Consumers have been experiencing the switch from Google Places to Google+ Local since last May, but local business owners are still dealing with the merging of the two to manage their business profile. Business owners will continue to manage business information from Google Places for business, while customers rate, review and upload photos through the new local search experience in Google+ Local.
Customers will be able to discover these new Google+ Local Pages in several ways: through searches on Google.com, Google+, or Google Maps, and also in mobile apps. In essence, Google+ will become a new search function within Google, but offering richer content and social functionality equivalent to Facebook and Twitter. Also, there is an added bonus for customers that they won’t be forced to create Google+ profiles to access the content.
A brief overview of what is changing:
- Google+ Local pages to replace Google Places pages
- Rollout of new Google for Business Dashboard
- Zagat review integration to replace Google star ratings
- 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
Verified business owner users who obtain a Google+ personal profile will be able to add the additional features of social stream, posting and videos, although unverified users will still be able to interact with the business profile. (Step-by-step verification instructions from Google)
In the last few days, Google has rolled out a new Google for Business dashboard for users in the United States. The purpose of the rollout, according to Google, is to address usability issues with reduced data integrity issues and improved integration with other Google products. Google is also promising faster updates, stating that “most edits made via the upgraded user interface now appear on Google Maps and our suite of other services within 48 hours.”
There has also been a change made to how users categorize their business. Choosing the right categories is critical to determining your business listing’s relevance in local search. Beforehand, you could create custom categories to define your business, but with the new interface, this option has been eliminated. Instead, users may now choose up to 10 categories (previously 5) from a fixed list of 2295 options, which has been updated with more specialized categories.
From Philip Rozek’s list of 13 Best Practices for Picking Google Places Business Categories, we have extracted some key points with adaptations included for the new interface:
- Follow the Google Pages quality guidelines for business listings, particularly regarding describing what your business IS vs. what it OFFERS, DOES, or SELLS (eg. Italian restaurant vs. pizzas). When editing categories in the new interface, you will be shown examples of correct vs. incorrect categories and you will be warned if you try to add custom categories.
- Pick as many relevant categories as you can – use all 10 if possible
- The first three categories chosen should best represent your particular business in description and relevance, so customers can see immediately if they found what they are looking for
- Use the Google Keyword Tool to see which categories turn up the most local searches if you are stuck between two terms.
- Routinely check Google Analytics data and dashboard statistics to see if your category keywords are attracting visitors – it is easy to change these if you find that you are not getting results
If you overwhelmed by all of these and don’t want to deal with them, contact our team of reputation builders today!