In response to my on establishing a business presence on Google Places to increase online visibility and enhance searchability, I would like to update you on Google’s latest change. Earlier this month Google completely revamped their Google Places listings, turning them into Google+ Local business pages.
One of the biggest differences in Google+ Local is an attempt to make local search more social, hence the integration of Google Places with Google’s new social media site, Google+. Google+ Local allows users to see reviews and photos from people in their Circles (which adds no value to you, unless you have a Google+ account), and aims to make the online review experience more personal.
Just as Google gave preference to Google Places listings in the search results, Google+ Local pages will also be prominent in the rankings. If someone in your Circles gave a positive review or recommendation of a business, that Local+ page will receive a boost in the search rankings. For example, if your Google+ friend gave a great review for , his favorite seafood restaurant in Mystic, S&P would rank higher in the search results when you Google “seafood restaurant in Mystic.”
When Google makes major changes, there is often much confusion as the dust settles. Here are answers to some of the most common questions about the new Google+ Local:
What if I already had a Google Places Account? Do I have to create a new Google+ Local Account? Fortunately, no. Google should have seamlessly transferred the information from your Places account to the new Google+ Local format. However, due to the new format, you may want to take a look at your new page. You may choose to customize the new layout to include the pictures, logo, or map view that you want customers to see. Also take the time to verify your business information is correct.
How do I sign up for a Google+ Local Account? For now, you can still sign up just as you would have for a Google Places account at places.google.com. Of course, this process is subject to change in the future.
What happened to my reviews? If executed properly, Google should have switched all of the reviews from your Google Places account to your new Google+ Local page, with the exception of the 5-star rating format. Google has replaced the 5-star rating system with the Zagat scoring system, allowing users to rate their experience on a 3-point scale.