4 Google+ Local Changes
As a top performing search engine, Google is always evolving to improve user experience. But how those changes affect your business?
Here are some important changes that should not go unnoticed.
First things first, lets get the names right. Google+ Local is the new name for Google Places. Google+ for Business is the page for any type of business, not necessarily local either. An Upgraded Google+ Local Page is when you combine a business page with a local page. Finally, there is the Google+ Personal Page, for individual people like you and me. Here is an example from Search Decoder.
The New Dashboard for Google+ Local
“The new dashboard will, for example, allow businesses to update their info, including their website URLs, store hours and phone numbers, across Google Maps, Search and on Google+ right from the tools Overview tab.” - http://techcrunch.com/
The new dashboard is quite user friendly, and all it takes is a single click on a button to upgrade! Google started implementing the new dashboard in single language countries. Over the next few months it will be rolling out to the rest.
Google has updated its categories, hours of operations to get more specific, and now allows rich text in their descriptions. The rich text is still being developed and has some glitches, however I think that it is great that we can have our audience focus on certain words or phrases by using bold, italics, etc… Also, a huge change in architecture. Google used to get a lot of its data for businesses from third parties, which is the reason why updates would take so long. Good news, the information is now gathered from canonical local listing data. Data will now flow much faster, even as fast as am hour or two!
To learn more how to leverage Google+ Local for your business, check out Local SEO for Small Business post on our blog.
Google+ Algorithm Changes
“Google is now suggesting locations for Google+ users to review when they log in.” – http://blog.autorevo.com/
Google is now looking at social signals and reviews (review history and the review history of your friends). Google+ is becoming a great way to network, so use it! Less attention is given to centroids that describe the location of the clusters of industries. One thing that has given EVERYONE headaches is getting the Name, Address, and Phone number EXACTLY how it is displayed on the website. No worries, because Google is extremely efficient at normalizing these little changes. Getting the phone number correct is the most important, because this is how a business is identified.
Local Carousel in SERP
“Furthermore, the new horizontal design displays about 30 percent more business listings and it covers about 40 percent less vertical space, leaving more room for organic listings than previous local results.” - http://www.covario.com/
When viewing businesses, they will now appear horizontal rather than vertical! This means that it will be harder to grab a consumer’s attention due to the easier view. In a vertical view, people have to scroll down to see more, showing more dominance in rankings. However, people still read from left to right, and so it is still important to keep those ranks high for businesses. The key is to have great reviews and photos. In fact, if you do not select a photo, Google will choose one for you, and that isn’t always a good thing. It is important to get the image size or crop it yourself, because Google will also do that for you as well.
A negative change that comes with the local carousel involves keyword search. When you click on a business, google changes the original keyword term that you were searching for, rather than taking you to the website of the brand you want to visit. This throws off analytics because now it is hard to tell what keyword is bringing traffic into a website.
Social Features in Google+Local Pages
“The new Local dashboard gives Page owners a way to leverage the social functions of Google+. For example, local business owners can share photos, videos or posts, and those files will be displayed on their Google+ Local Pages, too” – Brafton.com
Google is doing a great job implementing social features. It is now becoming more of a social network instead of a directory. When upgrading your account, you can now add posts, and Google loves content. Another feature is circles, for adding customers and businesses. This is sort of like a facebook friends thing, and great for networking. Also, the +1 function that is similar to facebook’s like function, to make things more viral and show support/popularity. People are more likely to read content that has more likes. Finally, the ability to write B2B reviews when you upgrade your account to review other businesses. This is great because it gives a sense of credibility for your business. People love to read reviews because it shows past experiences between people and your business.
One Last Thing
It is not known that upgrading has any direct effects on ranking benefits. The most important question when contemplating the upgrade is will you have the time to use the new tools? It may be better to leave your Google+ as it is, because your page will look very empty with all these extra tools otherwise. Also, upgrading is not recommended for businesses with multiple locations, because you can only link two accounts. The only way would be to create separate accounts for each.