At the beginning of June, Google made some fundamental changes to their Google Places listings. They removed Google Places and changed it to be part of their social media networking platform Google +.
It is now called Google + Local. And while it is a huge change that will mix up things for some time, the benefits to a local business will be boosted dramatically, if used effectively.
Google + has grown faster than Facebook ever did in its first 6 months. While accounts are now at around 400 million, Google has decided to boost that level faster by merging everything with Google +.
And when you consider that globally, Google has around 1 billion user accounts, once they are all merged and being used by customers, Google + will be bigger than Facebook.
So, why is this change so great for your local business?
It’s all about Social Proof and Trust.
Everyone thinks and talks about Facebook being the next big way for businesses to get more business; Facebook is a closed social network. They fought to stop Google from indexing pages. If a bunch of people love your business and leave reviews on FB that is as far as it goes. It will only be seen by your FB friends.
Google + on the other hand is open. Every person with a Google Plus account that writes a review will be seen by Google. If lots of your customers write good or bad reviews, every one of them will be seen.
When local people search for a local business and they find your business and your competitors on the first page, they will either go to the website or the Google + Local page. We know they will be more likely to visit the +Local page if there are reviews there.
The power of this is yet to be realised, not only by local business but by all types of businesses.
But, reviews on their own will not be enough. It will also be the trust factor of those reviews. For instance, if someone writes one review for your business and never touches their Google + account again, Google will know that and may remove the review or reduce its impact. So the trust factor of those reviewers is going to be huge.
It will affect your business reputation.
It will affect your search engine rankings.
Google Plus will definitely pass Facebook’s number of accounts within the next 12 months and your local business must be ready to take part in it.
There is no doubt Google Plus will become the backbone of search engine rankings. And it’s already started.