May 302012

Today Google made some major changes to its overall local search and social layers. These changes were anticipated for a long time, but that’s not all - this is just the beginning. I will not go into too many details about what was rolled out. You can read about it in a lot of details here, here, and here. Basically, Google started the integration of their business data clusters (known as Google Places for Business) and reviews database (known as Google Places), with their social layer (known as Google Plus). This process has up to now led to changes in:

- how reviews are being collected and displayed

- where reviews are being collected and displayed

- Google Places business data flowing, together with reviews to Google Plus

What hasn’t changed though is:

- the business dashboard (Local Business Center) is still under “Google Places for Business”

- listings coming from Google Places are still separate from the Google + Business Pages for the corresponding businesses

- the factors that determine how listings are ranked in local search

However, Google gives us a sneak peak to what is going to come next with a few chosen companies’ pages. Some examples include:

Nick Strocchia Photography

The Meatball Shop

Delfina Restaurant

These all look very similar to the “old” Google+ Business Pages with a few exceptions, all inherited by Google Places:

- you can add photos to the page

- you can see driving directions and public transportation availability

- you can “street view” inside the business

- you can claim and/or edit the page (currently via the Google Places for Business dashboard)

- you can write a review for the business

- you can see reviews from other Google users, or snippets from reviews coming from third-party websites

- you can see descriptive terms for the business

- you can see “similar places”

- you can see links to information such as “Menu”, and probably in future the lost “Additional Details” section will be reinstated under some form.

None of these is currently available for the vast majority of the businesses. Google claim to be working on making it work soon, but I suppose this will involve some higher level integration between the Google Places dashboard and the Google Plus dashboard - functionality which seems to be already available for the chosen handful of businesses.

There currently seem to be no implications on local SEO and the local search ranking factors, but it is possible that in the near future more value would be put on the social factors such as Google+ mentions, +1’s, Google+ shares, number of comments per post, number of posts, number of people that have you in circle (compared to the number of people one has in their circles), relevancy of content shared, etc.

Some great resources to learn more about the change (apart from what I shared in the beginning above):

Official Google+ Local Help Articles

Google+ Local Reviews (by Mike Blumenthal)

It’s Finally Here: Chronicling the Plus-Places Merge (by David Mihm)

Google+ Local: Learn more here (sticky thread in the Google and Your Business Forum)

  2 Responses to “Google+ Local - The New Beginning of Local Search”

Comments (2)
  1. In the past week, my listing on Google places dropped. I’m wondering if it’s due to the Google+ Local update. I’m still getting used to the new look, and things are seemingly migrating from Places slowly. I’m hopeful that everything will run smoothly in the future, though. After all, Google has always given a lot of attention to users and small businesses utilizing their search engine.

    • Hi Shelby, there was an index update a few days ago as far as I am concerned, so that is the most probable reason for the drop. There was also a “Penguin 1.1” update, so you might want to look into that too.

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