Just a few weeks after the announcement of Bing’s new social integration, Google announced that Google Places is being replaced by Google+ Local, a combination of the Google+ network and Zagat reviews. The new format forces businesses to participate in the social realm by allowing users to search and share information and opinions about local businesses, hotels, restaurants and shops.
Now when users click on a location within the search results or map listings, they will land on a Google+ Local page. While most of the content has remained the same as what you would find on a Places page, the look and feel has changed dramatically to include the Google+ Social layer. Users now have the ability to ‘+1′ a location, write a review and share their opinion in their network of Circles. The new capability to write-and-read reviews solidifies Google’s reasoning behind the purchase of Zagat back in September.
Businesses that embrace the new platform will benefit greatly from the opportunity for new customer interactions. Google has also mentioned that the new Google+ Local pages will be indexed, providing a great opportunity for businesses to increase their overall SEO potential within the search giant.
While the jury is still out on Google+ Local, and Google+ for that matter, many feel that this new addition will greatly improve overall local search. In turn, these changes also open the door for individual brands and local businesses to step into the social world with more ease and control. Yes, these are major changes, but the benefit of additional exposure and new customer interaction might be motivation enough to embrace them. Google has mentioned that there will be additional features and integrations between Local and Google+, as they are announced we will be sure to report them.
We’re anxious to hear how easy or difficult the process of claiming these new Google+ Local pages will be for the owners of the places, considering we’ve had to jump through fiery hoops to regain admin access to abandoned Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for our clients. Fingers crossed that Google+ will learn from the other social media giants’ mistakes.