Google Places Becomes Google+ Local
In 2010, Google launched Places, a product that featured information about local businesses in Google Maps and Google Search. Data from Places was submitted by businesses and additional content was pulled from popular review websites, such as: Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zagat.
On May 30, 2012, Google integrated Places with Google+, ending the Google Places product and creating Google+ Local.
How it Works:
Google+ Local results appear in the new Local tab on Google, within Google search results and in Google Maps. Integration is also planned within mobile applications.
Star reviews have been replaced with Aggregate Scoring (0-30) and Individual scoring (0-3) that’s powered by Zagat Surveys. Google bought Zagat in September 2011 with the intention of making their reviews the “cornerstone of [their] local offering”.
There are currently two different types of Google+ Local pages: 1) Integrated Places pages and 2) Upgraded Google+ Local pages. A select number of businesses have been able to upgrade to Google+ Local pages. The additional features available through the upgraded Google+ Local pages include: followers, offers and hangouts. Google hasn’t specified a date when all pages will be upgraded, but they are currently beginning to honor manual upgrade requests. Business owners should continue to update their information through Google Places for Business.
Figure 1 Google+ Local page that has been transferred from Google Places, but is not upgraded
Figure 2 Upgraded Google+ Local page includes additional features such as posts, videos, followers, hangouts and more
1) Opportunity to Increase Engagement
- Brands that are good at connecting with customers online can extend their expertise and grow engagement with Google+ Local, utilizing hangouts and followers to provide relevant content to their consumers.
2) Higher Visibility for Local Search
- Even though Google Places pages were important to brands and user experience, the pages were not indexed by Google and had no SEO implications. Now, Google+ Local pages will be indexed by Google and could bring higher visibility to businesses that optimize for local search.
Points of Consideration:
1) Additional Time Needed to Manage Both Google+ Local and Google Business
- It’s unclear at this point how large businesses with a large local and national presence will manage their Google+ Local page and their Google+ business page. Google is giving business owners the option to upgrade Google+ Local pages, so it would theoretically be possible to have hangouts and followers for hundreds of local stores and a brand page allowing Google+ users to get national messages.
We recommend brands assess their available resources and determine whether or not upgrading makes sense for their business. For local businesses with one location and one Google+ brand page; however, it is worth upgrading the Google+ Local page.
2) Less Visibility On Google If You’re Only On Yelp & Facebook
- There are many companies who will be hurt by Google’s integration of Places into Google+. Since reviewers will need to have a Google+ page to review local businesses, and Google+ will be highly visible in Google search for local queries, Facebook potentially stands to lose mindshare in social networking. This could also be seen as detrimental to Yelp, whose local listings will now be even less visible in Google search. Integration of Google+ with local information is also possibly harmful to Apple, who just replaced Google Maps with Apple Maps on iOS6. If reviewers prefer the enhanced Google+ Local experience for local interaction they won’t have as much of a reason to use Apple Maps, which is integrated with Yelp.
Recommendations for Marketers
1) Optimize Google+ Local pages for search
- Because Google+ Local pages are findable in search results, they represent another asset that can be optimized for your brand, or for your target keywords. Local keyword research (including regional variants) and link building at the local level can help elevate your visibility in search.
2) Integrate Search and Social Resources for Local Visibility
- If your brand has separate teams working on Google+ and organic search, Google+ Local pages represent a clear opportunity to collaborate for the greater good. Apart from initial optimization of Google+ pages, monitoring reviews/comments and responding appropriately in Google+ can bring greater visibility to the brand’s local listings than SEO or social optimization could alone.
Business owners can’t afford to ignore Google+ anymore. With Google+ integrated into the listing(s) that represent your business on Google, businesses need to develop a strategy and plan to upgrade to Google+ Local pages. While the addition of Google+ Local could provide more initial work upfront, the new product provides marketers with more social interaction (followers, videos, posts, hangouts) with their consumers on a local level. As a result, marketers could see an increase in brand loyalty and offline purchases.