Last week Google launched Google+ Local, which has automatically transitioned the information from Google Places pages to a new layout in Google+. This new Google+ Local page is integrated into the Google+ social network, which makes it easily accessible to searchers on that site. This update takes your existing Google Places page, gives it a makeover, adds some new features such as Zagat reviews, and provides additional visibility through Google+ and Google search.
So what exactly does Google+ Local mean for your local business? Will this change affect your Google Places page optimization efforts? What about the new reviews; will they help or hurt your local business? Here are a few key answers from the Google+ Team that you should know.
Your Google Places page will no longer exist – kind of.
Your Google Places page no longer exists in its old format, but the content you added to it is now displayed in a Google+ Local page. You don’t have to do anything to migrate it; Google has automatically created the Google+ Local page for you. Think of it as a facelift for your Google Places page.
Your Google+ Local page is a different page, for now.
It’s important to understand the difference between a Google+ business page and your Google+ Local page. You may or may not have created a Google+ page for your business to share content and connect with consumers on this social site. Your Google+ Local page is a separate page that is currently not linked to your Google+ page, although Google has said that integration of these pages will be coming at some point. So for now, it’s important to know that even if you do have a Google+ business page, you will still manage your new Google+ Local page from your Places for Business dashboard. However, you’ll continue to manage your Google+ business page from your Google+ account.
Google+ Local will add new social capabilities that Google Places didn’t have.
Your Google+ Local page will eventually have the same social capabilities that your Google+ business page has now such as hangouts, sharing to circles, photos, videos, wall posts, and more. You will not see all of these options right now, as Google will activate the social tools when they fully merge your two accounts.
To provide an example of what merging these accounts will look like, Google has fully merged some new Google+ Local pages with existing Google+ business pages. Here is an example of one:
Here are a few more to give you an idea of what your future Google+ Local page could look like:
Your reviews are now part of the Zagat 30-point scale.
Part of the new transition to Google+ Local is the integration the Zagat scoring system into reviews that are shown on your pages. Google has automatically applied all of your existing Google Places local business reviews to your new overall Zagat score, with the reviewer names displayed as “A Google User.” However, any new reviews added through Google+ Local will require the user to have a Google+ account. These new reviews will display the reviewer’s identity, making reviews more personal and potentially reducing the number of fake reviews.
You can still set up a Google+ business page.
If you haven’t set up a Google+ business page to use the site as a social outpost to share content and connect with consumers, you still can still do so. If you do create a business page, make sure to select the “Local” category for your business type in the setup process so that Google can effectively merge these page types.
Google+ Local Pages will not be static pages and will require fresh content for optimization.
One big difference in Google+ Local from Google Places is that once your pages are merged, your Google+ Local page will no longer operate like a static business listing. In other words, you’ll no longer be able to rely on a “set it and forget it” mentality, and actively managing and updating your Google+ Local page will become extremely important for your Google+ Local page to rank high in organic search results. That’s why you need a strategy for managing your social media and Web presence, so you’re ready to take advantage of the added capabilities Google+ Local gives you for optimizing your social marketing and search advertising.
So what now?
Over the next few months, there will be more information announced as Google begins to integrate the new Google+ Local pages into Google+. If you want to stay up-to-date on the changes to your Google+ Local page, you can sign up to receive an update from Google. Or, if you have any additional questions, you can post your questions to the Google+ FAQ forum. We’ll also keep you updated on the ReachCast and ReachLocal blogs, so stay tuned.
What do you think about the new Google+ Local rollout? Let us know in a comment!