his week, Google announced the end of Google Places. In their place, Google has introduced Google+ Local Pages. On May 30, 2012, Google automatically transferred over 80 million of the Google Places pages to the new Google+ Local Pages platform. This change does not come as a surprise, with Google’s ongoing push to make Google+ a success; it is also not a surprise that Google+ Local Pages will have major implications for SEO and social media.
With this change, there are some major differences that are worth noting:
- Zagat Reviews: Zagat reviews will now be incorporated into the Google+ Local Pages. Also, the Google Places five-star rating system will be replaced by Zagat’s 30-point rating scale, even for user reviews.
- Google+ Local Pages are Everywhere: Before, Google Places pages were mostly only accessed through a Google search. Now, Google+ Local Pages can be accessed through Google, Google Maps, in mobile apps, and through Google+.
- Social Interaction: Google+ Local Pages will allow businesses to have followers and even send those followers messages (similar to FB status updates)—much like Facebook and Twitter.
- Enhanced Design & Content Capabilities: Google+ Local Pages have an updated, more appealing aesthetic than Google Places pages. Also, there are more opportunities for different types of content—like photo albums.
- Local Tab: There is a new “local” tab in Google+ that will take those with a Google+ account to a local home page. This home page will provide the user with a variety of recommended, popular, and social content. Each home page will be custom to the user—for example, two people from St. Louis will most likely not see the same page.
- Recommendations from Friends and Family: A Google+ user will be able to filter search results by their “circles.” This will enable them to see only results of merchants that friends and family in their circles had reviewed or been to.
- Google+ Local Pages will be Indexed: Unlike Google Places pages, Google+ Local Pages will be indexed by Google. This means they will carry even more weight for SEO.
What this means for marketers and brands
Because of these changes, marketers and brands will have to adapt and make some changes to their SEO and social media plans. It is important that marketers and brands start:
- Being social on a new platform. It is going to be more important than ever that marketers and brands use their Google+ Local Pages to interact with their customers—similar to the way they do on Facebook and Twitter.
- Optimizing Google+ Local Pages to their fullest. Now that there is more opportunity to add content, marketers and brands should fill pages with as much content as possible.
- Developing a plan for overseeing and managing reviews. Although reviews (good or bad) should happen organically, it is important that you monitor what people are saying about your brand and respond as necessary.
As an agency, we will be staying up-to-date to ensure our clients’ pages are optimized to their fullest potential, and we are excited to see what these changes will mean for the future of SEO and social media. If you have any questions, or are looking for help with your business’ SEO or social media initiatives, contact us.