Google has taken the first steps in its radical decision to move on from Google Places by migrating the service to Google+ Local Pages.
The change means anyone who has so far managed to avoid any involvement with Google’s social networking site will need to think again.
Google is continuously refining services now to push people towards creating Google accounts.
Google Plus Local can be accessed via a new tab on the sidebar of any Google+ User Home Page, enabling users to search specifically for local amenities, such as shops, restaurants and local attractions or events.
This move also goes a long way towards explaining Google’s seemingly pointless purchase of Zagat in 2011, something that left many commentators scratching their heads.
All ‘scores’ produced in the local results are based specifically on user reviews. Clicking on a particular listing will show the current score and give the user the opportunity to write a written review themselves, and score the services under pertinent headings.
For a restaurant, this could be food, décor, service and value for money, for example. Users then rate the restaurant with scores from 0 to 3 for headings which range from Poor through to Excellent. Price scores use headings ranging from Inexpensive to Very Expensive in a similar way.
Google then takes the average of all the current scores and multiplies the result by 10 to give a percentage score for each section. Scores are displayed either under their sections or overall – the primary score for a restaurant would be for food.
If there are insufficient scores under the headings to present a fair picture, an overall score will be shown instead, which is comparable to a primary score.
This may all sound rather complicated, but every listing is, after all, based on consumer experience – and Google has tried to be very fair in the way it has achieved the overall ‘Score’ for each one.
What impact will this have on businesses?
Every customer review is a public posting, so good or bad, which could have repercussions for traditional internet marketing strategies, and SEO campaigns.
Of course, there will always be those who won’t enjoy these changes: but every business in today’s harsh economy has to be ready for change at all times, or risk leaving the door open to failure.
For local businesses – this should be seen as a good thing. It will help businesses stay aware of their competitors, influence how they go about business and deals, and determines how successful they might be; indeed, the more customers they please, the more business they will get.
This new move by Google is yet again integrating its many products and services in a seamless and logical way.
Any business that has faith in its own ethics and capabilities should embrace the change with relish.
For search users, though, is this incessant shove towards being a logged-in Googler, rather than an Internet user, going to prove a step too far in future?