Google Places has been a competent SEO companion for online businesses for several years. But now, it’s gone forever. Google has synced Google+ local pages with Google places, and the result is something new. Today, we discuss the changes and see how they’ll influence your life.
The Old Google Places
You remember Google places? That map and free listing that Google used to offer business owners? That’s changed forever – thanks to Google’s new ‘local pages’ which integrates the new technology they purchased from Zagat about a year ago with their own search technology. What’s the big deal about this change? The SEO benefits of course!
What The Changes Mean
The change from a general Google Places result to a Google+ Local page is extensive – and it adds to the SEO power of Google+. Thus far, it’s the only reason people have been using Google+, and it’s probably another mildly desperate attempt to force people to sign up and actually use the Google-based social network.
On the other hand, it does mean that if you play ball, and take advantage of all the little integrated features – you will rank a WHOLE lot better. Google wants you to know that. If you already use Google+, you’ll notice the new ‘local’ tab in there. Click on it, and you’ll be able to see or find locations, maps and reviews.
The most interested ‘yelp-like’ feature are the new Zagat reviews, which can act as valuable social proof on the network, and as testimonials for your site – for use elsewhere. These should definitely be in your to-do list. Encourage your fans, clients or customers to leave a Zagat review on your Google+ Local listing.
Finally, the last change is that Google has integrated ‘circles’ into the Local tab, so that you can see which friends, family or colleagues have recommended or reviewed a location when you search for it. This would be handy, except that most people hastily add a lot of strangers to their circles to get their followings up. The result is still a bunch of strange reviews!
What You Should Be Doing
Is this bold new move by Google enough to draw our attention back to Google+? Nope, it’s not. Google+ remains a skeleton site to improve your SEO and reluctantly engage with people now and then. For companies, you can’t go wrong with a good Google Local listing – but chances are if you had one before, you have one now.
Just keep an eye on it to make sure that no bad press is being circulated about your business in this public arena. Otherwise, if you’re still not interested in playing the Google+ game, a simple PPC campaign will do the trick, and your Twitter followers can get you all the social proof you need!
This new ‘rating’ system isn’t going to stop people from holding your company hostage – they can add in any scores they like. Watch out for that. If too many bad ratings come up (as some do – from competitors) then think about removing your listing altogether.
What do you think of the Google Places to Google+ Local change? Will this be a good thing or a bad thing for businesses?