There was a splash in the SEO world a few weeks ago when Google announced the dissolution or integration (depending on how you look at it) of Google Places. By incorporating Google+ into Google Maps and its business listings, users now have Google+ Local instead of Google Places. On the surface, it looks like Google is just continuing the expansion of its social media platform —like it or not, business owners have been forced onto Google+ to manage their Local pages. Why bother implementing this disorienting change? Will it bring real value to both users and business owners?
The quick answer is: yes. By looking at the old Places pages, you can tell Google had intended them to be more social than they really were. Google quit aggregating data from Yelp and other sources to push their own reviewing system. Later, they increased interaction by allowing businesses to post exclusive deals and coupons. But due to the limitations of the Places pages, this social type of usage never really took off. Most Places pages were more like stubs of information rather than go-to hubs of interaction.
Local pages changes all that. They’re like company Facebook pages, but arguably more robust because of integration with Google Maps, Zagat reviews, and Google+ (you can see how your circles interact with the business). Furthermore, Local pages will be indexed by search engines (Places pages were not). These two factors combine to provide great benefits for business owners.
As noted above, Local pages are robust offerings that encourage interaction between users and a business. A strong Local page is one that provides all the pertinent business information and has high user engagement (such as posting responses to reviews, starting hangouts, sharing updates, coupons, etc.). By keeping your Local page fresh and interacting with your customers, you can increase the page’s ranking in local search results.
Verify your listing, fill out your page, and start engaging your customers. When robust content and a high-ranking combine, your Local page could be the first and last place they visit before deciding to convert.