The world of local search has been buzzing the last few days with the arrival of Google+ Local on Thursday morning. It has been long anticipated that Google+ would at some stage at least amalgamate with it’s big brother Google Places. This latest development however, shows that Google+ Local is to be an entity in it’s own right and moreover, intends to lock horns with Facebook fan pages in the battle for social supremacy.
Business owners all over the country are sighing in disbelief at the thought of having to get to grips with yet another “must have” social platform. It’s only understandable that busy local business owners are at least a little frustrated at trying to keep up to date with everything that’s happening online these days. They’re getting it from all angles about local search marketing, google places, adwords, Facebook fan pages, Twitter… and now this. Where does it end? Nowhere I’m afraid! Online marketing is constantly evolving and mutating into different forms and harsh as it may seem on the poor local business owner, they either keep up to date and roll with the changes, or get left behind in the doldrums! I personally believe, however, that this recent Google update is the most important thing to happen to local business online in recent years and business owners who realise that and adapt early are on to a winner.
As ever, however, there are a few sceptics among us and many believe that this latest move is an unnecessary one. Many people believe that Google are flogging a dead horse (for want of a better analogy!) due to it’s relatively slow uptake (especially here in Ireland). I must admit that at the moment, they make a good point. Facebook users outnumber their Google+ counterparts by 8:1 worldwide and here in Ireland I’d imagine that figure to be closer to 30:1. Big G begs to differ, and this latest move, coupled with the news that Google+ Local pages are to be indexed in their own right, shows their determination to become a genuine contender in the battle of social.
OK so Google are moving Places over to Google+, what exactly does that mean for the small business owner? To be honest at the moment it doesn’t mean very much at all. The Google Places for Business dashboard is still operational (or at least as functional as it ever was!) and business owners can still claim/modify their Google Places listings from there. In the near future however, we will see a gradual shift to a more universal Google dashboard within Google+ where business owners can control all their Google Accounts from one central hub. Expect to see Google Offers, Google Wallet, TalkBin and Punchd being rolled out (hopefully) in the near future. Each one of these Google controlled services take them a step closer to forming the ultimate complete loop from user search to physically purchasing a product in store and leaving a review. The traditional Google Places 5 star reviews have also changed over to the Zagat rating. These now allow consumers to give a much more detailed 3 category review on a 30 point scale and reviews left by any member of your circles will appear prominently beside the listing.
[pullquote style=”left” quote=”dark”]All animals are equal but some are more equal than others[/pullquote] To me it’s just another step towards Google’s impending complete monopolisation of local search and social media marketing for SMBs. The only question is how long it takes people to take the plunge and/or how aggressive Big G’s bullying tactics will need to become before people sway toward their way of thinking. Facebook have already reportedly lost over half of their organic traffic since Google rolled out universal and knowledge graph SERPs earlier in the year. Google+ Local Pages will be indexed in their own right and therefore further clutter the local SERPs. To be honest it wouldn’t be such a terrible thing, a long as they managed to iron out some of the irksome continuous bugs which plagued Google Places for it’s entirety and even yet.
What do you think of the new Google+ Local? Please feel free to leave any comments or views you might have. Thanks.