Is Google+ Local a Positive Change?
As of yesterday, Google Places has just become the latest Google product to be enhanced with Google+. By adding Google Places (now Google+ Local) to their social network, Google has created a layer of identity for user generated content such as photos and reviews, and added location recomendations to Google+.
In addition to adding Google+ to the local search results, Zagat, a company purchased by the search giant, has been rolled into Google+ Local. Zagat's review and rating system will now be a part of the Google+ Local experience. The most immediate effect of this change is the change in how ratings are scored and displayed, both in the search results and on the locations page.
Now users leave ratings of between zero and three, wich are displayed as an aggregate score of 0 to 30. Users can also rate specific parts of their experience as well. Only if they are signed into a Google+ account though. All reviews from before Google+ Local are labeled from 'A Google User', and will remain as such unless the user who left them approves this.
Visually the new Google+ Local pages place a greater emphasis on photos than the previous format, and for businesses that have linked their Google+ page, displays a large 'Follow' button at the top. If a new place page does not have any imagery associated with it, Google will display either a grey pin graphic or a photo of the address taken from Street View.
Google will roll out more features for Google+ Local over time, and as hinted at additional search, map and mobile functionality within their local Google+ pages. Even now, we do think it is important for businesses to check how these changes have affected their Google+ Local pages, and ensure that they have a Business page set up on Google+. For all intents and purposes, Google is slowly incorporating their various features and products into Google+.