Have you performed a search for a local restaurant or business on Google within the past couple of days? If you felt like something seemed a little off or completely different, you weren’t the only one. On May 29th, Google made the dramatic move to convert over 80 million Places pages worldwide to Google+ Local pages, in an effort to socialize local search. With this move came several new features for business owners, as well as layout changes to both business pages and Google+.
- More Dynamic Business Listings: Rest assured all of the basic content and photos from Google Places pages have been transferred over to their respective Google+ Local pages. The exciting part is that business owners have the ability to include additional custom content in their listing, in addition to gaining the ability to interact with customers through Google+. Places pages limited business owners to sharing a couple photos and a short blurb describing their business. According to SearchEngineLand.com, +Local pages “will permit local merchants to develop followers and message them, and to have the kinds of social interactions now available on Facebook and Twitter.” Google has also hinted that over the next several months, features currently available to Google+ Business Pages, such as hosting hangouts and sharing photos, videos and posts, will be available to Google+ Local pages. Below is an example of the new Google+ Local layout.
- Introduction of the “Local” tab: Google+ now boasts a “Local” tab within the side navigation bar. This tab provides users with customized local information, such as recommendations and reviews for restaurants in their area. Socializing local search could potentially prove to be Google+’s largest differentiator from other popular social platforms. Check out the new customized local tab below.
- Free Zagat reviews: According to paidContent.org, “Google bought Zagat last September for a reported $151 million,” but the company had yet to utilize the breadth of Zagat’s content until now. Google’s original 5-star ranking has been replaced by Zagat’s 30-point scale. This allows users to provide more detailed information when recapping their visits to a local restaurant, such as the ability to separately review the food, service and atmosphere.
- Solid Integration of Google+ through other Google Services: Accessing Google+ through other Google properties is now easier after the introduction of Google+ Local pages. Users will be able to access Google+ Local pages through search, Google Maps and mobile apps.
- Greater SEO Potential: One of the biggest benefits for business owners is that “unlike Google Places pages, these new Google+ Local pages will be indexed,” claims SearchEngineLand.com. The ability for business owners to interact with customers also provides more optimization benefits to Google+ than ever before.
Since its introduction in June 2011, Google+ has had its fair share of critics. Many bloggers have voiced that Google+ does not contain a unique enough feature to differentiate it from other social networks. In February, the Wall Street Journal published the article, “The Mounting Minuses at Google+,” which states, “analysts and consumers say the distinction isn’t enough to lure Facebook members away and persuade them to build a network of contacts from scratch”. The article also refers to Google+ as a virtual ghost town, after sharing a comScore report claiming that Google+ users spend around three minutes on the site each month, which is far lower than Facebook use and, surprisingly, even lower than MySpace.
Do you think Google+’s change to socialize local search will increase the number of users choosing to log in each month? Are Google+ Local pages what Google+ needs to finally take off? Share your thoughts below!