Business owners got a treat this morning as Google rolled out yet another update to its local platform, this time, ditching Google Places and replacing it with Google+ Local. This move completely integrates Google’s local listings with the current Google+ social network.
Coincidentally, and equally newsworthy, Portent just happens to be moving to our new office tomorrow, so we were lucky enough to give the new interface an in-depth examination that we’re sharing here with you.
So what do you need to know, as a business owner? Let’s go over the top 5 things we’ve noticed with the new Google+ Local.
1. How do I get on Google+ Local?
You’re probably already on Google+ Local. And if you’re not, you will be soon. This was an automatic update so all Place pages are being moved to the new Google+ Local format as it rolls out. If you’ve claimed your page, all the contact information, pictures and reviews (sort of – we’ll get to that in a bit) are now seen in the new platform. If you’re not seeing it, then you probably just don’t have the update yet.
2. What about my old reviews?
Google will be moving the reviews from your Place page to your +Local page. However, since the update pairs each review with a public Google+ Profile, they will show up anonymously as “A Google User,” unless the reviewer goes through a brief verification process to publish them publicly.
3. What’s with the rating system?
If you’ve seen the update, you’ll notice that the 5 star system is gone. Replacing it is a new 30-point scoring system developed by Zagat. Each reviewer can rate a business from 0-3. Google then averages them, multiplies by 10 and gives the new score for the business. If you have enough reviews in different categories, you’ll get a score with multiple aspects. Otherwise, you’ll just get a single number.
4. What if I already set up a Google+ Business Page?
For the moment, Google+ Local and Google+ Business Pages are completely separate. So your Business Page and Local listing exist completely independent from one another with no sharing of information. For us, it meant we had to update our address twice; once for each Google page. I imagine that this will eventually change, but since Business Pages currently only allow for one address anyway, it could be a while before we see any changes with this, as many businesses have multiple locations. For now, though, you have two Google+ pages to manage. Yay.
5. Why the change?
As David Mihm describes it, this is primarily a user-oriented interface update. Basically it’s a new face that puts local businesses firmly in the Google+ social arena. The hope is that after everyone looks up businesses, rates them and gets directions, they’ll keep hanging out on Google+ and give it the attention it so desperately needs. This is why, again for now, the dashboard for business owners hasn’t changed. This is for the reviewers, not the business owners.
What have you noticed with the new Google+ Local page? And how is your “+” key holding up these days?