If you’re a small business owner who prides themselves on keeping up with all the local search blogs, you may now be overwhelmed with all the news regarding Google+ Local pages and the effect it will have on how you market your business online. If you’re not big on reading blogs, than you may not even know that your business’ online landscape totally changed last week and you could be left out in the cold.
Either way, fear not! Just keep reading to understand all the essentials regarding the new Google+ Local pages; we’ll break it down together.
First off, What are Google Local+ Pages?
In case you missed it, last week Google announced a new way to help people discover and share local businesses with Google+ . The new way comes in the form of new Google Local+ pages. These are new business profile listings which will replace your Google Place page and integrate with Google’s new social network, Google+. Users can access these pages through Search, Maps, or through the new Local tab within Google+.
If you check out any of these new format pages, you’ll notice they are considerably more user-friendly, dynamic, and easier to interact with than pre-existing Google Place pages. I’ve heard many experts describe Local+ pages as more attractive and easier-to-use Facebook brand pages and I wouldn’t completely disagree. There are certainly similarities. Regardless of how you look at them, your Local+ page is your new Google business profile for your company, housing all important business information.
They pages also make use of Google’s acquisition of Zagat from last year, replacing star ratings with more complete 30-point Zagat scores and recommendations  to give users a better way to evaluate and select local businesses. You’re also able to see who in your Google+ Circles has been to the restaurant so that you can find reviews and ratings directly from them.
When a user looks up your business on Google, this page is what they will find. The pages are designed to give business owners a much more social way to interact with consumers, in a way that Place pages simply did not allow.
So my Place Page is gone?
Yes. You should notice that your Google Place page has already been converted to a Local+ page. Google says that to date, 80 million Google Places pages worldwide have already been merged to this new platform. If your page has not been merged yet, it’s coming. So prepare yourself.
Worth noting: According to Google, you will still continue to manage your information (basic information, make updates, respond to reviews, etc) in Google Places for Business . That is still your main console.
What does this mean for my Google+ Business Page? I had one of those, too!
For the time being, you now have two Google+ pages that you’ll need to manage and worry about. However, the time when you’ll be able to merge your Google+ Business page with your Google Local+ page is coming. In fact, to give you a sense of what it will look like, you can view the listings for select companies below. These are folks Google has worked with to upgrade their listings early so that we could all see what it would look like:
Speaking of reviews…will they be moved to my new Local+ page?
Sort of. Google will be moving over the reviews on your Place page to your Local+ page, however, unless the user who left the review goes through Google’s verification process, all of your reviews will now show up as being from “A Google User”. Not the best true cue. However, if the user does go through the quick verification process (which Google will prompt them to do), than the reviews will be tied to their Google+ account. Going forward, in order for anyone to leave a review of your business, they must do so from their Google+ account.
What are the SEO implications?
Okay, so you may not have been wondering about that, but you should. Because this change will impact your visibility on the Web. Unlike the older Google Place Pages, your Local+ business profile WILL be indexed and show up in the search results. That means you will have to think about how you’re going to optimize your Local+ page for search to gain higher visibility.
The merger of Google+ with Google Place Pages signifies a major change in the handling of local search and how small business owners will have to adjust their attention and marketing efforts. For other accounts of what these Local+ pages mean to your business, you may want to check out insight from these experts:
- Google Places is Over, Company Makes Google+ The Center of Gravity for Local Search  [Search Engine Land]
- It’s Finally Here: Chronicling the Plus-Pages Merge  [David Mihm]
- Google + Local: Qs and some As  [Mike Blumenthal]
And, as always, when things change again (which they will), we’ll update you. 😉
Google+  Photo via Shutterstock