You may or may not have noticed that Google recently made significant changes to their Google Places pages by merging them with Google+ (Google’s social media property). The transition began the first week of June and the process still appears to be ongoing.
The new format is now called Google+ Local and it brings a social aspect that was previously lacking in the review section of Google Places. It essentially takes Google+ Pages and Google Places and combines them. The admin area still looks like the familiar Google Places interface, but the front end has a more social media – Facebook timeline type look to it.
The update isn’t just to make Google Places look prettier or to provide another headache for businesses and agencies like ours (!); it’s to bring social features to local search. Not only does it appear that people who want to leave a review will need to be signed into their Google+ account to be able to leave a comment, businesses will also be able to “follow” their customers.
There is a page manager feature as well that will make it easier for page owners to delegate others to maintain their Google+ Local page without having to relinquish their google account and password in the process. At last!
The downside to the added functionality is that owners will now need to also create a Google+ account in their personal name to be able to get the full functionality of the features offered. Some are being critical that Google is forcing millions of business owners to join their Google+ property who otherwise would have ignored it.
Others are complaining that it’s difficult enough to get customer reviews without forcing everyone to have a Google+ account to be able to leave a review.
However, on the plus side – Google understands that reviews are a key conversion factor in having customers visit a particular business. They’ve incorporated more detailed Zagat reviews that will only be possible to only be able to view if you’re signed into Google+.
Zagat was acquired last year by Google and is a website that specializes in reviews. Their review system takes into account the food, service and even decor for restaurant reviews; rounding out additional information to help potential customers make a more informed decision before they try a restaurant they’ve never been to before.
Reviews in the new format are not only more convincing, but more likely to be authentic because anonymous reviews are no longer possible. This discourages people from posting negative reviews gratuitously as well as competitors from impersonating customers and trashing their rivals online.
Getting Started with Google+ Local
Regardless of how you feel about these changes – they’re coming. If you already have a Google Places page created, it may be best to wait a week or so until the transition is completed.
If you don’t have a Google Places page yet – you can get one setup here: http://www.google.com/places/
It’s recommended that you create and claim your Google+ page – to do so you’ll need to create a Google+ profile. You cannot create one under your business name, but once you’re setup in Google+ you can easily create a page and put in the relevant information for your business and assign a page manager.
If you’d rather not handle it yourself, we can look after managing and optimizing your Google Places and Google+ Local pages for maximum results.