It's been a little over two weeks since Google Places morphed into Google+ Local, and local businesses and analysts are still trying to figure out what these changes will mean in the long-term. As of right now, if you ranked highly on Google Places, you may not be ranking as highly on Google+ Local. Additionally, if you're a restaurant owner, you're probably adjusting to the fact that a Zagat score is prominently displayed under your restaurant's name in the Google+ Local search results.
Your Zagat score is based on online reviews, and having a low score is likely to discourage customers from doing business with you. Other types of business are also given a score based on reviews, but Google hasn't assigned a score to all businesses yet. We can expect they'll finish assigning scores to most businesses with Google+ Local pages in the next couple of months.
We don't know precisely how Google will calculate the rankings on Google+ Local in the future. What we do know, however, is that the focus of Google+ Local is 100% social. The search results on Google+ Local will link to your Google+ Local business page, which will display reviews from Google+ users. Additionally, Google+ Local search results will be customized for users. So, if someone in a Google+ user's circles recommends a business, that business will show up at the top their local search results.
You might be wondering what exactly you can do now to improve your chances of success on Google+ Local. Here are a couple of things you should most definitely think about doing:
Update your Google+ Local company page
Google automatically switched all of the contents of your Places business page to your new Google+ Local page. Google+ Local pages currently consist of pictures and videos of your business, your business address, an "About Me" section, and reviews. In the future, you can expect that your Google+ Local page will be closely tied to Google+, and consumers will be able to post videos and pictures to your page, add you to their circles, and send you visible messages.
We can tell that your success on Google+ Local will partly depend on how active you are on your Google+ Local page. At this point, you should definitely upload new, attractive photos of your business and update the "About Me" section of your business page. As Google begins to integrate social functions into Google+ Local pages, you'll want to reply to people's comments and post videos and photos (if appropriate) to keep your fans engaged and interested in what you're doing.
Get serious about your customer service
The days of simply creating a Google Places page to attract customers are over. At some point in the near future, all of the search results on Google+ Local will come with a score based on reviews, and we can assume that potential customers will take that score seriously. So, your online reviews matter even more than they did before. This means that it will be essential to do everything you can to improve your products and/or services and improve how you interact with customers.
Remember that an unhappy customer is more likely to write a review than a satisfied customer. You'll need to wow everyone who does business with you to ensure that your Google+ Local score stays high. Additionally, you'll need to take customer feedback seriously and change your business practices based on criticism in reviews.
As you change your practices to get more and better reviews, keep in mind who writes the most reviews. Typically, college students and 20-somethings are the most active reviewers and the most likely to use social media sites like Google+. If you can make your business appealing to them, you're golden.
If you're up for the challenge of staying active on your Google+ Local profile and stepping up your game when it comes to customer relationships, you should fare pretty well. We'll just have to see what kind of impact Google+ Local has in the coming months and how exactly we should adjust the way we do business accordingly.
About Lauren Bailey
Lauren Bailey researches and writes information on the best online colleges and degrees for modern students. She is also a freelance blogger and loves writing about education, new technology, lifestyle and health. She welcomes comments and questions via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.