Google Places Gives Way to Google+ Local: What You Should Know About the Change
If you are a local business and you keep an eye on what is happening online, you have probably heard about Google Places being merged into Google+ Local. What you might not know is how this really affects you, your business and your bottom line. Here are the three things that you need to know.
1) If you have a Google Places account, information will move to Google+ Local automatically
80 million Google Places profiles have already been moved to Google+ Local. If yours was not one of them, relax — it will happen sooner or later. The good news? All updates to your Google+ Local profile are done via the Google Places interface for the time being. So from a backend user side, very little has changed.
If your business did not have a Google Places profile, you need to set up a Google+ Local profile. Just like the old Google Places, businesses will need to “owner-verify” their accounts. It is worth noting that Google Places profiles are transferring over exactly as they existed. This means that if your business’s Google Places profile was not “owner verified,” your Google+ Local profile will not be verified either. Currently Google+ Local does not show whether a business has been verified, but they are working to add that functionality soon.
Make sure to check your Google+ Local profile for accuracy. Just because your Google Places was accurate doesn’t mean everything transferred over to the Local profile correctly. So verify everything for accuracy and make any necessary changes.
2) Google is forcing a more social local infrastructure
Google Places has always been a very static environment. Yes, new reviews came in and you could update your pictures and videos. But let’s be honest: how many business owners took the time to tweak their Google Places profile on a regular basis?
With Google+ Local, that is going to change. One of the key features of Google+ Local is that it is a social network and therefore feels like it. Companies that engage regularly will get the most out of this new format. It will become very obvious if a company is not engaging.
As I said, Google is forcing this social infrastructure, and it is up to businesses to adapt to the new “rules” that are in place. Businesses that are early adopters of engaging potential clients at a social level will be the ones that see the most benefit from this new format.
3) Google+ Local will no longer aggregate reviews from other sites
This may be the biggest change and the one that over time will have the largest impact on local search. With Google Places, Google aggregated reviews from various other review sites across the Internet. Now, with Google+ Local, all reviews must be made within Google.
Reviews can be left quiet easily: simply type in the review, give a score of zero to three, and hit publish. Businesses would be advised to again engage customers and seek out positive reviews through interaction. Positive reviews obviously lend credibility to a business, but there may be an even bigger reason to seek out reviews down the road: rankings.
Google currently claims that Google+ Local is not impacting organic search results. That being said, in the future it can easily be imagined that social signals, such as reviews and ratings, from Google+ Local will start to play a larger role in local rankings.
For now, the switching from Google Places to Google+ Local can easily be called an interface update rather than an algorithmic update. The change should happen automatically for businesses, the interface remains the same and the important information delivered to searchers has not changed.
What has changed however is the level of activity that businesses should engage in. Google+ is a social network, and Google+ Local is a part of that network. The ability to engage searchers and clients at a social level is one that businesses should take seriously and look to capitalize on.
Josh Burrell has an extensive background in sales and business, and holds a Bachelor's of Business Administration from Columbia College. Having worked in retail and insurance sales, his entrepreneurial spirit led him to join Lift Division at its inception in 2010. Lift Division is a search engine optimization and marketing firm, focusing on creating custom online solutions designed to help clients meet their online goals. As a co-CEO of Lift Division, he specializes in creating custom search-marketing strategies using SEO, PPC, Email Marketing and Conversion Rate Optimization for a wide range of clients.