It is no secret that Google has been working hard to combine its services to make a more seamless experience for users whether they are searching for information on Google Search, sharing that information on Google+ or promoting their business with Google Adwords or Google Places.
With the release of Google+ Loca they have incorporated Google Places with Google+.
HubSpot has a great blog on What Local Businesses Should Know about these changes.
I think the changes are positive for local businesses but at times it seems that it is a full time job just keeping up with Google. Here are my 4 takeaways.
What is Google+ Local?
If you have a Google+ account you will now notice the new "Local" tab in the lower left side. When you open it you will see recommendations for restaurants, stores and other local businesses very similar to Foresquare, which has been getting an overhaul of its own. If you have Google+, Google Maps or Google Local installed on your mobile phone or tablet you will see businesses based on your location. The important thing now is that everything is connected.
According to Google, "With one listing, your business can now be found across Google search, maps, mobile and Google+, and your customers can easily recommend your business to their friends, or tell the world about it with a review."
In that one listing you will see information about the business, directions on Google maps, images, comments, reviews and Zagat ratings. Remember Google bought Zagat last year?
OK, now do you see how things are starting to fall into place?
Your One Google Listing
Everything is not quite one easy listing yet but as far as Google is concerned that is what they are trying to achieve. What should a local business do to be sure they stay on Google's radar? Let's face it, if you are not listed in the services that Google owns it will be harder for people using Google to find you. If you are a local business, or really any business, there are two things you should do right now.
Get a Google+ Business Page
This is very similar to a regular Google+ account and it will only take you a few minutes to set up. It needs to be associated with a Gmail account but Google has made it a lot easier to invite managers to help administer your Google+ business account. Probably the best guide for setting up and using your page is HubSpot's free How to Use Google+ for Business eBook.
Claim your Google Places
The big change for Google Places is that it will now be connected to your Google+ Business page (it is important to use the same Google account for both) and when people search Google+ Local what they will find is your Google Places listing.
For now businesses will create and manage their Google Places accounts as they have always done. Our free eBook: Claiming Your Google Places is a great guide for setting up your Google Places account.
This is still a work in progress for Google. Not all of the capabilities found in Google+ are found in Google+ Pages but according to Google "we'll soon extend these social experiences to more local Google+ pages in the weeks and months ahead." My advice then is to set up your Google+ Business Page and claim your Google Places now and start getting found on Google Search.