As you may have heard, Google Places is now Google + Local. All local listings in Places upgraded to local pages in the social network: Google Plus and will soon become merged local and social business pages – ones indexed in search results.
Although now located in Google+, not too much about your local listing is different yet, unless you have one of the few Google+ business pages already merged with the local listings. You still manage listings in your Places dashboard and they are still local listings.
Changes we do see, however, have already caused concern among business owners. For instance, Google + Local uses Zagat’s rating system. Some business owners say the change from stars to Zagat scoring with red or black numbers caused a dramatic drop in their number of clicks and is destroying business.
Another concern is that the new pages don’t show ‘Owner Verified’ status. According to Google, if your Places listing was verified, the listing is still verified. A check showing a Google+ business page as verified will come soon.
Also, your customers must now log into Google+ to leave a review for your business. It’s likely that most of your customers don’t use the social network, but Google hopes that will change.
Technical issues during the transition caused some links in listings to return 404s. Some business owners trying to click thru from their Places dashboard to their new local Google+ page saw the dreaded ‘We currently do not support the location’ message instead. Google says this could also be a technical linking issue. Some listings even disappeared in the transition; Google is working on the issue.
Moving Forward with Google+ Local
It’s obvious that businesses who use (and encourage their customers to use) Google+ will be rewarded. When your local listing turns into a full business page, you should post frequently. Become active in the social network. Get and respond to reviews. It will make a difference.
If you are a business owner managing your own local listing, you can find lots of help for getting through these changes. Mike Blumenthal, a local listings expert called “Professor Maps”, provides a step-by-step guide to the Google + Local page transition with advice and a course of action. Reading it and other posts in his blog, along with Google help forums and the blog ‘Google and Your Business’ (formerly Google’s Small Business Blog), will help you get through these changes.
If you are a Forthea client receiving local SEO services, rest assured that our organic search and social media teams are working together to help ensure your business gets the exposure it needs.
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