Recently, everyone’s favorite search engine behemoth made a big change to the way it presents online business listings. We’re talking, of course, about Google, which recently did away with its Places pages in favor of shifting that information over to Google+.
Now, any information from your business’ Google Places page will appear in the Google+ format, a streamlined feed that some see as akin to Facebook. Users will access your company’s Google+ Local page either by Search, Maps, or with Google+’s new Local tab.
Note that this is still a work in progress--so if your business already had a Google+ page, you may now have two pages, one of which is the new Google+ Local page. Eventually, Google will merge them to create a unified presence for your company, including social functionality like sharing. Right now, they’re offering examples of a few businesses that have had their Places content and pee-existing Google+ page merged, like this one:
[caption id="attachment_7022" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Google worked with the Chicago Music Exchange to provide a sneak peek at the upcoming merge of existing Google+ business pages and Google+ Local."][/caption]
If you have two pages at the moment, don’t worry--they’ll be merged soon. How can you edit what content appears on your Google+ Local page? You can still access this information through your Google Business Dashboard at http://www.google.com/placesforbusiness.
By tying important business information like location, reviews and hours to Google+, Google is encouraging users to get more involved with its social network. It’s a win for them, but it’s a win for you too--when you sign in to Google+ Local, you will see recommendations from friends and other “Plussers,” and results are tailored to your location and interests.
Google also acquired Zagat, and is fleshing out the Google+ Local pages of restaurants and some other businesses with Zagat’s 30-point scoring system and comprehensive reviews, free of charge. Users who sign in to Google+ can see full reviews and scores from Zagat, while those who choose not to join Google+ will still be able to view all of the same information they got from the previous Places pages (business address, phone, website, reviews, maps, etc) as well as Zagat score highlights and review excerpts.
Though it’s a bit confusing right now, Google+ Local is good news. Unlike the old Google Place pages, business +Local profiles will be indexed to show up in search results. All of a company's existing reviews will be imported to its new page; if a user has not signed up for Google+ and chooses not to follow Google’s prompt for a quick verification process, that user’s name will appear as “A Google User” above his or her review. Users will no longer be able to use nicknames; all reviews will appear under real names, meaning that users may think twice (or proofread!) before posting a review.
More changes are coming. For now, go ahead and claim your Google+ Local page by finding it at https://plus.google.com/local and clicking "Manage Page," so that you can control its content and respond to reviews.