Well the big news overnight is that Google Places as we know it is winding up and being replaced with Google + Local results instead. This comes as no surprise to us here as Google Places has been plagued with a multitude of issues since it was born out of Google Maps back in 2010. The fact that Google Places had extremely limited user interaction was also a major thorn in Google’s side, as Facebook Business Pages had market domination for this very reason.
What Has Changed?
There are some notable changes, and these include obviously the new Google + pages now appearing where the Google Places page used to display in organic search results. This has yet to roll out to all countries, although expect it to happen quickly.
In your personal Google + pages there is now an added tab for Google + Local search.
Zagat reviews. Now gone is the ‘five gold star’ rating system, and replaced with a much more in depth review system, that allows for a better user experience. Reviews are now given out of 30, and there are sub sections of the review process, that includes such things as food, service and even atmosphere for a restaurant review. If you log into your personal Google + account and write a new review, you will now be prompted to import all your previous Google Places reviews into the new format. Your name is now on the line for all to see, and this is a great addition as it will lower the number of fake reviews from your competitors.
The addition of Google + Pages have also extended across to Google Maps. If you have an Android device by default you will also begin to see the inclusion of Google + Pages in organic search results.
All these changes make for a much stronger user experience, and it may prove to be the winning move in Google’s long struggle losing streak in the social arena.
What About SEO?
Here is where things get interesting for a business owner. The big news is that Google + Local Pages will now be indexed by Google, as opposed to the Google Places Pages that were not.
So if you like it or not and you have a Google Places Page, it will be automatically converted into a Google + Local Page, and by default you are now in the Social Media Marketing game.
If you are a savvy business owner then see this as massive opportunity, and if you nurture and grow your Google + Local Page then you are going to be rewarded with more traffic to your website, and ultimately more customers.
The SEO benefits of this are a great indication of the way Google is thinking right now, and I really see this as a positive move that will greatly help businesses and the end user.
What Do You Do Now?
If you already have a Google Places Page then expect it to change to a Google + Local page in the coming days. You’re going to see an entirely new interface, and if you are not familiar with Google + then it might seem a bit daunting at first. This is not the time to ignore it, as there will be others in your market whom do take advantage and reap the rewards.
The way to build out a Google + Business Page is to do so like you would with anything else Google promote, relevant and valuable. Create content, share content, grow and engage your audience.
There are sure to be more rollouts of changes as Google tweaks and refines their systems and processes, so expect things to bounce around for a while.
To learn more about Google + Local Pages then get it here from the horse’s mouth.