The title of this Blog post pretty much sums things up. In their effort to garnish more market share and to consolidate things in a more logical manner, Google has again tweaked their business model by replacing their much-maligned Google Places Pages offering with Google Plus Local Pages. This effectively tightens things up for Google and (intentionally?) forces business owners to focus in on, and utilize Google+ (Plus). So let’s look at this from 50,000 feet as the saying goes. Google effected the change “overnight” at the end of May. In a heartbeat, almost 80 million Google Places pages were converted into Google+ Local Pages. We think that this is a great step forward; albeit confusing for most business owners. It will take some getting used to. Let’s look back a bit. The service originally started off as Google Local Business Center – which in turn became Google Places. Helen actually blogged about this change back in October of 2011. Back then a Google Places page looked like this: Millers Farm & Market Google Places Listing And now the same online query will return this: Millers-Farm-Market-Google-Plus-Places-Listing Quite the (positive!) change from what one used to get. This is awesome inasmuch as a web surfer can get an incredible amount of details about a local business by simply going to the Google+ Local Pages listing for that business. Another great thing (we think) is that Google has tightened up the review process. For example, now Google reviews take precedence and 3rd party reviews have been demoted to the bottom of the page (for better or worse). Plus, now “sketchy” (we are being polite) reviews are harder to facilitate as people writing a review now have to have a Google+ profile in order to do so. All for the better we say! If you have rated a business, a search for that business will render this (note the personalization):

We have been sending our dog Java here for her “puppy holidays” for years. If you went to my Google plus profile, you’d see the rating I have given. Wow – everything is getting tied together very neatly! What’s in it for Google? In short “stickiness”. The more touch points they have, the better. This is why they give away services such as Gmail and Google Docs (to name just a few). Any Local business that is not using this (free) service is missing a gigantic online marketing opportunity. For example you may have missed the fact that Google purchased the much-touted restaurant rating service Zagat in September of last year. Poof – all of a sudden Zagat ratings appear in Google+ Local Pages reviews. Do you own a dining establishment? Hmmm….. Expect more from Google in this arena. Also expect more on the mobile front, as in the long run we will be seeing a migration from local based browsing to mobile browsing. It’s just a matter of time – and the realization by Canadian cellular providers that their cost model is out of whack (IMHO).

Some other Stuff

Ratings:

Google’s (anemic) star ratings are being replaced by Zagat’s 30-point rating scale. We like this as it makes for a more useful review process that will reduce off the cuff and often useless reviews that, in the end, provide no real value to web surfers looking to see what others are saying about a business they are contemplating dealing with.

Access:

Users can access Google+ Local pages in several ways:

  • Google.ca (via a search)
  • Google+ (via a search)
  • Google Maps
  • mobile apps

I am just scratching the surface of what Google Plus Local Pages brings to business owners & web surfers. Expect plenty more from Google in this arena. And if you are a business owner, you will be best-served by paying attention to this enhanced Google service, as ignoring it will essentially equate to ignoring your customers and subsequent future business. And… just in case you were wondering…. We practice what we preach. Here is our Google+ Local Pages Profile. Not to be confused with our Google+ profile! Have you looked at your new Google+ Local Pages profile? If not, you should. Or ask us to help!

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