Local places in Google+
It’s been announced that Google Places are being completely replaced by Google+ Local pages, effectively combining the local business aspects of Places with the peer-review and social trust supposedly associated with Google+ profiles and pages.
Search Engine Land have done a nice extensive summary that’s unfortunately very US-focused, as there’s no sign of Google+ Local pages in the UK as of yet. However Google have suggested that the rollout will be pretty rapid so expect to see them soon.
UPDATE: Google+ Local pages are now live in the UK – my that was quick! However the Attacat local page doesn’t appear to have synced with our Google+ business page, so looks like there’ll be a huge amount of headaches awaiting us trying to get that fixed if the performance of Google Places is anything to go by. I’ve also noticed a number of duplicate map listings reappearing for a number of businesses, so old Google Places problems resurfacing?
The idea is that the Google+ Local pages are combined with existing Google+ business pages, so you’re drawn through into Google+ and encouraged to sign up and interact. Another part of Google’s plan to (somewhat unfairly?) push their social offering through their search dominance.
There’ll be a new ‘local’ section in the Google+ sidebar navigation, which provides a different way to search for local businesses and attractions directly through the social network.
reviews and ratings
What happens to the reviews from a Google Places page? These will be carried across, but Google+ Local will mean changes. The rating system will change to an averaged 1–30 scale from the current 1–5 star average, with individual people’s ratings given on a 1–3 scale. So basically the average will just display an average of 2.7 from however-many user reviews into ’27′. Simples.
US results also strongly suggest that restaurants and eateries will have reviews from the Zagat site drawn through, with Google+ Local ratings also being broken down into categories like ‘food’, ‘decor’ and ‘service’ to give a better idea of each place’s relative strengths and weaknesses. At this stage it’s not clear if categories will only be applied to food establishments, or whether there’ll be equivalents for other types of attraction/business.
some examples please
A few (US) examples are below. Oh! Sushi restaurant features reviews with the category breakdowns, North Bowl has reviews even as a place that isn’t solely a food establishment (but there’s no category split), while the Museum of Making Music doesn’t have any reviews but gets its Google+ business page posted content, like videos, placed quite prominently. Again, exactly how this will translate to UK-based non-food establishments isn’t absolutely definite at this point but we’ll keep you posted.
Museum of Making Music
so what do we think?
Initial thoughts are the Google+ Local pages are far better designed and more engaging than the drab and rather horrid Google Places pages. You can get a real feeling for the personality of the brand, and it looks to reduce the obstacle of users having to sign up to a Google / Hotpot (jeez that didn’t last long did it?) account without being sure what they’re doing. What’s clear is that you’ll need to create a Google+ business page sharpish.
I get a feeling this is going to really change the way we look at social and local optimisation.
Local and social really can’t be viewed in isolation any more
In internet marketing local ties in with social, which ties in with SEO, which ties in with content marketing, which ties in with social… You need to really think about your overall internet marketing strategy and stop thinking any part can be ‘quick fixed’ – in the near future great Google rankings are only going to be achieved by those being great at all of them.