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Will Google+ Local Get Good Reviews?


Google continues to jumble up the search and social media landscape by today introducing Google+ Local. The ‘new’ offering is designed to replace Google Places but it does and doesn’t do that on several levels. Sound a bit confusing? Well, rather than us adding our two cents to an already crowded conversation let’s take a look around and see what others are saying about this change in the local Internet ecosystem.

First, from Google. Let’s call this the evangelical update.

Today, we’re rolling out Google+ Local, a simple way to discover and share local information featuring Zagat scores and recommendations from people you trust in Google+. Google+ Local helps people like my husband turn a craving—“Wow, I need brunch”—into an afternoon outing: “Perfect, there’s a dim sum place with great reviews just two blocks from here. Let’s go.” It’s integrated into Search, Maps and mobile and available as a new tab in Google+—creating one simple experience across Google.

In summary, Zagat’s is now essentially free. That’s where that $151 million of Google’s money went, huh?

Probably the most concise summary of this offering comes from Greg Sterling over at Search Engine Land.

Here’s a brief overview of what’s new and what’s changing:

-The substitution of the new Google+ Local pages (as mentioned) for Google Places pages
-The appearance of a “Local” tab within Google+
-The integration and free availability of Zagat reviews (its entire archive across categories)
-The integration of Google+ Local pages across Google properties (search, Maps, mobile)
-Integration of a circles filter to find reviews/recommendations from friends/family/colleagues

Static Places now give way to more dynamic Google+ Local pages. Google’s star ratings are also being replaced by the Zagat 30-point rating scale (for user reviews as well).

Now we hear from Mike Blumenthal. Mike may be the only person in the entire Internet industry that actually deserves the title of guru when it comes to all things Google Places (well, now Google+ Local) related. Argue amongst yourselves on that statement if you wish.

So while some has changed, and the change is important, it is incremental change and not revolutionary change. It is a change that will hopefully engage more businesses in claiming and keeping their “place” current and one that will hopefully engage more customers with the business.

But it is not a change that will fundamentally change (at least initially) how a business is ranked in the main search results nor how listings are created and assembled.

Mike’s seemingly simple conclusion comes following a great post about this announcement. If it’s local and it’s Google you should be reading Mike’s stuff. Really.

Now we get an early assessment from Matt McGee at his Small Business Search Marketing blog. Matt’s another one of the best and the brightest in the local search game.

Google Place Pages were blocked from showing in search results, primarily because Google considered a Place Page to be a search result itself.

There are obviously big implications where local SEO is concerned. I need to think through this some more but it appears that we’ll need to start talking about how to optimize a Google+ Local Page since it’s being indexed. David Mihm and I recently wrote speculative pro and con articles about how Places and Plus would integrate, but neither one of us accounted for the complete elimination of Place Pages, their replacement by Google Plus Local Pages, and the new pages being indexed.

Let’s face it. If both Matt and David Mihm were caught even slightly off guard by the elimination of Place Pages then this is indeed a big deal.

As for David Mihm? Part of his take reads

Remember all the fuss last summer when Google updated its Place Page interface & demoted third-party review sites (among other things)? What REALLY changed algorithmically as a result of that update? Other than perhaps a minor shift towards the weight of native Google Places reviews, I’d argue not much.

Well, don’t get carried away in all the PR hyperbole today that this is all that different.

Now let’s step back for a moment or two. These changes have JUST happened today. As a result there will be a whirlwind of activity and opinions surrounding this change in Google’s approach to local. Not the least of which is now having Zagat’s reviews free and directly competing with Google’s buddy, Yelp. Google’s own Marissa Mayer announced this change on CBS This Morning so the Goog isn’t playing around on this one.

This is clearly another way to make Google+ front and center as the hub of the Google experience (although not the hub of revenue which is for the one and only search engine). Google has taken a big piece of its local strategy which was their Place Pages, ripped them out by the root and transplanted them into Google+. The implications for this with regard to search, local reviews, mobile and even more areas will ultimately be far reaching and probably pretty dramatic.

But for today, as an Internet marketer it is enough to know that Google has upset the apple cart a bit and that whatever you had figured out yesterday has changed today. Isn’t that why this business is so interesting? Or at least we keep telling ourselves that to keep us from tearing our hair out of our skulls, right?

What is your initial reaction with having just a few short hours to consider this change? You’ve got it all figured out already, right? Tell us what you ‘know’!