Google launched the much anticipated Google+ nearly a year ago, but in the last week, this social platform has become much more important to us all. On May 30th, Google announced that Google Places will be phased out in favor of Google+ Local pages.
According to Google’s Marissa Mayer, around 80 million Google Places pages worldwide have been converted to Google+ Local pages, and this process will continue over the coming weeks. After Google+ was introduced around 10 months ago, we’ve all wondered what would come next and how it would shape the look and feel of local search. Now it is clear that Google+ will be an essential part of the way we all represent our business and interact on the web. Quite simply, Google+ can no longer be ignored by the business community.
Although this format change may take some getting used to, it should make local search more user friendly, with the more interactive and dynamic platform of Google+. The Google+ Local page is not just more visually appealing and versatile than Google Places, but it is arguably a better local search platform than Google Search and Google Maps. People will find the new Google+ Local pages in a few ways: through organic search on Google.com, a search on Google Maps, using mobile apps, or through a search on Google+.
The new “Local” tab along the left-hand sidebar in Google+ will take users to a personalized local home page, allowing users to search specifically for the business they are looking for or browse what’s near them. Google uses several variables to determine what is displayed on this page, so two people searching in the same city may see slightly different local search results. The new Google+ Local search results will feature Zagat summaries and scores (Google acquired Zagat last year), as well as reviews and recommendations from people within a user’s Google+ circles.
If you’re a business owner with a Google Places page, here’s what you need to know:
- Your Places page will automatically transition to a Google+ Local page. Most likely, this change has already taken place.
- You will still make changes, respond to reviews, and manage your business information through the Google Places login, as you always have. You don’t have to reclaim your business if you had claimed it on Google Places. And whether your page was claimed or not, the old Places page will automatically transfer over to Google+.
- Google+ Local pages will be indexed, which is a huge benefit to this transition. Use your Google+ Local page wisely, and you will be rewarded with a great deal of SEO value (the former Google Places pages were not indexed by Google).
Below is an example of a Google+ Local page after being migrated from a Google Places page:
While signed into Google+, a local search was performed for “Blue Tent Marketing,” and the above Blue Tent Google+ Local result came up. You’ll see the format is quite similar to the look and feel of the now defunct Google Places, with the addition of the Zagat scores and more of an emphasis on images and reviews.
If you already have a Google+ account and a Google+ business page, that’s fantastic – continue to use it and interact with it. Google has already hinted at the upcoming migration of Google+ business pages with the new Local pages, so being active on this social and search platform is more important than ever before. Aside from providing contact information, location, photos, and reviews on a Local search page, businesses will one day be able to post updates, host hangouts, and share photos in the same space as their Local search page, creating an interactive and much more dynamic experience for customers and clients on the web. It is uncertain when this merge will take place, but Blue Tent will be sure to let our clients know when that happens.
So…if you have not yet created a Google+ business page, now is the time. And if you are not using your Google+ page, now would also be the time to start doing so. Interact with your visitors, share news, videos, photos, and create discussions. As we mentioned above, Google+ Local pages will be indexed, so creating brand awareness and a following on your Google+ page will ensure that you’re found in local search. Google+ is the search engine giant’s way of bringing people together through local search, and making search more “social.” Make your business and your brand come to life on the web, showing that you are more than just bricks and mortar, and Google will reward you. Contact Blue Tent today for questions on this transition or for help optimizing your Google + presence.