What you Should do), click here.

For those who are now asking “What’s Google Places?”, let’s begin with a short explanation:  Some 97% of consumers search for local business via the internet.  Let’s say you require new tyres for your car and live in Melbourne – you would probably search for “car tyres Melbourne”.  If your search engine of choice is Google, what you’ll find (as at 2 June 2012) is the following:

 

In this search result, Google has displayed 7 listings in the “maps section”. These listings are from (and link to) Google Places pages, that were either setup by the business or created by Google based on listings of the business in other directories (such as Yellow Pages).

Now any local search result can deliver between 1-7 listings in this section, and, as in this case, the listings are on page one and above most of the organic search results (linking to the business’ website).

Essentially, the Google Places listing is a one page template “website” where the business can provide a large amount of information about itself. If done well, that listing will appear on page one of a local search for the product or service it provides. It is a very powerful tool in any business online marketing toolkit.

 

So what happened?

Google have integrated the Places listings into Google Plus (G+), their “social networking” site.  In addition, they have also integrated the Zagat restaurant rating and review system, which replaces the current 5 star reviews of the Places listings with a 30 star scale, allowing for greater differentiation.  I’m guessing the reviews will be expanded well beyond restaurants soon.

So now we have a local listing and search feature, combined with a social network and a review system, all tightly integrated into the most popular search engine. I expect that these changes will make the new Google+Local tool even more powerful as an online marketing tool for local businesses as it vastly increases the reach businesses can have through this new listing.

The new service has made Google Plus a vehicle for local search and sharing experiences of a local business with your G+ network.

The merging certainly created some major changes, design wise but the fundamentals are still the same. There are a few things that users must become acquainted with:

  • Your Business’ Google+Local page will become your new “face” and even if you can still get into the old Places page, it will no longer be functional.
  • To do a review of a business, a Google Plus page must be created first (for the reviewer) and the business must be searched in the local tab to be able to write reviews.
  • Creating a Google+ Business Page will also give your business an advantage. There may be a need to add your Google+ Business Page to your “Circles” but this can be done later on.

What remains unchanged (for now) is the rankings – you will still rank the same as before using this enhanced process. Managing Google+Local and Places is still the same by logging into your Google Places page and editing from there.

Google+Local is composed of three parts:

  • the display for business listing,
  • a tool for backend management and
  • a ranking system.

The change affects the location of the business listing display (now in a Local Tab on your Google Plus profile), appearance can now be controlled more easily by businesses and social activity is now segmented around reviews. The primary location for input however will still be at the Places Dashboard which is the current backend that assembles the listings – however, this is expected to be upgraded in the future.

The merge is still a work in progress – there are things that are not yet clear, but it is certain that you will reap great benefits for your business by creating a Google+ Page now or if you have one already, ensure it is linked to your local listing.

 

What should you do?

Continue your work on improving your visibility in local Google – the principles of ranking well are still the same. One additional task might be to create a Google+ Page for your business – don’t worry too much about the look and content for now, just create one and complete the profile.

If you haven’t yet created your (or claimed your Google-created) business listing, then that is a definite “must-do” right now. Then follow the Google guidelines for best practice in completing the listing.

Finally, encourage your clients to give you reviews on your Google +Local page.

 

What’s next?

Google is definitely making G+ the hub of all its products. This is where G+ is vastly different to Facebook. Search will continue to become more and more local and social. We all tend to pay more attention to recommendations from friends, family and respected colleagues. So businesses should be taking advantage of G+ and Google+Local as part of their overall online marketing strategy, and paying attention to what Google will do next!

As always, if you have questions, we’ll be happy to discuss – give us a call!

 

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[…] This is a potentially huge deal for local businesses and their online marketing. If you want to skip the detail and go to the bottom line (What you Should do), click here. […]

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