Last week Google took a lot of people by surprise when they got rid of Google Places and completely starting replacing them with Google+ Local pages. 80+ million pages were switched automatically but many businesses feel left in the dark about the changes.
With the new format, the Google+ Local pages will have more interactivity and personalization than the static Google Local Pages. When someone views your Google+ Local page, it will show them reviews and recommendations from people they know. Instead of Google’s star rating, now pages will have Zagat ratings. To leave a rating on any business you will need to have a Google+ account. Whether individuals or businesses like it or not, local search just got very social.
For now, businesses can log into their Places account to manage it and apparently claiming your place still has the same process. It also seems your Places page still exists. If you did not have a Places page, those seem to have already been transitioned over to Google+ Local Pages (see image below of Cumberland County Civic Center). For now, they want you to manage your listing on both the Google+ account AND through your Google Local listing account but they promise they will be combining these soon so you will only have to manage your listing in one place.
Right now all the examples I see from Google on the changes are for restaurants. I hope we will get more information very soon on how this will work and the benefits for other business types. If you want to see some live examples of what these new listings will look like after the complete roll out there are 13 listed here on the Google and Your Business blog.
As a business what should you do now? Well apparently Google says you don’t have to do anything… they will be taking care of it. Comforting? Yea, I didn’t think so. I guess we wait and see.
A lot of people are blogging/complaining/raving about the big changes to Google Places but the most informative piece I have seen so far is this video by two Google Community Managers who answer a lot of questions I know I had. The video is over 11 minutes long but does have a lot of information.
For a little more information you can check out this FAQ page which is updated regularly or this post from Search Engine Land.
So I guess we wait…