In an effort to expand their market share in local search, Google has been making strides to incorporate local results in more places and eventually make those local results a social experience.
Smartphone searches and searches within social networks continue to rise, prompting one of Google’s most recent adjustments in order to capture that market. The well-known Google Places listings that have been shown for years embedded in Google search results pages are now being shown in a new tab in Google+, called Google+ Local. Over 80 million Google Places listings have been converted to Google+ Local pages so far. With Google’s recent purchase of Zagat.com, the internal 5-star rating system on Google Places listings has been replaced with Zagat’s more robust rating system on Google+ Local pages.
So what does all that mean for you? More visibility for your Places listing and eventually more customer interaction. The migration to a tab in Google+ and the new focus on getting good Zagat ratings are both designed to get your local business seen and heard of in more places online.
So while the changes so far do not have a major effect (if any) to Google Places users, in the future there are larger plans in the works. Google hopes to make your Google Places listing into a Google+ Local page that acts as a hub for customers. Google+ Local pages will probably be like a mix between a searchable Google Places listing and a Facebook Fanpage. You will have fans, conversations, giveaways and many other opportunities all from your Google + Local page. It will be your local listing and customer interface all into one, and it sounds amazing.
To stay ahead of the curve, consider creating a Google+ account and being active on this social platform. Include a link from your website to your business page on Google+, and start trying to make the page a place where your loyal fans will want to hang out.
How do you foresee this helping your business interact with your customer base? Answer in the comments below: