Google is making a steady push to integrate Google+, its social networking platform, with all of its offerings including search, maps, email and more. In doing so, Google appears to have two main goals:
- If you are signed into a Google account, then you will be counted as an active Google+ user.
- 2. If you are a business, it will be necessary to have a Google+ page to compete online.
Two recent changes will especially impact business owners. One is the switch from Google Places to Google+ Local and the second is the addition of an image carousel to local search results. Below is a summary of each change and a roundup of expert posts for more detail.
Change #1 – Google Places is Becoming Google+ Local
With so many branded offerings – “Google+,” “Google Places,” “Google Reviews,” and “Google Local,” it’s no surprise that business owners may be confused about using Google+ for marketing. Soon all of these products will be combined under the Google+ Local umbrella with a fancy new dashboard and capabilities. Here’s some background information about switch from Google Places to Google+ Local.
- Google+ Local Replaces Google Places: What Local Businesses Should Know: The folks at Hubspot give an overview of the change from Places to Local. This is a good place to start.
- Google Local Plus “101″ Primer: This post points out why many business owners are feeling confused about how to transition from Places to Local.
- What Happened to Google Places: An answer to this question straight from the Google Help Center (which is also totally redesigned!)
- Helping People Discover and Share Local Businesses with Google+: This post on the Google and Your Business Blog walks through some of the improvements that Google+ Local will offer and shares links to a few beta business profiles already running the new Local features.
Change # 2 – Google Adds Carousel to Local Search Results
A part of Google’s larger Knowledge Graph initiative, the carousel feature was introduced for tablets about a year ago and now Google is rolling it out to desktop users. When you do a local search such as “Coffee Shops Philadelphia,” an eye-catching image carousel dominates the top of the SERP and a map pops up on the right. The data and images in the carousel and map are pulled from … you guessed it, Google+. This design and functionality will drastically change the landscape of local SEO. Read more about Google’s search carousel and its impact on local SEO:
- About Google Knowledge Graph: The carousel is part of Google’s Knowledge Graph, a new technology that Google is touting as the future of search. Learn more about Knowledge Gra
- Search Engine Land Posts: Check out these two Search Engine Land posts. The first one announces the official launch of the carousel and the second shows the alarming results of a heat map study where the carousel results received 48% of all clicks.
- Stay Tuned: Since this change is so new and limited to only a small percentage of searches there aren’t many definitive blog posts addressing the impact. Stay tuned to blogs like Moz, Search Engine Land, and Search Engine Journal for more updates on how the carousel is impacting results and user behavior.
What are your thoughts about Google’s recent changes? Please share your insights in the comments below.