Attention all you businesses who rely on locally-relevant search traffic. Hotel? Yep – that’s you. Restaurant? You too. Professional services? Yeppers. Retail shops. Uh-huh. The list goes on and on. If your customers find you in part by your location, this news should interest you.
That little Google+ profile you set up and have since neglected is about to take over the world. Well, sort of. At least it has become quite a bit more important. On May 30, 2012, Google+ Local replaced Google Places (the listings that represent a business in local search and Google maps), which means about 80 million Google Places pages worldwide have automatically been converted into Google+ Local pages.
I’ll wait here while you run and Google your business to check it out.
So, how’s it look?
Disorienting? Confusing? Here’s the essence of this news: Google+ Local combines local business information with social networking capabilities to give business owners the opportunity to be more relevant, more marketable, and more easily found by consumers. We’ve outlined a few of the changes so you don’t miss a beat as you aim to amp up your search engine rankings and resulting revenue.
See-ya Stars, Hello Numbers
Google+ Local has replaced its star ratings with Zagat-numbered ratings. Users will no longer be asked to rate businesses on a four- or five-point star continuum – a more structured form (regarding service, atmosphere, etc.) will be used and additional comments should be welcomed by businesses.
What you’ll see: For instance, consumers who Google “hotels in Pismo Beach” will get local search returns – but they’ll have to make a choice based on the 30-point Zagat rating scale rather than the very visual yellow star ratings. What’s good: The 30-point spread provides a more accurate rating of an establishment rather than offering just a blanket bad/ok/great (1 star/3 stars/5 stars) kind of review.
Get There Any Which Way
By searching through Google.com, Google Maps, Google+, or using a mobile app, users can land on the new Google+ Local pages and get the local search results they want.
The new “Local” tab in Google+ also takes users to a personalized local home page which will contain a collection of recommended content. Consumers can browse their home page content or continue to search as they normally would. While a user and all of their neighbors won’t see the same home page, there will be common elements. The bottom line is that if your biz is located in San Luis Obispo, you want it to be showing up on the Google+ Local home page of everyone in the 5 Cities area.
Go Social through Google+ Local
Google+ Local is poised to become as social as Twitter and Facebook with its versatility, rich content, and heightened functionality. Your friends who post photos of the amazing dinner they eat out every night on Twitpic or Instagram? Soon they’ll have a new outlet for their food mania – posts like these will be the visual fodder that makes Google+ Local pages appealing.
Google+ users can earmark pics, reviews, and recommendations for their Google+ Local “Circles” which are essentially filters that allow users to share what they want with the people they want … just like they do through other social media. However, Google+ Local’s method is much more discerning and aims to improve upon the Facebook format – users can separate out friends, family, and colleagues into their own circles.
Interact With Your Customers
Google Places gave enterprises an online presence, but through Google+ Local, merchants and business owners will have the opportunity to develop followers and directly communicate with them through messaging – essentially, the same kinds of social methods that are already available through Facebook and Twitter. According to Google, there are even more merchant features on the horizon that will enhance your online marketing efforts.
Your Google+ Local Page Will Be Indexed
If you use Google Places for Business, don’t worry – you can still access your page and dashboard as you normally would. However, the consumer face of your Google Place now shows up in the context of a Google+ Local page.
Google Places pages were not indexed, but Google+ Local pages will be – which means the opportunities for you to use SEO have just grown exponentially. If you’ve ignored that element of marketing online in the past, you truly can’t afford to do so now.
A Last Word About Google+ Local (For Now)
This new action by Google is an amazing opportunity for every business owner to develop better and stronger interactions with their customers and become social in one central place – but it also demands that you learn how to really use Google+ so you can work it to your advantage. The more you absorb and utilize the ins and outs of this development, the more your business will thrive.
Online marketing is crucial to the life of your business – don’t resist this shift. But we want to know: How do you feel about the shift from Google Places to Google+? Are you overwhelmed with yet another social media duty or excited about the opportunities that lie ahead?
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