Last week Google rolled out what I think is just the beginning of much bigger changes related to local search – Google+ Local. Google+ Local is replacing Google Places pages as a new, dynamic way to view information about a location and the pages now include Zagat ratings “front and center”.
Google+ Local currently integrates the features of Google Places and Zagat reviews. According to Google’s blog, Google+ Local will soon include the ability to connect with a business’ Google+ brand page. Google+ Local is also available through the Google+ app on Android and iPhone and that offers a whole new presence of mobile local search.
The big news (drum roll please) in all this is that Google+ Local pages will be indexed for search. Yes, that’s right, all Google+ Local pages will be in the Google index with the likelihood to appear in search results. This means a lot of SEO potential for these Local pages and brands using Google+ to its full advantage are at the forefront of this next step in integrated search and social.
From the searcher perspective, you’ll notice only minor changes in search results, and really only if you searched in Places or Maps. Search results will now contain Zagat ratings if available and provide more information and images in the right hand column when the double arrow (>>) is selected. On the Maps page (shown below) searchers can click “more info” is clicked and is directed to the new Google+ Local page, rather than the Google Places page.
Additionally, Google has added a Local tab to Google+ users’ left side navigation. Upon clicking the tab, Google+ users are met with recommendations from their circles and an option to search. The set-up of the search is similar to Yelp and users can enter a keyword (sushi for example) and a location (Louisville, KY). When you search within Google+ Local, results contain a Zagat rating and reviews. You can sort reviews by “top reviewers” or those from “your circles”.
From a business owner perspective, Google+ Local presents a new outlet for connecting with followers and customers in the social space, similar to through Facebook and Twitter. The information for your business is still managed through Google Places for Business, but the images and other content is managed directly through the Google+ Local page. In an article from Search Engine Land, Greg Sterling reports the following from Google on the management of multiple locations from a single page:
A single page through which businesses can manage their online presence is a top priority, and we’re committed to ensuring business owners have a clear voice in how their business is represented on Google, via Google+. Google+ Local is an interesting modification for Google during a time when more users and brands are beginning to understand the capabilities of Google+ and its place in SEO. So far we have seen the integration of Google Maps and Zagat into Google+, will YouTube be next?