Google Places Is Over, Company Makes Google+ The Center Of Gravity For Local Search

When Google+ and Google+ Pages for business were introduced a little less than a year ago many people in the local search arena began anticipating the day when Google would merge or integrate Google Places and Google+ Pages. Well, today is that day.

Google Places pages have been entirely replaced by new Google+ Local pages. As of this morning roughly 80 million Google Place pages worldwide have been automatically converted into 80 million Google+ Local pages, according to Google’s Marissa Mayer. It’s a dramatic change (for the better) though it will undoubtedly disorient some users and business owners.

(See our related Google+ specific coverage, New Google+ Local Tab Unveiled, Will Replace Google Places, at Marketing Land.)

A Range Of Changes Implemented

Here’s a brief overview of what’s new and what’s changing:

  • The substitution of the new Google+ Local pages (as mentioned) for Google Places pages
  • The appearance of a “Local” tab within Google+
  • The integration and free availability of Zagat reviews (its entire archive across categories)
  • The integration of Google+ Local pages across Google properties (search, Maps, mobile)
  • Integration of a circles filter to find reviews/recommendations from friends/family/colleagues

Static Places now give way to more dynamic Google+ Local pages. Google’s star ratings are also being replaced by the Zagat 30-point rating scale (for user reviews as well).

Below is an example SERP for “burgers near Seattle.” The top screenshot reflects the “old” Places look and feel. The second is the new search results, sans stars.

Marissa Mayer argued to me that Zagat scores can express much more differentiation and nuance because they contain separate scores for food, service and atmosphere vs. a five star scale, which is forced to factor all those considerations into a single rating (read: Yelp). The greater, 30-point spread also prevents everything from converging at 3.5 stars.

Consistent Experience, Several Doorways

Users will be able to discover the new Google+ Local pages in several ways: through a search on Google.com or Google Maps, in mobile apps or through a search on Google+. The image below an example of a local search result within Google+.

As a result, Google+ becomes another local search destination within Google, arguably with richer content and more functionality than Google.com offers at the SERP level.

Not unlike some similar functionality offered in Foursquare, users will be able to sort and filter search results by several criteria, including “your circles,” which will reveal places “touched” by friends. Currently this means reviews and posts, but could extend to check-ins later.

Google had originally hoped to make Places into interactive content pages that merchants would use regularly to communicate with customers and prospects. However that didn’t happen in part because of the limitations of Places pages themselves. Google+ Local pages are much more versatile and “social.” Indeed, it gives Google a local vehicle with functionality equivalent to Facebook and Twitter.

Below is a Places/+ Local “before” and “after” comparison for a restaurant in the Washington DC area, “Mio.”

Google+ Local pages are much more visually interesting. They also enable the presentation of a wider variety of information types than Google Places allowed. They will permit local merchants to develop followers and message them, and to have the kinds of social interactions now available on Facebook and Twitter.

Google says there will be many more merchant features to come, in a post on the Google and Your Business Blog (formerly the Google Small Business Blog):

We know many of you have already created a Google+ Page for your business, and have been hosting hangouts and sharing photos, videos and posts. We’re excited that we’ll soon extend these social experiences to more Google+ Local pages in the weeks and months ahead.

Below is another example Google+ Local profile page. The design and functionality essentially match but seek to improve upon Facebook Pages.

Discovery . . . And Search

If you click the new “Local” tab in Google+ you’re taken to a personalized local home (discovery) page, which offers a mix of popular, social and recommended content. There are several variables that go into the content that appears on this page. The same two people in Seattle won’t see the same page, though aspects of it may be the same.

What’s also interesting is that Google has returned to a two search-box approach for Google+ Local.

Users can browse this “home page” content or search as they normally would on Google or Google Maps. As I said, the integration of Zagat content, plus the other social filters and features make Google+ now an arguably better local search destination than Google.com or Google Maps.

Below is what the new experience looks like on Google Maps. It’s largely the same as what exists today except for the replacement of the star ratings by Zagat scores (and of course the underlying new Google+ Local pages).

Rather than being asked to rate businesses along a 4 or 5 point star continuum, users are now asked to fill out a more structured form (food, service, atmosphere/decor) and leave additional comments. Some of those online reviews may also make it back into Zagat proper, at the discretion of Zagat editors I was told.

Mobile A Bit Less Straightforward

All these changes will show up almost immediately on Android handsets in what was the Places layer on Google Maps for Mobile and in the Google+ app. (The images below are Android shots from Google Maps for Mobile.) Google has submitted app updates to Apple for review and approval. They should be out very soon but will look and be accessed in a different way than on Android handsets.

It’s quite likely that Apple will replace Google Maps in June with its own Maps and so none of this experience will probably ever show up on the iOS map. Instead, Apple users will be able to access this Google+ Local experience through the Google Places app and the Google+ app on the iPhone. There was no discussion of other smartphone platforms.

Overall this should present a stronger and more useful local-mobile search experience for consumers, in large measure because of the Zagat content, but to a lesser degree the social and recommended content.

Google+ Local Pages Will Be Indexed!

The conversion of Places pages to Google+ Local pages is taking place regardless of whether Places pages were claimed by business owners or not. However nothing on the back end will change immediately for merchants. Google says this in its Google and Your Business post:

If you are a business owner, you should continue to manage your information in Google Places for Business. You’ll still be able to verify your basic listing data, make updates, and respond to reviews. For those who use AdWords Express, your ads will operate as normal as they’ll automatically redirect people to the destination you selected, or your current listing.

Despite this temporary calm, business owners are effectively being dropped into the social fray with more customer-interaction potential but also greater demands to learn how to use Google+ to their full advantage. Those who do will be rewarded. There’s a ton of SEO potential here. Most notably, unlike Google Places pages, these new Google+ Local pages will be indexed.

We asked about management of multiple locations from a single page. Google said that there’s no news for the time being but that’s the ultimate goal:

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+.

In its SMB-focused blog post Google provided example businesses that were invited in early to enhance their  Google+ Local pages. I’ve reproduced only a partial list here:

A Few Preliminary Final Thoughts

These are major changes that Google is making in the fabric of local — for both consumers and marketers. They will enhance the consumer experience with a relatively small adjustment and learning curve. People will be able to go on using Google as they have but get the benefit of the richer pages and Zagat ratings. They won’t be forced to use Google+ to get the new content.

By the same token Google probably hopes that millions of local merchants creating and enhancing dynamic pages and content can bring additional usage and greater engagement to Google+. We’ll see how it plays out.

Business owners will probably have a somewhat more difficult transition than consumers, as they’re compelled now to pay attention to Google+ — in a big way. They now ignore Google+ at their own peril.

Overall local search also just got a lot more social for Google, as it has recently in a different way for Bing. We’ll explore the social dimensions as well as the SEO implications of Google+ Local pages in companion articles and during next week’s SMX Advanced, especially in the Hardcore Local SEO Tactics session.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Features: Analysis | Google: Google+ | Google: Maps & Local | Google: Mobile | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • arminla

    Again wrong. If particular websites didn’t want google to “leach” off them, they could have stopped it by a nofollow link (or opted out of it, yelp did)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1521992049 Mike Kissel

    I share the same concern as Duncan does, what if I’m not a restaurant?  How is the Zagat rating system going to benefit everyone else?

  • http://www.womaninleadership.com/ Stacie Walker

    Thank you for the update. I will be making the necessary changes.

  • http://twitter.com/SeoLair George Fischer

    This doesn’t really fix any issues associated with Google places outside of gaming reviews.  Honestly I don’t think it is designed to.  See below.

    This, like most things Google will put out over the next year, is intended to do 1 thing…increase adoption of Google+.  Google execs are financially tied to this goal as are all their products.  Google+ means nothing without adoption…which right now is pretty sad outside of a few niches, this (digital marketing) being one.

    Hopefully in the long run this will make the local experience on Google better.  We shall see.

  • Alan

    I don’t know about any of you guys but a lot of my SEO clients are starting to get Google fatigue (I am also). With all the changes that are rolling out more and more clients are asking me is there an alternative to Google? I never got this question 1 year ago. My standard answer is not really not at the moment. I already run Facebook/Twitter/etc campaigns for most of my clients but really they can’t afford to ignore Google for now. However, it can’t be a good thing if more and more clients are questioning the Googles role in their online strategy, can it? Will be interesting when Facebook does finally role out it’s own search.

  • http://guymanningham.com/ Guy Manningham

    That stinks. Google Places was pulling in a lot of traffic for the companies I represent.

  • Matt McGee

    You should not be seeing the Places page anymore, John. Seems the conversion to G+ Local Pages has been happening all day. My wife’s Place Page is gone.

  • Lori Eldridge

    Be glad you’re not a web designer. Google quit showing maps, etc for any search for “web designer +city” a few years ago. Google’s not biased at all (supposedly).

  • Matt McGee

    Duncan – Google bought Zagat some time ago, so it’s more than a partnership. :-) And yes, it looks like the Zagat system is replacing the previous Google review system completely. But you can import some/all of your own old reviews into the new system if you choose.

  • http://twitter.com/JohnCarcutt John Carcutt

    Yep the changes are still rolling out as Greg and Matt pointed out, the link above goes to Maps and the “Reviews” and “More Info” links now point to the +Local page. however, if I get a local SERP listing in organic search, the “Reviews” link still points to the old Places Page.

    Totally expect this to merge at some point too. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1242862608 Rebecca Holman

    I guess my concern as an Offline Marketer is that, while this is a boon for Restaurants, how many local plumbers or painters, or candle stick makers have a Zagat Score?????  Am I missing something here?

  • http://www.digitalmoz.com/ DigitalMoz SEO

    This is another way of Google to attract more traffic and users to their site. Not only they are creating social signals through Google + but also tweaking the searches based on the community or friends of the account owners. On a red flag, Google will be able to filter what brands have budget on marketing that they can sell adwords to, or worse, dump in to the organic and force them to shift on adwords. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Norman-Paradis/1696991421 Norman Paradis

    Wow what a few months it has been with all the Panda updates, Penguin, now this. You really need to be paying attention  – oh and add the new timeline for Facebook pages. This is getting to be a full time job just keeping up with online marketing

  • robthespy

    More glued together, makeshift, half-thought out, pressing the issue nonsense!

    Google buying Motorola’s junk is so fitting. Goog’s trajectory is that of Motorola’s ten years ago or so. “up up up up….halved, gutted, irrelevant!

  • Suda Nim

     Last year, Google implemented changes to GP roughly ever 60 days and they were NOT good changes. We witnessed businesses lose HOURS of work and sometimes their GP site vanished without any explainable reason.
    GP’s Forum was flooded with people searching for answers. ”At A Glance”
    is so “out of focus” and inaccurate that it should just be eliminated. Personally, I find it very difficult to make any type of serious commitment to Google + Local Pages and will continue to put my time and money into Facebook Pages.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brandon-Swenson/1040355618 Brandon Swenson

    Personally I feel this is fantastic and a great move by Google. I was waiting for next leap by Google+ in response to some of Facebook’s latest improvements. I’m very curious to see how Google will rank these pages, especially from a technical standpoint.

  • http://www.tylerherrick.com Tyler Herrick

    Arminla, I wholeheartedly agreed with your last 2 comments. Google algorithms are inherently rule based (obviously). If you don’t know the ‘rules of the internet’ it’s not Google’s fault. With simple crawlbot blocking you can say no to Google. With robots.txt, noindex, or nofollow; all allow you to control your site visibility with precision. 
    I think you also have to look at the long-term goals of Google. What is their most core objective? It was directing users to the best sources of information, now they are appending those sources with best-guess answers and Object-Oriented answers. You could say now they are trying to directly answer queries, or at least provide you with the best sources of where that answer could be found. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this from my perspective. If you don’t like their methodology, use Bing.The Internet is a vast conglomeration of sites, and someone needs to bring order to the chaos. If you look at Google as attempting to organize the worlds information and trying to create a sort-of “Deep Thought” as in The HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I would assume they would want to have some sort of computer that could answer any human-generated-knowledge question. All the information is out there, who can deliver the best ‘order’ from it?

  • http://www.ydeveloper.com/e-smart-ecommerce-suite.html eCommerce

    The given example is totally local, what if someone want to search website developer near Waltham, can it be reviewed in same format of Zagat shown here for restaurant search.

  • http://twitter.com/clevergareth Gareth

    Meh. Perhaps, instead of pushing their own services, they should look at improving the local results. One search for “bed and breakfast London” brings up a theatre, a couple of hotels and a cleaning services company. What a load of rubbish.

  • daveintheuk

     @arminla:disqus Sorry, that is not right – Google only allowed opting out by blocking their crawler with robots.txt, cutting off organic search traffic too…. Here is a starting point for you to read up on it:

    http://searchengineland.com/yelp-google-told-us-its-our-way-or-the-highway-66417

  • http://www.yodelay.com Duncan Johnson

    Hi Matt,

    So do you think Google has already built out the Zagat platform for every business type globally?

    Do you think we can see heavy promotion of a Google+ Review Button next?

  • http://twitter.com/sunstonewebdev Sunstone Solutions

    Why in the worldwide web would you want to block Google from indexing your website?! Sure, people can use Bing instead if you don’t agree with the direction Google is going or their “practices” for providing as much information as possible in a SERP. However, Google has become so pervasive as the default search engine that it’s become a verb: “google it.” The vast majority of the population using Google as a search engine are not following comment sessions like this. They just want good results to come up when they “google.” Don’t “short” them by “keeping Google out of your stuff.” 

  • http://www.linkworxseo.com Link Worx Seo

    Is it me or dose all of us already know this was coming? I first took a look at this last night when it was hot off the press. There seem to be some load problems, as far as lag goes when selecting the Local link in the profile’s column. I have not noticed any changes on the main SERP’s as suggested above yet. Does anyone know when that is supposed to be implemented because from what I gathered it was supposed to be displaying already as shown above. Curious to whether this is something being implemented on a area by area basis or as a whole in general. At this point Google has thrown another curve ball at the SEO community. 

    Sure think these changes are great, but when will the dust settle. Any business not already engaged in the G+ community is way behind and should definitely be on the move about now if not so already. Google is forcing companies to embrace the new system and I must agree that they are changing, but still are a search engine as well.

  • http://www.proadinsight.com/ Chad Musgrove

    Horrible, Horrible, Horrible.  Shame on you Google!  How is this going to benefit service related industries?  How many people are going to want to have “hang out” with their plumber, electrician, or hardwood floor guy?  

    Not to mention – Google just royally screwed up the page when they merged it.  The image is not layed out properly, they feature the bus route intersection instead of their address.  They converted the ratings (that my client has spent a lot of money and time on getting) into the stupid 30 point system – now my client has a 20/30 – based on reviews that are 3 years old.

    When I click on the “Manage this Page” under “is this your business” (Yes, I am logged in) – it just takes me to the old Google Places page.  WTF?  

    I hate you Google – I hate you!  

  • arminla

    @daveintheuk:disqus and then 3 months later google removed all snippets, replaced them with links and yelp opted out of the “link”placement. however they were still organic search results. What yo quote and link is from the CEO of yelp who is doing posturing inorder to get what he wants.
    In Actuality, IF google didn’t include snippets and links, with out a doubt they would have gotten in trouble.

    Look at what happened with MS and netscape. 

    In fact google was including links and snippets in order to comply with regulators. They HAD to do that or it would have been bad for consumers. I keep saying it over and over again. Regulators are not to protect businesses but consumers and give them choices. Google has every right to expand their businesses as long as it helps consumers.

    http://smallbiztrends.com/2011/07/google-cans-third-party-reviews-places.html

  • http://twitter.com/AaronWatters Aaron Watters

    What will happen to companies that provide services using “Service Areas” instead of a physical location? It seems like this will push them a little further out of the loop.

  • http://www.woodmr.net Michelle R. Wood

    Does anyone know if there’s a way to “merge” a Google Plus business Page and a Places Page? After Local’s debut yesterday we know have two Pages within the Plus framework, neither of which is talking to the other. The name, address, phone number, business hours: everything’s identical, except one Page has our reviews and one page has our pictures and circles.

  • http://cl.lk/23qx8aq Elizabeth H. Crane

    their business is represented on Google, via Google+. ”  http://WorkInFaceBook.notlong.com

  • DaveKeys

    @arminla Excellent observation. There is a lot of noise here for what amounts to a back-end consolidation.

  • Matt McGee

    The tool to do that doesn’t exist yet, Michelle. Google has said it’s on the way, but no idea when.

  • http://twitter.com/aeverse Amanda Everse

    Yes, all the new Google+ Places info is available to anyone who searches. However, there is one aspect that everyone has seemed to overlook here. In order for a consumer to review a business, he or she will have to create a Google+ account. This is a not-so-subtle tactic to grow the Google+ user base.

  • justinef

     @ispyty:disqus …You get it! And, while Google may or may not be going full-on social, I’ll always root for them to kick FB’s arse, bc I loathe FB in a pretty big way –the company just creeps me out from the core out.

    Not Google. G can follow me around the world-wide-web, into my email boxes, onto my blogging platform and through my phones. Hell, Google can hide out in my closet if they’d like. Know why?

    Because they get ME. They get my needs exactly right, at exactly the right time, and they’ve consistently proven their ability to do it over and again. I have benefited from their persistent curation of my comings, goings, and doings on the net many, many times.

    It’s a simple model, really: “You scratch my back, I scratch yours.”

    Google’s the best damned scratcher there is. Period.

  • daveintheuk

    Just noticed you don’t see the full scores until you sign in – another desperate attempt to swell Google+ users. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Google+ engineers must have zero moral.

  • http://www.krishnadasan.com/ Indiadesign

    That was a comprehensive detailing. By merging Google + and Google
    Places, Google is aiming to grab social media market shares from
    facebook. Whatever it be, what are the immediate changes we can except. 
    Do we need to post regularly contents to our  Google + local business
    pages? One thing is sure, local search results are getting more and more
    relevant. 

  • http://twitter.com/loanssolutions פיני סולימן הלוואות

    It’s their SERP.. They can do whatever they want with it…

  • Paul Masson

    I fear that this ‘great new feature’ will only make my Google analytics keyword ‘not provided’ problem even worse.

  • http://mccabemarketing.ca Maureen McCabe

    EXCELLENT ARTICLE — I noticed a difference last week…  because my “5″ star ratings DROPPED to ’3″… the names of the reviewers disappeared, and my photos were ‘re-organized… I asked my SEO company and they didn’t know why earlier this week…. now we all know.

    @McCabeMarketing   http://www.mccabemarketing.ca

  • Bob Clonts

    ReviewBoost.Com just won the most “Outstanding Emerging Business Award” from the Largest Chamber of Commerce in California, The San Diego Chamber of Commerce. The Third Largest Chamber of Commerce in the United States. The Original Online Reputation Management Company. 

  • Jon Taylor

    While a lot of this is good for businesses, it has killed many businesses chances of ever getting another review again.

    My business is a sensitive business and while people might leave me a review, they certainly don’t want to link it to their profile or create a profile just to leave a review.

    Divorce lawyers, plastic surgeons, DNA testing and other sensitive businesses can basically kiss goodbye getting anymore reviews because of this.

  • http://twitter.com/Tony_DWM Tony Dimmock

    A real eye opener in fact!

  • MannyRicciardelli

    Google + is killing me. Google is so desperate to make their social media platform work, they will stoop to anything. Google + came way too late in the game and now all businesses and websites concerned about SEO need to kowtow to Google in order for their site to rank…

  • http://isromike.wordpress.com/ SEO Blog

    This is true that google trying to compete with facebook and want to win the competition any how. But it is good for us to get better output. But I really like the google + integration.

  • Jessica Constantine

    Wow I am totally blown away! I had hoped google would make a move like this , places was so limited for small business I think this is a hugely positive albeit more sophisticated move 

  • MeyerKaty

    my friend’s aunt made $17398 the previous week. she is making income on the internet and bought a $578000 house. All she did was get lucky and try the steps written on this website===>> ⇛⇛⇛⇛► http://getitmust.blogspot.com/m

  • KramerEdward77

    my friend’s aunt made $17398 the previous week. she is making income on the internet and bought a $578000 house. All she did was get lucky and try the steps written on this website===>> ⇛⇛⇛⇛► http://enternet-Job.blogspot.com

  • Simone Carot Collins

    Ugh… I do use Google Places, and on checking my results after seeing this article, the information in the Google+ Local pages is wrong. I had updated my address on my places page a few weeks back, but that change hasn’t been reflected in the new one. They’ve also picked up photos from another places page with the same address that aren’t at all related to the page in question. So now I’m having to notify Google yet again about the change, which is still correct in the Google Place listing, and I still have to maintain a separate Google+ page.. Not terribly impressed with all the extra work – I don’t know why they didn’t just roll out Google+ local before allowing people to set up business pages. There seems to be a lot of reaction rather than forethought with all this.

  • Rory Fogerty

    pity google didn’t spare a thought for all the google places accounts that are “suspended for not meeting quality guidlines” before joining them up. The only resolution google offers for a suspended account is to delete the account and start again. This isn’t going to work as now they are linked the google+ account must go as well…… businesses beware!!

  • http://sepiariver.ca YJ Tso

    It’s interesting watching Google leverage/integrate its various properties and services in its strategy to create a Google-based social web. They’ve admitted in the past that they were late to recognize the importance of social platforms, but now that the giant has awoken, it’s moving far more nimbly than anyone probably expected.

    I think they’re taking small, measured steps in the right direction, although the frequency of game-changing events may be unsettling for alot of users.

  • http://www.andykuiper.com Andy Kuiper – SEO Analyst

    Well in my opinion, FB and G are both vary scary, the way they seek to control info they gather. Half the time I agree with their moves, and half the time I get totally creeped out recognizing where they are headed. 
    As for the new Google+ Local Pages, I’m still waiting to see what the best solution is for some of my clients with multiple locations etc. 

  • Robin Zimmerman Ritchie

    Ugh! Something is wrong with my business listing, my photos for my business no longer display but are under my persoanl name. I’m confused.  

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