Well, here it is. The blog I’ve been telling you guys I would be writing on the changes that have happened in the last week and a half at Google that is going to seriously impact Local SEO.
Now, most of you that read my blog are involved in some type of local business and as you know, our aim with the Tutelary blog is to keep you updated on trends in marketing, especially in internet marketing as those changes seem to be the ones that happen to most frequently and can also be the most confusing. With that being said, I am going to keep this pretty short, basic and to the point with a more in depth analysis coming later.
Some of you reading this know what Google Places is and some don’t. As a quick explanation, Google Places is simply the platform that Google used up until a few weeks ago which allowed local business owners to control how their business appeared to the public on Google search. So, when someone searched for a service in a specific area, ie “Chiropractor Nashville” more than likely the results Google would return would be a “Local Google Result” (formerly a Google Places result). They look distinctly different than regular search results on Google:
Local Google results are differentiable from regular Google listings by the contact information right in the search results themselves along with other information such as how many Google reviews the company had and the quality of those reviews. Google Places also allowed the business to extend offers to their customers, post pictures and videos (among other features) and also had a place for their customers to leave reviews and for the busines to reply to those reviews, giving the business an effective (albeit limited) Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool.
On May 30th, Google announced the transition from Google Places to Google+ Local as their platform for local search. Why is this important for the local business owner? The biggest reason is because 9 out of 10 people, when looking for a local product or service, use a search engine to find it and most people using a search engine use Google. So, when Google switches interfacing platforms for their local search, it’s a big deal.
The Google+ Local page for your business has replaced the Google Places page. Your Google+ Local page is what customers will be seeing from now on when they click on reviews about your business from the Google search results.
Lots of people are asking, “What is difference between Google+ Local and Google Places?” Google Places was a pretty static marketing tool. There wasn’t really any interaction beyond being able to respond to reviews your customers left. Consumers just used Google search, found your local listing, read reviews, went to your website, or called you and that was the extent of your interaction. When you take a tool like that and switch it over to a social networking platform (which is what Google+ is) then you get Google Places meets Facebook and that fusion birthed Google+ Local.
Search Engine Optimization has now finally met Social Media in full. They are no longer disconnected entities for local businesses but have become a pair. This transition from Google Places to Google+ Local marks the detachment from static Search Engine Marketing, where owners just focused on gaining a top result on Google search results and fostering online traffic to their website or Google Places page. Now, you’re going to not only need to focus on a top result but social interaction as well. Google+ Local, because it is a social network, will give you plenty of tools do that.
As a local business owner, what do you need to do about this shift?
The Google Places to Google+ Local transition is in the early stage. The shift is cosmetic in the first stage. The middle and later stages (maybe only a few days away) will see a heavy focus on the functional which will change Local SEO. However, there are a few things you can do now to be caught up and ready for the change.
If you have never claimed your Google Places page, I suggest you go ahead and claim your Google+ Local page now. Search for your business name and location in Google and your Google+ Local listing should come up in the search results. Click “Google Reviews” or “Google+ page” and you’ll be taken to your Google+ Local page. I think you have to sign up for Google+ in order to claim the listing but I don’t know that for sure.
Due to the speaking seminar I am committed to, I got a little behind on the changes for my taste. It took me 3-4 hours to read everything I wanted to read and catch up to a point where I feel more or less comfortable. If I could go back, I would digest 1-2 pieces on the subject a day instead of all at one time. I say this so that you can benefit from my experience. Don’t wait 6 weeks from now when the completed Google+ Local is rolled out and you have a huge learning curve. Go to this form and fill it out. It will keep you informed on changes straight from Google. Also, follow our blog and we’ll update changes as they come out that you need to be aware of.
Otherwise, there isn’t much else to do yet. The change right now is more of a cosmetic change as I said but the infrastructure change is coming. Make sure you are prepared.
Stay tuned to the blog as we will be providing updates as well as insights into the present and future of Google+ Local and Local SEO.