In its typical game-changing style, today, Google made another major addition to its social network with its new feature Google+ Local. Of course, this puts an end to its previously local-centric app, Google Places, but with the integration of the renowned review service Zagat, which Google bought last year, and recommendations from those within your own circles, this new tool promises to be more useful and comprehensive than ever at connecting consumers with places around them.
How it Works
As always, Google wants to help people find what they’re looking for, and with its recent focus on local search results, this mission is effectively moving out of the virtual realm and into the” real-world.” So, not only does Google want to be your go-to source for finding information online, it wants to help you find (and share) everything you need whether it’s a restaurant, hotel, store, museum, or any other destination.
The feature is simple to use as those logged into their Google+ accounts can filter their search results using the “local” tab on the left-hand side of the Google+ screen. Once the tab is selected, if you search for pizza, for example, you will be given a list of pizza restaurants in your vicinity. Then you can narrow down your choices based on Zagat scores, photos, summaries, reviews from your friends, and more.
Even better, since Google+ Local is incorporated with Google Maps, you can easily get directions or use the burgundy Zagat feature straight from the map platform. Naturally, this is a fantastic tool for on-the-go consumers, and Google has responded appropriately with the Google Maps for mobile app, which is currently available for Android devices and will soon be available on iOS devices as well.
Benefits of Google+ Local
Although Google Places was a step in the right direction in terms of connecting consumers with local destinations and merchants, Google+ Local appears to have streamlined the service with a host of benefits, including:
- Easy to use search categories (restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, and entertainment).
- Clean, user-friendly interface.
- Can get better, more personalized results by reading reviews and comments from those within your own circles and by using other tools such as the “People Like You” filter.
- Zagat – It’s unique 0 to 30 rating scale is broken down among several categories (food, décor, price, etc.), which provides much more insight to searchers. The service comes with over 35,000 reviews and spans 100 countries.
- Maps, directions, operating hours, and other vital information.
- Ability to add your own input by uploading photos and adding your opinions and reviews.
- Users can rediscover their hometown by finding places they’ve never been.
So, What’s this Mean for Businesses?
The benefits of Google+ Local are well and good for consumers, but what does the new feature mean for businesses? Essentially, it means people are likelier than ever to make decisions about where they want to go, what they want to do, and what foods they want to eat based on information they find on Google. The good news is this doesn’t mean you have to begin any new strategies, per se, but you should take to heart the suggestions we’ve been making all along for improving your local search results, namely:
- Make sure you have a web presence (blog, website, social network, etc.), so people can learn more about your business if they come across it through Google.
- Ensure your Google Places page (for now, Google is still pulling information from there) is up to date with current information, pictures, coupons, QR codes, and more.
- Get a Google+ Page! Google has made it clear they intend to integrate their Pages with the Local feature to allow businesses to have a cohesive identity across their search, maps, and mobile tools.
- Provide quality products and services so people want to add a positive review of your establishment, and offer rewards or incentives to loyal customers who make the effort.
As the boundaries between online and “real-world” interactions continue to blur, local businesses can no longer think of internet marketing as something voluntary or detached from what they do on a day-to-day basis. And Google+ Local is just the latest innovation proving that a company must embrace this medium if it hopes to reach its full potential.