Google Places has been the anchor of local search since its inception. Replacing the Yellow Pages as the “go-to” for customers looking for a local business, Google Places provided in depth details on local businesses and put them right in front of the customer’s eyes.
Google+ Business Pages have now replaced Google Places. Yes, all the most important details are still there – but Google’s gone one step further. They now give you even more detailed information on the front page of the rankings and on the reviews page.
Reviews are a big deal. Ever since Panda, Google’s looked to reviews to judge where a site should be ranking. No, reviews aren’t the only factor they’re looking at, but they are a big one.
Think about it – when you’re looking for a local business, what do you care most about? The name? The prices? Or the experience of the average customer?
You want to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck – the highest quality service possible. Reviews allow you to ensure this with just one glance. It’s no wonder the Yellow Pages have been replaced by local listings that show us the quality of any business instantly.
So for internet marketers and online business owners, we strongly recommend including reviews if at all possible. Not only do these reviews skyrocket your credibility, but they can also have a similar effect on your rankings.
With that said, let’s take a look at some of the new pages to localized search.
One of the most remarkable changes to local listings is the exclusion of five-star ratings. Now when you search for local businesses, instead of seeing a rating from 1-5 stars, you’ll see a ranking out of 30 points – the Zagat ranking.
It’s a welcome change.
The five-star ranking system is limited. You could go to a restaurant, have incredible food at a great price but feel like the service was severely lacking. What kind of star rating do you give? It’s a tough call – the five-star ranking system forces reviewers to compile all factors into one single ranking.
The 30 point Zagat ranking does the opposite. With the Zagat scale, there are different factors taken into consideration. For a restaurant, you may have food, service, and price as factors. Each factor gets a score equal to the level of service.
So in the case above, the food and price may get 8/10 apiece, whereas service would get 3/10. Then, each factor is added together to make the overall ranking (in this case, 19/30).
At a glance, customers now know much more about a business. Instead of seeing a five-star ranking, they see the addition of several factors. So a lower-scoring business will likely be lacking in several areas, whereas a high-scoring business is a whole package.
Not only does this provide customers with a more detailed view of a business, but it also forces local businesses to get their act together. To get a top Zagat score, the business must be exceptional in all areas.
The New Google Local Listings
Besides changing the ranking, Google’s completely redone the look of business pages. Google+, as opposed to Google Places, is much cleaner, fluid, and easy to navigate.
Nothing too radical has changed from the Google Places layout. You still have the map, the reviews, and several pictures uploaded by the business owner. It’s not innovative, it’s just better. Additionally, with Google+ Business Pages, Google’s incorporating their social network. So there’s plenty of room to see what businesses your friends are enjoying – not just what people in your area are enjoying.
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Lastly, don’t forget to run a free on-page optimization analysis. Too often, webmasters fail to reach page #1 because of an easy-to-fix on-page SEO problem. Running a quick check will tell you any outstanding on-page SEO problems you have instantly. And if fixing those problems could bring you to page #1, isn’t it worth it?
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