Google Places is Now Google Plus Local: What Changed?
Originally published: 10.30.12 by Josh Nelson
This summer, 80 million Google Places pages worldwide were automatically converted into 80 million Google Plus Local pages.
What changed? Overall, listings are more dynamic and visual, and local search got a lot more social. Results include reviews from Zagat, as well as ratings and comments from friends. Notable changes include the integration and free availability of Zagat archives, and a “Circles” search filter to find reviews and recommendations from friends. Also, Google’s five star ratings were replaced by the more comprehensive Zagat 30-point rating scale.
Great news for search engine optimization (SEO), unlike Places, Plus Local business pages are indexed, meaning they appear when Google users search for a local site using Google Search or Google Maps.
Plus Local listings are also more versatile and social; local businesses can develop followers and message them, and experience the kinds of social interactions available on Facebook and Twitter. In fact, word-of-mouth marketing reaches a new height with Plus Local. The “Local” tab in Google Plus takes users to a personalized local homepage, which offers a mix of popular, social and recommended businesses. The same two people in a given market won’t see the same page, though aspects of it may be the same.
These are major changes from Google in the world of local search — for both consumers and marketers. People will be able to search Google as they have in the past but receive the benefits of visually richer results and trusted word-of-mouth.
HVAC contractors especially need to adapt to the recent changes as Google Maps remains the most prominent and frequently viewed section on results pages for “Your City + AC Repair” keyword searches.
Other Plus Local benefits include:
- It’s free.
- Google users can find your business via mobile phone.
- Stand out among the competition. Only 20 percent of eligible small businesses have claimed their listing on Plus Local. By claiming your listing you greatly increase your ability to stand out in the HVAC online search space.
- Learn more about your customers. Google Analytics tools measure data about consumer behavior you can use to improve your services and keep customers happy.
How does one create a local listing that delivers the biggest return for your business? Here are some tips:
- Pay close attention to cover and profile photos. Use your company logo as your profile picture. Make sure it has a resolution of at least 72 dpi and is the correct size and shape (at least 250 pixels x 250 pixels) so it’s not grainy or distorted.
- Write a killer introduction. The introduction, which appears on the “About” tab, is your opportunity to speak directly to your audience. Here’s a great example from an HVAC contractor out of Omaha, Neb.:
Omaha's leading provider of quality furnace, air conditioning, heat pump, plumbing, electrical and major appliance repair. We offer these services "as needed" or service agreements/home warranty and your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed.
- Make sure your page is 100 percent complete. This is the simplest and most important thing you can do to optimize your Plus Local page. Complete all text fields —even ones that aren’t required, particularly E-mail Address, Website URL, Description and Categories.
- List your business on other directories. Google scans the web for information about your business from a variety of third-party sources such as Yellow Pages. The more mentions you have, the more content Google has to work with, and the more authority your Plus Local listing holds. The more credible your business looks, the more likely your listing will appear on the top results. Several top directories include: Yelp, Bing, Yahoo, BizJournals and CitySearch.
- Encourage customers to write reviews. A challenging but effective way to boost a page’s position is obtaining customer reviews. Develop a habit of asking customers to post reviews. If you decide to reward posting reviews, it’s important to stress you don’t require a positive review — which classifies as a bribe. Do not under any circumstances write bogus reviews and submit them under a pseudonym.
- Upload images to your page, lots of them. SEO analysts documented a strong correlation between a page’s ranking and the number of photos and videos.
- Add offers. This provides an incentive to call you rather than the competition. A few tips:
- Make sure offers comply with Google’s Offer Guidelines
- Be generous
- Always identify the value the customer is receiving
Plus Local is a free resource that helps consumers find businesses online, drives more traffic to local business websites, provides opportunities to stand out in a crowded marketplace, delivers insight into a company’s customer base, enables customer engagement via a variety of media platforms and ultimately boosts overall profitability.
Josh Nelson co-founded HVAC SEO and with more than 25 years of experience in internet marketing, search engine optimization and social media management. HVAC SEO executes online marketing and SEO functions on behalf of HVAC contractors, plumbers and other contracting businesses throughout the country. The firm helps obtain Google search page one placement and strictly honors a no-competitor agreement, working with no more than one HVAC contractor in each market. For more information, call Josh Nelson at 866-610-4647 or visit HVACSEO.net.
Articles by Josh Nelson
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