Today Google took another step in integrating the social layer and destination, Google +, into the many other products and services from Google people use every day, announcing Google + Local Pages. The acquisition of Zagat also surfaced and found a home powering Google + Local Page reviews with their 30 point rating system. No more 5-star rating system, where a number of businesses found themselves in the 3.5 star area, Google thinks the more detailed, robust rating system will help users make better decisions on restaurants, bars, accountants, etc. According to Avni Shah, Director of Product Management for Google, “It’s integrated into Search, Maps, and mobile and available as a new tab in Google+ – creating one simple experience across Google.”
A screenshot of the new Google+ Local Page:
The layout is much richer than the previous places pages, which lacked many of the features, even if you take the Zagat integration out, there is still plenty to like about the new Google + Places page. If you previously had a Google Places page, you now also have a page on Google + Local, and can find it by using the search feature from the “Local” tab on Google+. And speaking of the search feature, it also went through some changes, moving to a 2 box system, looking more like the Yelp interface with the ability to enter exactly what you’re looking for and the city you’re looking in. In a separate post Google is urging businesses to continue to use the Places interface to manage their pages, respond to reviews and some other details outlined in this post from Google titled, Google and Your Business , that addresses concerns for business owners specifically, also if you are running Adwords local extensions, you’re ads will automatically be redirected to your new Google + Local page, but make sure you read the announcement from Google to clarify this and anything else that isn’t covered here in this brief overview.
Also announced in a post on Search Engine Land, it was stated that the Google + Local pages will be indexed as well, previously the Places pages were not indexed in Google. They also had the chance to ask Google if you could access multiple locations from a single page, to which Google responded, “there’s no news for the time being but that’s the ultimate goal”.
The new Google+ Local Pages will also feature the ability to use “your circles” to filter and sort data. So if a friend of yours reviewed an Italian restaurant that you happen to be looking at, it will show “Activity from your Circles” at the bottom of the page, along with their review. This makes the local experience more social, and word-of-mouth marketing and keeping your good name online that much more important. This move immediately created around 80 million new Google + Local pages, according to Google’s Marissa Mayer, which were previously Google Places pages. This makes the prospect of customers finding your Google + Local page, especially new customers, more likely than them actually finding your actual company webpage. Especially for businesses who are accustomed to seeing the local 7 pack of maps/places listings, which will no doubt, slowly be replaced by Local Google + Pages.
This is a huge change in local search on Google, with Google + now being integrated in Maps, Mobile and added to a tab on G+, there will be plenty of ways consumers can find your business online, most likely on a Google + Local Page, and perhaps less and less your actual website. With this in mind, it’s important to get as many good reviews, add as many photos of your location, and basically enhance your listing as much as possible to make it as attractive as it can possibly be for prospects, because it might, in fact be the only page they see before making a reservation or a decision about your company.