In a move that I predicted from the very beginning, Google has finally scrapped the Google Places offering and rolled all Places profiles into what they are calling Google+ Local.
Now, you could argue, and some will, that forcing local business owners on to Google+ is yet another sign that Google is putting way too much emphasis on their desire to become relevant in social media, but the fact is, it’s still very much Google’s world that we playing in.
The most frustrating aspect of this in my opinion is that it took so long. I’m guessing a lot of local business owners jumped in and built brand pages, so now what?
If you’ve created a Google Place page, as I’ve been advising as part of any local search plan, then you may already be aware that Google has moved your page onto Google+.
If you’ve got a Google+ account you can find your page through either local search or through the Local button that now appears on the left sidebar when logged into Google+.
If you don’t have a Google+ account, well, I guess you’ll get one now if you still want to play with Google.
Google has already flipped the switch and is showing these new Google+ Local pages when you conduct local searches in Google and on Google Maps. While you can still gain access to and edit your Places profile pages through the Places login, my guess is that will give way to Google+ profile editing at some point.
Here are some things to note:
Clean up your profile.
When Google moved the pages to Google+ it made a mess. A bit like moving anything does, I suppose. Go jump in and choose and edit your profile image and banner image. Right now Google is either picking from photos you uploaded or simply using a map.
You might want to add some things to your profile as some of the customization you may have done previously could be lost. Add links to your page.
Check out the reviews
Google purchased the restaurant rating service Zagat a while back and it appears they intend to inject the Zagat ratings system into the entire review process.
Visitors now have the opportunity to rate your business using a point scale. Not sure how this will translate over into the services of a plumber or insurance agency, but it’s certainly worth noting.
Reviews that came over from your previous page are very messy now. You, as the page owners, have a period of time to clean this up. When you first sign into Google+ and find your page you’ll be able to tell Google+ if you want all your photos and reviews from your Places page to be moved and be attributed to you or remain private.
So, now any reviews that you had previously will simply show up as anonymous Google user. Seems like if you really didn’t have much going in the way of reviews, this is a bit of a do over.
It will be interesting to see how much more emphasis Google puts on reviews.
Here’s the bottom line in my view. No mater how you feel about this rather forceful move, Google looks poised to make it a significant part of the Local Search landscape and you can’t ignore that. My guess is there will be plenty of tinkering, adding and tweaking in the weeks and months to come. You can bet advertising and offers will move into this somehow.
Now is the time to get in there and claim, prune, decorate and otherwise take control of your Google+ Local offering.