Well, just as previously rumored and predicted by many of us, Google+ has finally incorporated special treatment pages for local businesses.
Check out Google’s main page about the service. Google’s VP of Product Management, Marissa Mayer, helped promote the new features by going on CBS This Morning, where they referred to it as “a location-based social media search engine available on desktops and mobile devices”, which sounds borderline hyped, if accurate.
Here’s the video:
One interesting element which we couldn’t foresee was how Google would launch this with such a heavy tie-in with ratings from Zagats which they bought not long ago. As the official Google Blog post relates, one of the main aspects of the tie-in with Google Plus is how they’re intending this to push more “recommendations and reviews from people you know and trust”.
For all those who had already set up Google+ pages for their local businesses, the Google and Your Business blog relates that they’ll soon be announcing how to get it connected to your business listing in Google Maps/Local/Places — whatever you call it at this point. I think that not having this already available here at the release is a little disappointing, because I expect it will cause more consternation for businesses who are trying to puzzle out how all of these disparate pieces are supposed to connect.
The resultant Plus Local pages are splashier, more like magazine style layouts, much heavier on graphics. In recent weeks, Google Places pages have been automatically pulling-in photos from businesses’ websites, without those businesses overtly giving permission to do it nor asking for particular images to be pulled-in — I think some of that must have been in preparation for this move. When I just viewed the new Google Plus Local page generated for my new business, Argent Media, the profile had photos pulled in which did not come from me, nor actually have anything to do with my business, as well as some photos pulled from my website. I’m not unhappy about this, but I wonder about the mechanisms involved, since I see a high potential that it will cause problems for some businesses, particularly if images they are not using get sucked into profiles somehow. For instance, attorneys in many states may have restrictions on the types of images they may use in marketing themselves…
Here’s one of the examples of new Plus Local pages for a business in the DFW Metroplex area — I believe the more graphic-intensive layout disappointingly reduces visibility of various other business information which may have been more important for discerning searchers:
I’ve had my nose to the grindstone on a few other projects this week, else I’d provide more conjecture and comments about how the social/local convergence will affect local businesses’ online marketing through Google. I primarily consider it a welcome development, although it will be interesting to take a more in-depth look once the dust has properly settled and we have more of a chance to see how it all connects.
See also Mike Blumenthal’s commentary at: Google Place Pages Are No More – But What Has Changed?