My CliffsNotes on the Google Places-Plus Merger

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About an hour ago I dashed off the following in an email to all the awesome people on my email list – my immediate reaction to today’s update:

Today Google officially merged Google Places with Google Plus.  You’ve probably heard about this.  (Google Plus – you know, that Facebook-wannabe social network that Google has been ramming down our throats for about a year.)

Some people have trumpeted this for months, and have been proclaiming “Google is dead”, “search is dead,” and spouting other nonsense.  They make it very easy for you to freak out and feel overwhelmed.

Sure, it’s a shake-up, but it’s not quite as dramatic as some people might lead you to believe.  You’re a business owner.  You’re tough.  You’ve adapted to online changes a heck of a lot bigger than this.

Anyway, here’s what you need to know – and what I suggest you do – in the form of good news and bad news:

The bad news:

  • Your business temporarily has two local “faces”: the Places page we’re accustomed to, plus the new “Google+Local” page (near the bottom are some links with more info about the latter).  People can still get to the old Places page, but the new Google+Local page will become your new “face” shortly and the old one probably won’t even be findable.  If you’ve set up a “Google Plus Page for Business,” great.  That will probably come in handy down the road.  If you haven’t, it’s not like you’re now invisible, but you should just create one as soon as you can.
  • Customers now have to take different steps for writing reviews for you.  Basically, they have to create a Google Plus page, log into it, search for your business in the “Local” tab in Google Plus, and finally write the review.  It’s not much harder: sure, it’s a little more involved, but it’s mostly just different steps for writing a review.
  • Google is trying to make you use Google Plus, whether you like Plus or not.  I know I’m not wild about it so far.  (I started using Facebook in 2006, before most people knew it existed, and even that early version was more fun and easier to use – which is why it caught on.)  At this stage, you only really have to deal with Google Plus if you’re trying to get customer reviews – which you should – but Google will certainly find more ways to get you to use it.  None foreseeable or worth worrying about for the immediate future, though.  Still, you should create a Google+ for Business page
  • Eventually it may be a good idea to ask customers for “feedback” other than reviews – like to “+1” your website or to add your Google Plus Business page (if and when you have one) into their “Circles.”  You’ll probably have to worry about this at some point, but not right now.
  • It’s confusing.  There are so many PR-stunt types making exaggerated claims about this change.  It’s hard to filter out all the noise and know what to do.

The good news:

  • The rankings haven’t been shaken up, at least based on what I’ve seen with my clients and others.  If you ranked well yesterday, chances are you’re ranking just as well today.
  • You can still manage your Places / Google+Local / whatever page the same way you always have: by logging into your Google Places page and editing it.
  • It used to be worthless to try to get links to your Places page.  But Google is treating the new pages as indexed search results – meaning that if you get link to your Google+Local page, you’ll probably get a visibility boost.
  • There may be fewer Google bugs down the road, and/or more “support” if you have a question or problem.  Google may continue to make things more confusing before they get less confusing, but eventually it will probably be easier to manage your local visibility in Google.
  • You the business owner don’t have to DO much right now.  Google has mostly just changed the look of how your business is represented online – and they’ve done it for you, rather than asking you to drop what you’re doing and take some action in order for the update to take effect.  (Again, the only caveat is you should create a Google + for Business page, but that’s quick to do.)
  • The fundamentals have NOT changed.  The steps for growing your local visibility are still the same.  There’s going be an increased emphasis on reviews, and probably eventually on “+1s” and having customers add you to their “Circles,” but we’re not there yet.

Here’s some great info I suggest you read when you get a minute:

Superb summary by Matt McGee

Professor Maps’s take

What The Man has to say about the change

Great in-depth perspective from David Mihm.  If you’re freaking out and feeling overwhelmed, I especially recommend read this.

Tones of great detail from Greg Sterling – with all the screenshots you need.

The bottom line is this:

If you’ve been working on getting more visible in local Google, keep doing what you’re doing.  The names and looks have changed somewhat, but the fundamentals are still the same, and they’ll still get you the results you need.  No need to worry.  You’ll be just fine.

If you feel like doing something right now, just go to http://www.google.com/+/business/ and create a “Google+ Page for Business.”  For now, just create

Your thoughts / questions?  Leave a comment!

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Comments

  1. Great summary Phil and solid advice.

  2. Thank you for this cliff notes post Phil.

  3. It is hard to sort out the noise, you’re right. These mergers are sort of inevitable though… corporations merge all the time and when an entity is as big as Google (and with as many divisions) it’s bound to merge with itself.

    • Hey Adam

      Agreed – the only thing that’s constant with Google is its evolution. Obviously, the difficulty is that this particular change can affect business owners big-time – and even more so if they’re done a disservice by SEOs who don’t have anything to say except “the sky is falling,” “everything you thought you knew is wrong,” etc.

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