Google+ Local

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Today Sees The Launch Of Google+ Local

As announced on Google’s official blog, today sees the launch of Google+ Local.

It has been described as “a simple way to discover and share local information featuring Zagat scores and recommendations from people you trust in Google+. It’s integrated into Search, Maps and mobile and available as a new tab in Google+ creating one simple experience across Google.”

So, what’s new?

There is now a new “Local” tab on the left hand side of the Google+ dashboard. Clicking on that allows you to search for specific places or browse for ones that suit your current need.

Google+ Local

If you then click on a restaurant, pub or business for example you are taken to a local Google+ page that includes photos, scores and summaries, reviews from people you know, and other useful information like address and opening hours.

Google+ Local Page

Zagat Scoring System

A lot of the same information is there as under Google Places – map, address, telephone number, website, categories, description, photos, directions and opening hours. The main difference is the Zagat scoring system.

Google acquired Zagat last September and at the time Google’s Marissa Meyer said “With Zagat, we gain a world-class team that has more experience in consumer based-surveys, recommendations and reviews than anyone else in the industry. Founded by Tim and Nina Zagat more than 32 years ago, Zagat has established a trusted and well-loved brand the world over, operating in 13 categories and more than 100 cities. The Zagats have demonstrated their ability to innovate and to do so with tremendous insight. Their surveys may be one of the earliest forms of UGC (user-generated content)—gathering restaurant recommendations from friends, computing and distributing ratings before the Internet as we know it today even existed. Their iconic pocket-sized guides with paragraphs summarizing and “snippeting” sentiment were “mobile” before “mobile” involved electronics. Today, Zagat provides people with a democratized, authentic and comprehensive view of where to eat, drink, stay, shop and play worldwide based on millions of reviews and ratings.”

Google+ Local Zagat Scores

Unlike the old Google Places star review system, as an individual, you are now able to register your score from 0 to 3 (see the above guide). These scores are averaged and then multiplied by 10  to arrive at averaged scores between 0 and 30.

Certain businesses, such as restaurants, will be scored across different aspects of their business i.e. food, service, decor and cost. Where a business can’t be rated on different aspects an overall score will be shown. Under the old star scoring system a restaurant with good food but poor decor might have been rated as simply 3 stars. Under the new system the same establishment might  receive a score of 25 for the food and 7 for the decor. The overall idea is that the new scoring system will be more in depth and accurate enabling customers to make better decisions.

Recommendations and Reviews

Avni Shah, Director of Product Management at Google, says “Your friends know what you like, and they probably like the same things you do. That’s why the opinions of people in your circles are front and center. If you search for [tacos] on Google+ Local, your results might include a friend’s rave review of the Baja-style taco stand in your neighborhood. And if you’re searching on Google or Google Maps for a great place to buy a gift for that same friend, your results might include a review from her about a boutique she shops at all the time.

You can also share your opinions and upload photos. These reviews and photos will help your friends when they’re checking out a place, and are also integrated into the aggregate score that other people see. The more you contribute, the more helpful Google+ Local will be for your friends, family and everyone else.

Whether it’s a block you’ve lived on for years or a city you’ve never been to before, we hope Google+ Local helps you discover new gems.”

Summary

The demise of Google Places and the integration of business pages with Google+ has long been anticipated.

Many of the parts of Google Places still remain but the new Google+ Local will give businesses more control over what’s on their page and offer up a enhanced review and scoring system.

It’s too early to assess how certain aspects like existing reviews, rankings, citations, merged listings, multiple locations/branches, competitor ads etc will be affected and from the buzz around the community no one seems to have a definite idea.

This video was shot today at a meeting at Googles office in Austin, Texas and although it’s not the best quality it does offer snippets of information directly from a Google representative.

There are some other useful posts about Google+ Local on Mike Blumenthal’s blog, Small Business Search Marketing, Search Engine Land and this excellent post by Phil at Local Visibility System:

Today Google officially merged Google Places with Google Plus. You’ve probably heard about this. (Google Plus – you know, that Facebook-wannabe social network that Google has been ramming down our throats for about a year.)

Some people have trumpeted this for months, and have been proclaiming “Google is dead”, “search is dead,” and spouting other nonsense. They make it very easy for you to freak out and feel overwhelmed.

Sure, it’s a shake-up, but it’s not quite as dramatic as some people might lead you to believe. You’re a business owner. You’re tough. You’ve adapted to online changes a heck of a lot bigger than this.

Anyway, here’s what you need to know – and what I suggest you do – in the form of good news and bad news:

The bad news:

  • Your business temporarily has two local “faces”: the Places page we’re accustomed to, plus the new “Google+Local” page (near the bottom of this email are some links with more info about the latter). People can still get to the old Places page, but the new Google+Local page will become your new “face” shortly and the old one probably won’t even be findable. If you’ve set up a “Google Plus Page for Business,” great. That will probably come in handy down the road. If you haven’t, it’s not like you’re now invisible, but you should just create one as soon as you can.
  • Customers now have to take different steps for writing reviews for you. Basically, they have to create a Google Plus page, log into it, search for your business in the “Local” tab in Google Plus, and finally write the review. It’s not much harder: sure, it’s a little more involved, but it’s mostly just different steps for writing a review.
  • Google is trying to make you use Google Plus, whether you like Plus or not. I know I’m not wild about it so far. (I started using Facebook in 2006, before most people knew it existed, and even that early version was more fun and easier to use – which is why it caught on.) At this stage, you only really have to deal with Google Plus if you’re trying to get customer reviews – which you should – but Google will certainly find more ways to get you to use it. None foreseeable or worth worrying about for the immediate future, though. Still, you should create a Google+ for Business page
  • Eventually it may be a good idea to ask customers for “feedback” other than reviews – like to “+1” your website or to add your Google Plus Business page (if and when you have one) into their “Circles.” You’ll probably have to worry about this at some point, but not right now.
  • It’s confusing. There are so many PR-stunt types making exaggerated claims about this change. It’s hard to filter out all the noise and know what to do.

The good news:

  • The rankings haven’t been shaken up, at least based on what I’ve seen with my clients and others. If you ranked well yesterday, chances are you’re ranking just as well today.
  • You can still manage your Places / Google+Local / whatever page the same way you always have: by logging into your Google Places page and editing it.
  • It used to be worthless to try to get links to your Places page. But Google is treating the new pages as indexed search results – meaning that if you get link to your Google+Local page, you’ll probably get a visibility boost.
  • There may be fewer Google bugs down the road, and/or more “support” if you have a question or problem. Google may continue to make things more confusing before they get less confusing, but eventually it will probably be easier to manage your local visibility in Google.
  • You the business owner don’t have to DO much right now. Google has mostly just changed the look of how your business is represented online – and they’ve done it for you, rather than asking you to drop what you’re doing and take some action in order for the update to take effect. (Again, the only caveat is you should create a Google + for Business page, but that’s quick to do.)
  • The fundamentals have NOT changed. The steps for growing your local visibility are still the same. There’s going be an increased emphasis on reviews, and probably eventually on “+1s” and having customers add you to their “Circles,” but we’re not there yet.

The bottom line is this:

If you’ve been working on getting more visible in local Google, keep doing what you’re doing. The names and looks have changed somewhat, but the fundamentals are still the same, and they’ll still get you the results you need. No need to worry. You’ll be just fine.

Good advice. Read the post here: – http://www.localvisibilitysystem.com/2012/05/30/my-cliffsnotes-on-the-google-places-plus-merger/#comment-424



About

Hi, my name is Mark and I'm the owner of SEO Manchester.

I started in SEO in 2009 and have gradually built up my business solely from organic traffic generated via high search engine rankings (mainly Google).

I love building highly optimised WordPress websites and optimising Google Places listings. I am also constantly building on my knowledge of the uses of all forms of social media for marketing effectiveness, particularly Google+.

When not helping clients improve their online presence I enjoy walking the dog around the hills where we live, reading, real ale and (surprise) spending more time on the web.