Sayonara, Google Places! Today, Google is taking the first step to eradicate Google Place pages and transition to new Google+ Local pages. Surprise, local businesses! Time to bite the bullet and learn how to use Google+.
Google+ Local pages can be found via a new 'Local' tab in the sidebar of Google+, and Local pages also feature Zagat scores and recommendations from people you're connected to on Google+. Looks like last year's Google acquisition of Zagat is finally being put to good use.
If you're a local business who's curious about just what's happening with your Google Places page -- or if you're simply curious about the new Google+ Local pages -- here's what you should know ...
The Google+ 'Local' Tab
Through the new 'Local' tab, now located on the left-hand sidebar of Google+, users can search for specific places or browse through various categories of listings such as restaurants, museums, clothing stores, etc.
Clicking on a particular listing will take you to the Google+ Local page of that establishment, which features useful information such as location and contact information, photos, reviews, and Zagat scores/summaries.
Google+ Local & Zagat Scores
That's right! Zagat summaries and scores are featured on every Google+ Local page. The scores you see are based on a 30-point scale, which is the averaged score of the individual scores given by reviewers. Zagat also aggregates highlights from users' written reviews into one summary, featured at the top. Check out the following video from Google to learn more about how it works:
On each page, you'll see individual scores on a 0-3 point scale next to users' reviews. You'll also notice a business' overall Zagat score(s) on a 0-30 point scale, which may be broken down into various categories depending on the business. For example, a restaurant would be broken down into food, decor, and service categories, each indicating a 0-30 point score, calculated based on the averages of users' individual reviews. Furthermore, users can also indicate costs associated with the business (e.g. 'cost per person' for restaurants).
Local Pages' Integration With Other Google Properties
Google+ Local is also integrated with other Google services, including organic Google Search and Google Maps. If you look for a place on Search or Maps, you'll find Google+ Local page results there, too. Searches on either of these services pull in Zagat ratings as well, replacing the former 5-star rating system you might be used to. This also holds true for searches on Google Maps for mobile on Android devices, with functionality for iOS devices coming soon.
Reviews & Recommendations From Your Google+ Circles
The launch of Google+ Local also aims to make the reviews, recommendations, and opinions of the connections in your Google+ Circles central to your Google+ Local experience. As a result, any searches a user conducts for places in Google Search, on Google+ Local, or in Google Maps will feature results from that user's Google+ Circle connections. So If I were to search for Mexican food, I might see a review from a friend of mine who recommends a particular Mexican restaurant in the area.
Now on to your questions ...
I'm a local business. What happens to my Google Places page?
Good question! If you're a local business that had a Google Places page, you're probably wondering what all this means for the management of your local listing.
First, you'll probably notice that your Places page gets transitioned into a Google+ Local page. All of your basic information should get migrated over to the new design, and according to the Google and Your Business Blog, you should still manage your information via Google Places for Business. This will enable you to verify your basic listing data, make any updates, and respond to reviews. If you're using AdWords Express, Google confirms that your ads will function normally, automatically redirecting users to the destination you chose or your current listing.
What if I already have a Google+ business page?
No worries! According to Google, you're still encouraged to maintain your Google+ business page, but there are still more changes to come. Ultimately, Google will be merging your Google+ business page with your local page presence in the future, so stay tuned. And for a sneak peek into what to look forward to, Google has already worked with several business owners to fully upgrade and merge their listings, sharing their Google+ business identity across Search, Maps, and mobile.
So if you're a local business who hasn't already created a Google+ business page, now might be the time. Doing so will ensure that you're ready to take advantage of all the other social features Google+ pages offer (such as status updates, Circles, Hangouts, etc.) when Google decides to integrate your Google+ Local page with your business page. And don't worry -- we'll keep you updated when this integration happens ;-)
What do you think of Google+ Local? How do you think it will affect your local business' presence in search?
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