The G+ initiative has been accelerated with the merger of Google Place Pages and Google Plus.
This week Google started the migration from Google places and to a new platform called Google Plus Local. What does this mean for local search and retailers?
It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For us at Chatmeter, it means that the merger of local and social is continuing and that your brand visibility and reputation among the community is more important than ever. Some of the changes that are being made with this integration are: Google + local pages are indexed, "Search plus your world" is a factor in search results, and the star rating is replaced with the 30 point Zagat rating.
Not only are the G+ Local listing indexed, but people's engagement and reviews will have a factor in where G+ Local pages are ranked, which is called "search plus your world." For those unfamiliar with "search plus your world," "search plus your world" allows reviews and engagements from people in your Google + network to have an effect on your SERP(Search Engine Results Page).
For example, if you search for a Sushi restaurant in San Diego, places that people in your network have engaged in will rank higher in the search results page. How is this helpful? The more people that review and engage on a G+ Local page, the more people that page will reach and the higher it will rank on search results pages.
Like mentioned above G+ local is now indexed, and G+ pages can be used to create trusted back links. When a G+ URL is referenced, Google now sees that as a trusted backlink, which helps in rankings as well. This means SEO plays a factor in this social space.
Having a Google + page has been an important part of rankings for a while and now it's even more important. This is a great way for local businesses to compete with bigger companies. Local businesses can reference their G+ page in order to help their rankings on Google. This is where having a strong online presence and a community following can be very beneficial for local retailers.
Google has taken the benefits of having an engaging community to the next level with this merger. The importance for local businesses to manage their online presence and engage their communities is crucial and could be beneficial or harmful if not managed properly. Businesses will be rewarded in the form of higher rankings in friends' searches for the amount of engagement and reviews it has. Reviews will be more clear and easy to engage with by the 30 point Zagat system.
The challenge here is the Google is now requiring your customers to have a Google+ account to post a review. This is a big challenge for many businesses since adding another new account is always a barrier to engagement. If it's a simple process, then it has less impact, but setting up a Google+ account just to post a review is a big task.
With the integration of the Zagat review system, customers, potential customers, and businesses can now have a better understanding of what people think about a location. If you have over 10 reviews, the Zagat score will kick in. This scoring system breaks down certain aspects of a business, like food, décor, service and cost based on the customer's comments and scoring. By breaking it down into categories, it allows for better explanation of opinions and makes it easier to understand what is being said about a business.
This will allow businesses to get the most feedback out of what people are saying. Of course, if you have multiple locations, this can still be challenging. Here at chatmeter, we've designed our system to help you measure what people are saying at each location for your chain or franchise.
By merging Places with Google Plus, Google is certainly attempting to force adoption of Google+ among both business and consumers. This is a big challenge since the majority of people within these audiences are already using Facebook successfully to interact today.
However, with the influence it will have on Google Search results that could change. In addition, some are looking for the next big thing, so perhaps Google+ can get some of that audience. Ultimately, this is just making it that much harder to manage your online visibility and reputation with yet another site to create and interact with.
For more information on monitoring and improving your Google + page, please visit our review management page.
Google is certainly focusing more and more efforts in the local space. Here is an infographic of the projected product offerings for local in the near future.