A Big Change for Businesses in 2012: Google Local Goes from Places to Plus

On May 30th, Google made a change that impacted more than 80 million businesses. The change was to replace all of their existing Google Places pages with Google+ Local pages. Because this change was literally made overnight, plenty of their users were confused by the look of these new results. However, while it won't take long for searchers to adjust, as a business owner, you've got a bigger challenge. Since this result may determine whether or not prospects ever make it to your website or give you a call, it's important for you to fully understand what's changed.

Because there's both good news and bad news about this change, let's start with the good:

Goodbye Anonymous Reviews

Being able to speak freely on the Internet is a great thing. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who abuse this privilege. This is especially true when it comes to reviews. While you want to provide your customers with the best service possible, you can't do that when they want to complain behind a cloak of anonymity. What's even worse is although an anonymous review may not even be real, it can still discourage potential customers from doing business with you.

Since countless businesses were hurt by negative reviews that didn't even have any merit, the good news about this transition is those reviews are gone for good. Because Google has a strict real name policy for their Google Plus program, anyone who wants to say something about your business will have to put their name next to it. What's great is not only will this protect you from unjustified badmouthing, but the impact of seeing a name and picture next to a positive review will be even more persuasive to searchers who come across your business.

Social is No Longer Optional

All businesses have a limited number of resources. Regardless of whether a business has one employee or twenty, only so many things can be accomplished during the course of a workweek. As a result, businesses can't pursue every opportunity and avenue that's available to them.

Social media is one avenue that many businesses have put on the back-burner or completely ignored. The two main reasons for this are difficulty measuring its impact and not fully understanding how to form a comprehensive social media strategy. If your business falls into this category, Google Local's change is going to be a double-edged sword.

On one hand, having the features of Google+ available to your business presence means you're going to have even more ways to interact with potential and current customers. On the other hand, the social signals surrounding your Google+ Local page are most likely going to influence how visible you are throughout your target Google searches.

Because of the increased importance of these metrics, businesses who don't fully embrace the importance of building a strong social presence are going to lose traction to competitors who do. While you may have concerns about how you're going to integrate this into your overall marketing strategy, the silver lining is you're not only on a level playing field, but can actually get a major competitive advantage by putting social at the top of your priority list.

If you want to discuss the specific impact this transition is going to have on your business, as well as how we can help you deal with its new social requirements, we're available for a free consultation. All you need to do is fill out this simple form:

About The Author

Brian Waraksa

Brian Waraksa, founder of Raxa Design in Houston, Texas has been in marketing and small business branding since 2002. He writes the Raxa Design blog on issues affecting small business marketing and corporate brands.

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