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Google Unveils Google+ Local

Google announced last week that it would begin rolling out Google+ Local in lieu of Google Places.  I have already begun to see the changes just by using Google in normal, everyday ways.  Today when I checked out a restaurant that I will be going to tomorrow I was directed to the Google+ Local page, complete with user reviews, Zagat ratings, and photos, among other things.  So the question is, how is this going to change the game?

Let me begin by going over a few of the changes highlighted in Greg Sterling’s article:

  • Google Places pages are now being replaced with Google+ Local.
  • Zagat reviews (acquired in 2011) are now integrated into Google+ Local pages.
  • Google+ Local pages are being used across Google’s channels (Google+, Maps, etc.).
  • And our Google+ circles will now influence how our results are filtered.

Changes for Consumers

So in a nutshell, Google is expanding the capability of their Place pages and offering users a more personalized experience.  We will no longer have to offer our experience with a business on a one to five scale with all of the factors taken into account.  Google’s new rating system separates factors.  For example, restaurants are rated in three categories: Food, Decor, and Service.  Each category is on a scale of zero to three.  This offers a much more versatile platform for reviews.  Imagine all the places you frequent where the decor is awful and service is not that great, but you come back time after time because of the incredible food.  With Yelp, a place like that might get a three star rating, but with Google+ Local it could get a three for food and a one for decor and service.  This is going to help consumers understand what a restaurant is all about better than other review services have.

These changes are going to make the experience more personalized as well.  By integrating our Google+ circles, Google can filter results to show what our friends, colleagues, family, or any other circle thinks about a place.  What if I create a circle that contains all of my foodie friends?  Google can now return results which I know have been vetted by my foodie friends whose opinions I value.

Changes for Businesses

Businesses that currently manage their Google Place page are not going to see any drastic changes on the back end, according to Google.  However, Google is looking forward to rolling out additional changes that will help businesses be more social with their customers.  This is something that Google has been lacking; businesses have not been able to be social like they are on Twitter and Facebook.  With this change, perhaps Google+ will be able to make some gains on its rivals in the social network sphere as businesses begin to populate Google+ with content that is worthwhile for users.

The biggest thing for businesses is that Google+ Local pages are going to be indexed.  The potential SEO benefits are significant and businesses that take advantage will surely be rewarded.  Businesses that do not become social on the network will be missing a huge opportunity to improve their rankings on SERPS.  After all, don’t you think that Google will rank a social business that has reviews from people in your circles higher than one that does not embrace the change?  Businesses, especially small and local brands, need to claim their space and learn to use it, or hire someone to teach them.

This is just the beginning in changes we are going to be seeing.  Foursquare is also shaking up the game by releasing a new version of their app today.  I cannot wait to see what’s possible on that front.  Let your voice be heard in the comment section join the conversation.  Consumers, how do you feel about the way Google is shaking up the web?  And businesses, are you going to embrace this change?

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