You may have already noticed the changes in the SERPs, but if not, the rollout of Google+ Local as a replacement for Google Places has taken place.
Whilst this is further evidence that Google want to place all their eggs in one social platform shaped basket, the good news is, there’s not much you need to do to get your business page up and running on the format.
Already got a listing?
If you already have a Google Place listing, you will find that it has automatically been ported across to the new plus format based on the information you have already entered and validated:
Already got reviews?
You also need not worry about all the old reviews your Place listing had, as these have been carried across as well. The update does match up reviews with G+ accounts so unless the reviewer has an account, this will show up as “A Google Reviewer”. The rating system has gone from 5 star rating to Zagat’s rating score where you rate various aspects out of 3 – for example, I was to rate a restaurant on 4 aspects: quality, appeal , service & cost:
Benefit of the new reviews format?
One thing that I noticed with regards the change to the place listings in the SERPs is how the reviews are displayed:
Under the old format, both your onsite reviews and place reviews displayed as star ratings which looked a little confusing and untidy – now they are formatted differently, it looks much tidier.
Has this replaced Google+ Business Pages?
No, they are both currently separate which may prove a pain for some if you need to update 2 lots of information – though Business Pages should be viewed more as brand pages, particularly for businesses that have more than one office anyway.
That said, this may change further down the line as Google have announced in this blog post, that some businesses have been invited to upgrade their pages and a whole host of new features are promised.
Looking at the examples, they are clearly a combination of Business and Local pages with the reviews, ability to add to circles, view posts, add videos etc. – i.e. interact with customers, i.e. like Facebook and Twitter:
Are there any other advantages to having a Google+ Local Page?
Apart from the obvious benefits for local search, it may please SEOs to know that the Local pages have followed links… (whether or not you can get them cached remains to be seen)
How does this integrate with Google+?
A new tab has been introduced down the left hand side which brings you recommendations on places near you and from folk in your circles – so why not get on there and review your local favourites:
Is it worth bothering with?
Well, you don’t need to do anything if you don’t want to so long as you’ve already set up a listing (and if you haven’t, you really should for the sake of your business’s local listings) – and whilst it’s a push by Google to get more folk on their social platform, the onus will be on business owners to create content and look to interact with users, in a bid to encourage them to use the platform as well.
It is a step by Google to get all their services under the one Google Plus umbrella, but whether it’s enough to tempt others into using Google Plus more remains to be seen.