Have you noticed that Google Places is now Google Plus Local? In 2010 Google Places was introduced with the hopes of providing consumers with an easier way to discover and share local information. The real goal was to expand the reach and dialogue between merchants and consumers, by facilitating easier access between them.
However, none of this was able to come to fruition as the limitations of Google Places made it impossible for it to become what it was envisioned to be.
And so, Google Places has now been integrated into Google+ to become “Google + Local Pages” (located in the “Local” tab within Google+).
Here are the 5 biggest differences we’ve noticed using Google+ Local:
1. New and Improved Layout and Design
Google+ Local is expected to mean big changes for businesses, in large part this simply has to do with the new layout and design. While at first glance it may seem familiar (Google has made sure not to throw their users through too much of a loop) if you look closer you’ll see they’ve made a few user-friendly improvements.
Now when searching for a business using Google+ Local pages, Google+ profiles for businesses will appear in the search results.
Each profile in the search results can have up to 5 clickable thumbnail images, or a wide masthead photo (like the cover photo on an individual’s facebook profile), whichever the business decides to put on their profile. Under the photos is information on the business: the address, phone number, business URL, Zagat scores, other categories and pricing info.
2. New Rating/Review System
Google+ has replaced its Google Ratings system with Zagat reviews. Unlike Google’s obviously limited 5-star review system, Zagat review scores are based on a 30-point system, providing structure for a more in depth analysis of any business.
Now reviews are sectioned into several different aspects of a business (i.e. food, service, atmosphere, etc.), providing anyone who wants to write a review with a rating structure that allows them to write a more helpful review.
3. Makes Searching Easier
With the integration of Zagat reviews and other Google+ properties (i.e. search, Maps, mobile, etc.) into Google+ Local searches, Google+ users will more easily be able to find reviews and recommendations from friends, family, coworkers, etc. as well as other information on local businesses.
Also, in order for users to get better, more accurate search results, the Google+ Local search page has two search-boxes; one for your specific search query (i.e. Italian restaurants) and one for your location (i.e. Seattle, WA).
4. Google Plus Local is More Social
Google+ like Foursquare allows its users to filter search results through their circles. Users will be able to find results that were “touched by” their friends and other people in their circles. (As of now “touched by” refers only to reviews and posts done by friends, but could very soon include “check-ins”).
As time goes on we guess that Google+ Local pages will get even more social. For now integrating the local pages into Google+ was a necessary first step for Google+ if they hope to eventually have anywhere close to the same number of users as Facebook.
5. Greater Online Visibility
Unlike Google Place pages, Google + Local pages will be indexed. Businesses will now have to make it their duty to understand these new SEO opportunities. Simply put: users will more easily be able to locate a business’s information (if that business takes advantage of these SEO opportunities), and so more traffic will be directed to that business’s website.
If you have any questions about Google Plus Local please let us know in the comments below 😉