Google Places Guide 2013
Local search has been big news for years. But perhaps it hasn’t quite taken off in the way people expected despite the prominence given to local results in the SERPS. At any rate Google has struggled to monetise these results. All that’s now going to change as Google gives its Google Places product a re-design.
Now called ‘Places for Business’ this is more than just a makeover. The changes represent an integration of Google’s local products (Maps, Mobile, Google+ Local) making it easier for small businesses to manage their activity from one dashboard. The other thing that’s striking is Adwords Express now takes center stage on the dashboard. However even with these 2013 changes it’s likely Places for Businesses will remain a work-in-progress for quite some time.
It’s Google’s intention to phase the roll-out. This means you can expect more features to appear in the months to come and is being introduced on a territory by territory basis with the US first. Currently there is no date for a UK introduction. On the plus side we have some time to learn about the wrinkles from experiences in the US. The other significant thing you should know is that initially the new dashboard will only be available for new listings. Of course it will reach existing listings at some point but evidently this is not a priority for Google.
Here’s not the place for an introduction to Google Places (as was) rather my intention is to guide you through the most significant things you should be aware of in 2013.
Better Linkages with Google+ Local Page
You should now see changes you make from the dashboard show up in your Google+ Local Page within a few days, perhaps as quickly as 48 hours. Dashboard data now feeds directly into Google’s ‘Knowledge Graph’. This graph is all about trust and that’s why you’ll see your changes more quickly.
Managing Google Local Listing and Google + Local
At some point it seems Google Local listings will be merged with the Google + listing – but just not yet. Google is advising people to wait until an ‘Upgrade’ button appears. You have been warned!
Where Your Personal Google + Profile Fits In
This is a biggie. The new dashboard deals with your factual business information. You can add photos but they can take a long time to appear. But to manage your social activity or to add video you need to do this via a personal Google + Account. However when someone visits your Google + Local page they will see your activity. For many small businesses, this will enhance your credibility and is another way Google is ‘encouraging’ the adoption of Google +.
Developments for Local Area Services
It’s not clear why but Google Places left service area businesses out in the cold. These are businesses where the business visits customers in multiple locations. Now SABs as they are known can get a Google + Local page for the first time.
Making Use of Online Support/Help
For better or worse there are now fewer customisation options and therefore fewer fields to complete but of course going wrong can have awful consequences. Here, Google has helpfully provided plenty of help on how to complete the various fields. These take the form of contextual inline tips. Ignore them at your peril.
There are some elements which Google has chosen not to enhance or at least only tweak. Verification is still by the torturous PIN route but there’s now a clear dispute process for disputed listings. You can still choose up to 10 categories – if anyone would want to, but custom categories have disappeared. That’s probably a good thing.
So there you have it. Lots to grapple with in the future. If it sounds like there are some rough ends, that’s because there are. Google hasn’t joined everything up (yet).