In recent months, we have been advising our clients to take full advantage of Google Places, which had largely supplanted the Yellow Pages as the number one resource for customers looking to find local businesses to shop at and buy from. By incorporating maps, websites, reviews, and contact information all in one place – and on the world's most popular search engine, no less – it was quickly becoming one of the most powerful Internet marketing tools around.
If you followed our advice, we have some bad news for you: at the end of May, Google Places ceased to exist. The good news? Everything that made it wonderful is still there… and in fact, there are more reasons than ever to keep using it under its new home in Google+.
In reality, this was a move that had been expected for quite some time. For those of you who aren't that familiar with Google+ yet, it's the company's answer to Facebook and Twitter, and it's growing by leaps and bounds every day. It already boasts hundreds of millions of users, and may even surpass the other social sites by the end of the year. It's only natural, then, that Google would move its “Places” profiles under the newer and still-growing Google+ platform, which now features a “local” tab when you log into the site.
Expected or not, however, the change has some implications for businesses who want to continue to find more local customers:
It's now easier for your customers to find you and share info. Not only does the integration of “Places” into Google+ mean that customers can share your information with their circle of friends and colleagues, but local businesses are now more prominent as part of Google's normal search results. This is great news for companies with a strong following.
Reviews and feedback are everything. Like other social sites, Google+ seems built upon reviews and feedback. This is even more true now that they are offering free access to Zagat reviews, which tend to be more detailed and nuanced than the kind of typical star ratings we've grown accustomed to seeing over the Internet.
Expect more mobile integration. With the popularity of the Android platform growing along with Google itself, expect to see more mobile web integration with the Google+ system as time goes on. Now is a great time to start working things like click-to-call and driving directions into your mobile business website.
Google+ content may start to influence search results. Although the engineers at Google have made it clear that +1 and Google+ data don't directly influence search results or search engine rankings, it's conceivable that they will in the future as more information becomes available.
The bottom line is clear: for companies of all sizes, right now is the time to get serious about ramping up your Google+ efforts. Why not meet with a member of the CAYK® team soon and let us show you how to get more out of your search and social marketing efforts?
By David A. West Join me on Google+