As of May 30th Google have officially started converting all Google Places listings to the new format: Google+ Local. Google+ Local provides a geographic search within Google+ itself (the new tab can be found between circles and games).
This change furthers Google’s push to integrate its products heavily with Google+, although it will undoubtedly leave some users and business owners confused. Here are our 3 Key learning points regarding the change:
1. Integration of Zagat reviews
Google acquired Zagat back in September 2011 as part of its effort to deliver more relevant local search results. Zagat’s 30 point scale reviewing system means that users can express much more differentiation about the product / service they have received, compared with the previous 5 point scale.
This places a larger emphasis on reputation management for all businesses with a Google Places listing, as sooner or later, they will be converted to the new format!
2. Circles filter for reviews
Google have also added a filter that allows you to see only reviews submitted by people in your Google+ circles. So what does this mean for you, the user? You can filter your search so you only see reviews you know you can trust. What does this mean for you, the local business owner? Growing your reputation through what was Google Places has become more important than ever. Not only will it improve your ranking in Google’s general search results, but it will also increase the chance that your customers friends will pick up the great things (hopefully) they’re saying about you!
3. Many more merchant features to come
Google+ Local pages are much more visually appealing than their predecessors. They will also allow the page managers to develop followers (using Google+’s circling platform) and message them. Google have said:
We know many of you have already created a Google+ Page for your business , and have been hosting hangouts and sharing photos, videos and posts. We’re excited that we’ll soon extend these social experiences to more Google+ Local pages in the weeks and months ahead.
Despite the appearance that this change requires no further action from business owners, Google have essentially thrust them into the world of Google+ with not only more customer interaction potential but also greater demand to learn how to utilise the platform effectively. Pro-activity here will be rewarded as there is a large SEO potential.
Here in the UK not all Google Places Pages have yet merged with their counterpart Google+ Page (if set up). Google says this will happen gradually over the next few days and weeks, so we’ll all just have to be patient! In the meantime, why not add our Google Page to your circle. Why? Because as soon as we have further updates or ‘Hints & Tips’ on how to maximise the benefits of Google+ Local Pages, we’ll share them through our Google Page first.
What’s your experience of this change so far or what other questions might you have that we can help with?