Up to now, local businesses have for the most part ignored Google+, and focused most social media efforts on Facebook and other social media outlets. Last month, Google merged Google Places into Google+, which means any company that had a Google Places page now has a Google+ Local page. What does this mean? No more ignoring Google+! With 80 million Google Places pages being converted into 80 million Google+ Local pages, local businesses can no longer afford to ignore Google+.
New Reviews & Rating System
Although there are many differences between Google Places pages and the new Google+ Local pages, one of the differences that will potentially have major implications on local business is the use of the Zagat review rating system, which is based on a 30 point rating scale. Arguably, a 30 point rating scale can have more impact on perception than the 5 star rating scale Google Places utilized, because of the potential for greater spreads in ratings. For example, if someone’s looking for a local dentist and they come across two dentist pages, one with 3 out of 5 stars, and another with 4 out of 5 stars, a one star difference probably won’t have much impact on that person’s perception of each dentist. However, if the same person comes across two dentist pages, one with a rating of 24 out of 30, and one with a rating of 18 out of 30. The dentist with the 24/30 rating is more likely to be perceived as a better dentist.
New Way to Search For Local Businesses
Another difference that will potentially have a great impact on local businesses is the fact that searches for local businesses can now be conducted within Google+, rather than the traditional Google search. However, instead of showing links to Web sites in the search results as in Google’s traditional search, Google+ local search shows links to Google+ Local pages only (with the Zagat ratings listed directly below the business name). This forces users to visit a company’s Google+ Local page before having access to their Web site URL. So, one can see how poor ratings and an incomplete Google+ Local page could result in negative impressions of a business, which would prevent users from ever reaching their Web site.
The takeaway here is that local businesses will not only have to begin paying attention to Google+, but will need to make sure they’re Google+ Local page is complete and attractive. Local businesses will also want to more actively manage their reviews, and make sure positive ratings and reviews significantly outweigh negative ones.
While there are many changes with the new Google+ Local pages, these are the two changes that we think will have the greatest impact on local businesses initially. If you’d like to learn more, our friends at Search Engine Land have a nice writeup that outlines some additional changes with the new Google+ Local pages.