Big Changes in Local Search: Google Places is now Google+ LocalMay 31st, 2012 by Mack Web Solutions
It is an exciting time for businesses who care about local search (that means you. Even if you think it doesn’t, well, it should).
So, the big news is that Google Places has rolled into Google+ Local.
(Take a moment to gasp and murmur appropriately).
The implications of this momentous, uh, moment is that all the major functions of Google Places are now major functions of Google+ instead. Oh, and it’s a pretty big deal for Google maps, too.
What a way to grow a social network. Smart move Google (hat tip).
Next time you go to use your Google Places account, one of two things is going to happen. First, if you don’t already have a Google+ account, Google Places is going to ask you to join (but don’t worry, they’ve got the creation of your personal page streamlined into an easy 3 step process).
(Sidenote: If you need assistance on starting your Google+ business page after you’ve created your personal page, Mack Web breaks it down for you in “Google+: It’s Not Just For Engineers” post).
On the other hand, if you do have a Google+ account, you will be directed to a new section of your profile. There’s a shiny new button in the left navigation, with a shiny new icon and everything. It is (dramatic drumroll, please) a “Local” icon.
So if you can set aside the (completely natural – no judgment here) fear of change that this engenders, there’s a lot of pretty nifty stuff that comes with this shift. Check out this video before you continue reading because Google does a great job of spreading their excitement about the possibilities.
Okay, now that you’re equally and appropriately excited, let’s look at the details:
Key to Ratings
Going forward, businesses will be rated on the 30-point Zagat rating scale, instead of the old 5-star method, allowing for more scope and specificity on what aspects of your dining experience you’re rating: food, decor, service, etc.
When you decide to provide a review of a business, you can rate the business on a zero to three scale in each category.
Google has also integrated actual Zagat’s restaurant ratings.
What About Existing Google Places Reviews?
If you’re an avid reviewer on Google Places or even if you’ve only written one, we say to you, “Hakuna Matata!” (It means no worries for the rest of your days).
When you first log in to review on Google+ Local, Google will ask if you want to publish your previous reviews. You can select the reviews to you want to display and these will be connected to your Google+ page.
So, for businesses, what now?
If you own a business that been reviewed on Google Places, you should get on Google+ as soon as possible. This will allow you to make a quick transition to the new system and you’ll be able to continue monitoring and responding appropriately to any reviews.
The Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) are already displaying the improvements of Google+ Local. We reviewed a local restaurant and when we Google the name of the restaurant, the 4 stars from our review is displayed.
When you search Suehiro in Google+ you should be able to see the review and June’s (ever-lovely) smiling face. This is a feature of Google+ Local which gives a face and some context to each reviewer.
With all these changes coming into play, being active online is more important than ever for local businesses. Local businesses will need to get involved in the online community to manage their reputation, provide customer service, and more. And now businesses will be able to handle bad reviews in a more personal way.
Long story short (too late, we know), Google+ isn’t just a fad and it’s not going away, so businesses should really make the effort to become part of this social network.
What About My Businesses Google Places Account?
A post on the Google blog explains that business owners with an existing Google Places account will still manage their information in Google Places for Businesses.
(The same post also covers how the changes will affect AdWords. Which is to say that they won’t really: ads will operate as normal, automatically redirecting people to the business listing).
How to Embrace It
Take beautiful photos of your product and put them on your Google+ page.
Share videos on your page that showcase your product, services, or your location. Or all three.
Reward your loyal customers by doing a quick Q&A with them.
Share specials or announce new products.
Take advantage of this whole slew of new ways to hear what your consumers are saying.
Get creative. Glue sticks, tissue paper, glitter. The works.
As the weeks progress, there will surely be upgrades and changes. We’ll be sure to keep you posted.
In the meantime, join in on the fun. And don’t forget to circle Mack Web Solutions on Google+.