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The Local Landscape: Social, Local & Reviews Under One Roof (Part 3)

In case you blinked and missed the bulldozers and excavators a few weeks ago, Google has since decided to completely level Google Places listings and has begun transitioning the core elements of these local listings into what has been branded as “Google+ Local.” Essentially, Google has migrated or merged 80,000,000 verified and unverified Google Places listings and dumped them into their 1 year old social platform: Google+.

What does this mean for listing and business owners?

Well as far the immediate impact, if you have not upgraded your Google account to a Google+ Profile, it would be wise to do so from a listing management standpoint. While the traditional Google Places dashboard is currently still available and functional for you to manage your listing(s) as you always have, this same dashboard is also accessible within Google+ Local if your Google+ Profile & Google Places listings are housed under the same Gmail account.

Google realizes that this may be a problem and there is not yet capability for multi-admin privileges for Google+ Local listings as there is for Google+ Business Pages. Also, we know that Google is eventually going to consolidate local listings into 1 page, as evidenced by Vanessa Gene’s very insightful post from the Google+ Local Help Forum on 5/31/12:

“I already have a Google+ page, and now my Place page has been upgraded to this local Google+ page. How do I bring the two together, so that I have just one page?”

“The short answer is, you can’t merge the two right now. But believe me, we’re working on that. So to be very clear here: We will we be combining these two pages, so that you will only have to manage one listing — basic information, social features and all — across Google. Please give us time to get there — we’ll keep you posted every step of the way. For now, keep managing your pages as is from the two separate dashboards (Google Places and Google+).”

More Google+ Changes on the Horizon

Google insists that this is a slow roll out before phase #2 where we can expect to see Google+ listings undergo a major facelift with the influx and integration of other Google products (street view, maps, search, hangouts, offers etc.). No timetable has been given for this next wave of social features and the addition on Google+, but in my research I have read anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months before we break any new ground on this.

How this Change Affects Google Reviews

Currently, the only substantial change to Google+ Local listings (aside from the obvious migration to G+) is the method in which end users are able to review and rate businesses. As mentioned in my previous posts (The Local Landscape: Reviews, Tag and Blended Search Part 2, The Local Landscape: Google Places 2008-2009 Part 1) Google has always had a running battle to maintain the integrity of their local listing reviews, which were littered with spam and slander or blatant self-promotion.

Google has decided to overhaul it’s review system by implementing the Zagat 30-point system. Scores are calculated from 0-3, with 3 being “excellent.” Google then averages these scores and multiplies by 10 to arrive at an averaged score. In cases of insufficient reviews and ratings to determine an averaged score, Google will display an overall score.

As far as submitting an actual review itself, Google is now forcing all users to create or “upgrade” their Google account to Google+ to be able to do this – forcing users into the G+ social network before they can resume rating and reviewing their local experiences. Previously, reviews were displayed in chronological order whereas now they are displayed by “most helpful” – which is the new default.

Looking Ahead to Impact of Apple Maps

That should cover this chapter in The Local Landscape. Stay tuned for our next edition where we weigh in on new emerging Google + Local developments as well as Apple’s decision to throw their hat in the local arena with the forthcoming product release of the Apple Maps application – with local listings rumored to be powered by Localeze.

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