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Columns: Stay Apprised of Google’s Changes

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Columns: Shop: Stay Apprised of Google’s Changes

A recent switch changes the way you’re listed.

BY RYAN GOFF

Published in the September 2012 issue.

Google recently made the switch from Google Places to Google Plus Local, changing the way your business is listed through the site and how you interact with customers.

In the past, people looking for information about your company would search for your brand name and be driven to a Google Places page. This listing page included various pieces of information about your business, such as a company description, map, hours, and reviews written by customers.

While this basic principle hasn’t changed, Google has rebranded the service and made several functional updates. Here are two of the most significant changes you need to know about:

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ONE CENTRAL PROFILE

Last year, Google launched Google Plus — a service allowing people and businesses to create profiles and interact with one another as they would through Facebook. However, companies using this service were forced to manage both a Plus profile and Places listing.

Under Google Plus Local, these listings have merged into one profile. Businesses can manage their local listing and Google Plus account from a single location, and customers are now able to gather information about your company and read recent updates posted through your Google Plus account.

This shift has also brought about a redesign of listing pages. Customers now see a page that looks more like a Google Plus profile than a Places listing page.

While Google plans to merge all local listings with Plus profiles in the coming months, this service has only been rolled out to a few select companies to date. For now, businesses will have to continue to manage both accounts separately.

NEW REVIEW SYSTEM

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Google’s iconic five-star ranking system has been replaced by a new review engine. People are now served a review score based on a 30-point scale.

This new scoring method was founded on Zagat’s ranking system, with the review site having been acquired by Google last year. Zagat reviews and rankings are now prominently displayed on a profile, in addition to reviews posted to Google itself.

To maintain this 30-point scale, Google has eliminated the five-star system, forcing customers to rank businesses on a scale of zero to three (zero = poor to fair, one = good, two = very good, three = excellent). If Zagat reviews are not available for your company, Google will average the three-scale rankings and multiply that score by 10.

Under the new system, customers must write reviews under their Google Plus profile, using real names and photos. This move comes as a welcome change to businesses who have suffered from competitors or disgruntled employees writing reviews under pseudonyms.

This integration with Google Plus profiles also encourages users to share their reviews with their circles. Once a review is written, Google asks that the user post it to their profiles, making these reviews work even harder for your business, or potentially causing more damage.

Then, when a user searches for a particular business through Google, reviews posted by their friends are prominently displayed in search results.

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These changes, while drastic, should offer you new ways to connect with potential customers and to interact with those who already do business with you. Spend some time learning about the updates by visiting www.google.com/+/learnmore/ local/.


Ryan Goff >> As social media marketing director at MGH Inc. (mghus.com), Ryan Goff develops online marketing campaigns for clients in the jewelry industry.

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