Google Places has undergone a few changes in hopes of becoming more social. Google + Local pages officially replace Google Places this month. While the new format may seem disorienting at first, many say that the changes are for the better. The two different formats have five noteworthy differences, including:
- The replacement of Google Places with Google + Local pages
- The addition of a “Local” tab and search bar within Google+
- New visibility of Zagat reviews
- The integration of the Google+ Local Pages throughout Google’s search, maps and mobile app
- The option for filtering through Google+ circles
Google + Local Pages
The new Google+ Local pages replaces the traditional Google Places, and according to Greg Starling in “Google Places Is Over, Company Makes Google+ The Center Of Gravity For Local Search” in Search Engine Land on May 30, 2012, roughly 80 million Google Place pages worldwide were transformed into Google + Local pages. The new pages come with many functions that provide businesses the option to be more social and connect with users. For example, business owners are now permitted to obtain followers and message them, as well as have interactions with users similar to Facebook and Twitter.
With the new “Local” tab, Google users have a personalized home page that offers recommended content based on their location and interests. Therefore, not everyone will see the same page. Like the traditional Google search, users can browse their home pages using the search bar. As Starling points out, Google+ may now be a better local search destination than Google.com or Google Maps.
Five-star ratings are now being replaced by Zagat reviews, which provide users a more dynamic review of places and products. The Zagat reviews require more extensive information due to separate categories in which reviewers are asked to rate the product or place. For example, Zagat reviews average scores for food, service and atmosphere that make up the total score for a restaurant in addition to providing comments.
Google+ Local pages are now found in a variety of different ways including Google.com, Google Maps, mobile apps, and through a Google+ search. As a result, the searches are embedded in Google+ Local pages that provide users with richer, more relevant content and more functionality.
Filtering with Circles
Along with the localized content, users have the option to filter their search results through their “circles.” For example, users have the option to see only what their circles have “touched,” which includes reviews, posts and eventually check-ins.
For business owners, the conversion will happen whether or not the page has been claimed. Although having a Google+ account is not required to maintain the listing, Google is hoping local merchants will create a page to bring more interaction to the site.
The changes have not yet been activated for all mobile devices, but according to Google, mobile versions should be out soon.
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