On May 30th 2012 Google announced the launch and roll out of Google+ Local Pages, a significant update and integration of their Place Pages and Google+ initiatives.
This blog post covers The Search Agency POV primarily for Non Paid Media (SEO, Social).
What is the change?
In late 2010 Google launched an ambitious project that gave every business a page on the web – “Place Page” – and prioritized their inclusion within the search results page (SERP). For businesses without a website link, the Google Place Page provided business information, location and reviews pulled from 3rd party sites. Over time Google has made slight improvements to these pages and has experimented with different types and scope of inclusion in the SERP. Place Pages are ‘claimable’ by businesses through a verification process, and business owners could then update these pages to reflect categorization, opening times, add photographs etc.
In 2011 Google purchased the Zagat restaurant review site and, with the new Google+ Local Page, has integrated the Zagat reviews into Google+ Local Pages (it also looks at though Google has expanded and will continue to expand beyond the traditional dining venues). In additional to replacing the existing Place Pages with a more robust and attractive layout, incorporating reviews from “people you trust” (your Google+ Circles and high visibility reviewers), and allowing for additional media elements, Google has also relocated the former Places Pages (formally with complex URL syntax into the Google social platform Google+.
One of the fundamental changes being highlighted is that these pages will be indexed, similar to Google’s crawl of standard websites, which mean that any business additions or updates to their Google+ Local Page may appear in a search result or citation across the various Google web properties.
Why is the change being made?
Google publicly states that the Google+ Local Pages are “a simple way to discover and share local information featuring Zagat scores and recommendations from people you trust in Google+”.
From a business perspective, the integration puts a much larger focus on the Google+ platform, driving users, page views and possible signups to this service.
With this update Google also positions Google+ Local Pages as viable competition against established industry business directory & review sites such as Yelp and City Search by offering an easily searchable business database featuring authoritative reviews and user generated (and business supplied) content with high visibility in the Google SERP and other Google products.
This update and its derived adaption to the right-rail of SERP also potentially provide addition revenue opportunities to Google by driving organic search traffic to Google-owned or Google partner web properties.
What does it look like?
What benefits does it provide marketers?
Opportunity exists for marketers to leverage their current community, posts, engagement and presence on Google+. Also for those who have built out Places Pages for multiple locations the update is seamless, expanding their presence on Google+.
- Simpler design that puts more focus on photos and reviews
- For +Local Places that have Zagat reviews, offers authoritative influence
- “Standardizes” scoring system away from stars to better breakdown (currently Zagat data)
- Discovery via Google+ Circles, connects “people you know” to “places you may like to go”
- Prioritizes reviewers based on local expertise to give more credence to reviews
- Integration of content across Google properties gives indexed +Local Pages and their content contained
- within greater visibility in Google products like Google Maps and Google SERP.
- Improves the SERP via the right rail, including addition +Local Page information creating a richer and potentially improved SERP click through rate.
- Easier sharing for signed in users.
- Offers a richer experience on mobile (currently Android only) with inclusion of Zagat ratings, +Local Page images, local reviews and Google+ integration.
What challenges does the change present?
There is little to fault with the actual implementation of the +Local Pages, however there are potential business implications to note aligned with the release:
- The experience is not seamless with the current Google+ offerings, which Google expects to correct in future releases. Verification and management continues to exist within the old Google Places for Business interface.
- For those with many Places Pages, this update requires a manual review and cataloging of new +Local Page assets, reviews, ratings and media to ensure mitigation or awareness of any reputation management concerns, content and / or location integrity.
- Marketers may need to augment current media and / or content with additional assets to ensure a credible representation of their brand, potentially creating a large number of tasks across the older, less optimal interface.
- For Places with no Zagat ratings Google shows a bland and rather ‘uninspiring’ caption (below)
- Additional SERP competition from a Google owned property might reduce organic click-throughs to the brand’s website where more control and ‘free’ promotions options exist (as opposed to relying on Google Ad products to drive traffic to the site (at a cost).
What action does The Search Agency recommend?
The Search Agency recommends that marketers conduct an audit of their new Google+ Local Pages to verify content integrity and content & media opportunities. Marketers should also start or continue a Google+ strategy to grow their reach within the Google+ platform, even offering incentives (such as coupons) to encourage signups.
If you have questions, please reach out in the comments section or find us at @thesearchagency on Twitter, and also on Facebook.