Ever since the initial 2011 release of Google’s new social networking product, known as Google+, the company has been busy turning virtually every one of its digital properties into robust social media components which are far more friendly to SEO. The latest in a long string of conversions to the Google+ brand made by the company is the sunsetting of its popular Google Places feature.
For the past several years, businesses have been able to control their identity in searches for their specific location or relevant keywords by maintaining a page full of business addresses, hours, websites, maps, and other information. That functionality still exists, but the company has infused it with social capabilities that draw from the Google+ experience in order to enhance business’ position and further optimize their search engine placement. There are some key ways to adjust and adapt to this service in order to ensure a long-lasting, high placement in Google search engine results.
1. Look at How Information was Carried Over During the Transition
The Google Places page was essentially “translated” by Google into a new social-enabled page that resembles a typical Google+ profile. All of the information which previously discussed a business’ operating information is now contained in a “Local” tab within these Google+ profiles, making it easy to find and supplement with other relevant information. However, it’s quite true that the transition between Places and Google+ Local hasn’t been without its share of technical glitches that can have a major impact on a company’s SEO.
Many Google Places users have noticed that some information, at random, is missing. Businesses have lost their address information, consumer reviews, or keywords which actually caused their old Google Places page to appear during a user’s web search in the first place. The first step to adapting to the new Google+ Local service is to ensure that none of these things have happened, and that a company’s SEO is still intact as it was before the change. That means going through the new “Local” tab on the company’s Google+ profile in a line-by-line manner, ensuring that everything has translated appropriately. This is also an excellent time to ensure the overall accuracy of any data which has been placed into the Local tab, as any pre-existing inaccuracies can sell have a negative effect on a company’s search engine ranking and its SEO performance.
2. Begin to Emphasize New User Reviews on Google+ Itself
In the past, the Google Places feature, especially the Google Places for Business variant, culled and aggregated user reviews of a product, service, or institution, by checking websites like Yelp, CitySearch, and others. This is still done to some extent, but the transition of every Google Places page into a Google+ profile means that direct user interaction with a business is now possible and actually encouraged. These ratings are one of the essential ways for a business to improve its standing in Google search results and draw in new users.
Remember that one of the biggest Google Panda updates in recent years has been to refocus the algorithm on a website or business’ “authority” or expertise in a given field. In traditional SEO terms, this meant that Google Panda would look for traffic numbers, the frequency of newly published content, and other indicators when gathering information about a website’s reputation. Now that Google+ local allows and encourages direct user involvement in the creation and posting of reviews and other content to the Local tab, it will be even easier for reputable businesses to get ahead while less-liked competitors fall behind in the search rankings. This means it’s time to encourage users to give the site a favorably nudge toward the top of the search engine results; be sure not to waste any time, as these effects will have an almost immediate impact on a business’ traffic and overall SEO.
3. The Interactive Nature of Google+ Local Means a Dedication to Content Management
The essential change which has been promoted by the transition from Google Places to the new Google+ Local service is that almost every business will be represented by a website which resembles a Facebook Page. That means that these pages are now far more heavily dedicated to website-user interaction and integration, and it means that a dedicated team of marketing, reputation management, and SEO professionals needs to monitor the new Local page for changes and things which could impact a company’s standing in Google searches over the longer term.
One of the biggest things on the consumer side of search engine results in recent years has been a focus on so-called “reputation management.” This is because consumers have limited control over what other entities, form law enforcement to former employers, post about them in the public forum for discovering on search engines. With the introduction of Google+ Local, this focus on reputation management within search results will go corporate. When users are free to interact with a company’s central page in a Google search result, posting comments, reviews, and cautionary tales, businesses could very quickly find themselves underwater in terms of both customer loyalty and SEO performance. Remember that this new change to Google search results is probably an overall positive feature, but keep in mind that the internet is wildly unpredictable and it may become necessary to place a tighter group on what used to be a relatively static “Places” page.
Above All Else, Be Open to the Search Giant’s Big Changes
The most important thing during any major product transition is to be open-minded and greet changes with open arms. Discuss the impact that this new social media transition will have on your businesses with fellow professionals who are also grappling with Google’s evolution into a social media powerhouse. Exchange tips, ideas, and strategies, and enjoy being on the leading edge of social search technology. When business owners work in tandem with Google itself, their large base of consumers, and even the equally-confused competition, Google+ Local can turn into a powerful marketing force that will propel the best-prepared companies to the top of keyword-targeted search results. Google+ Local truly can, and probably will, become the most powerful SEO tool on the internet. Just watch.