Every once in a while in search engine optimization and social media something earth shattering happens. Something that makes you want to take a deep breath, sprint to the top of a mountain and scream the breaking news through a megaphone for the whole world to hear! This is not one of those times, but its close to one of those times for people who work in local SEO.
People have been anticipating the merge between Google + Pages and Google Places for sometime now. Well, it has finally happened. Google Places is no more and Google + Pages are now the centerpiece for local Google business marketing.
Public sentiment in the early hours of this launch is positive. Most people see this as a good thing. Google + Pages are more social, the provide increased opportunity for optimization and they render excellent from a mobile perspective, something that is critical for local businesses.
According to Search Engine Land, these are the major changes.
The substitution of the new Google+ Local pages (as mentioned) for Google Places pages
The appearance of a “Local” tab within Google+
The integration and free availability of Zagat reviews (its entire archive across categories)
The integration of Google+ Local pages across Google properties (search, Maps, mobile)
Integration of a circles filter to find reviews/recommendations from friends/family/colleagues
Static Places now give way to more dynamic Google+ Local pages. Google’s star ratings are also being replaced by the Zagat 30-point rating scale (for user reviews as well).
The Google + pages will be able to be found through Google.com, Google Maps and through the Google + search interface. This has made Google + immediately another local search destination for users.
Let’s take a look at one of the new local business pages
As you can see from the layout:
You can easily write a review by clicking on the blue button
Maps are listed below the profile picture
Zagat reviews are listing just below the address, phone number and hours
There is also a photos section on the lower right where you can “see inside”
OK so a few last points and then we will wrap this up. Mobile is critical for local and the Google + pages look excellent on a smart phone. The local pages will be indexed well in regular Google and the Google Mobile search space. Overall, there is a new king of local Google search in town.