Use Google Plus? If you’re a business owner that wants some control on how your company appears on the most popular online map in the world, Google Maps, it’s now basically a requirement.
That’s because Google on Wednesday announced Google+ Local, the company’s latest effort to push its Google Plus social network onto the screens of Web users.
In one fell swoop, Google converted all of its previous online location listings for milions of businesses, called Google Places, into Google Plus Local pages. Google communicated this change to business owners through a post on its “Google and Your Business Blog”:
“With one listing, your business can now be found across Google search, maps, mobile and Google+, and your customers can easily recommend your business to their friends, or tell the world about it with a review,” wrote Jen Fitzpatrick, a VP of engineering at Google.
But besides automatically signing up every previous Google Place business to Google Plus, the company added the fruits of a recent acquisition: Now many businesses will also receive a Zagat score from 1 to 30 (higher is better) based on numerous factors about their business, from service to decor.
The new reviewing system, which does away with Google Places’ previous five-star rating guide, combines Zagat’s system with older user reviews made using the star system, converting the older reviews into the new system in a bit of basic arithmetic (multiplying by 10).
“All of Zagat’s accurate scores and summaries are now highlighted on local Google+ pages,” wrote Avni Shah, a Google director of product management, in another blog post on the new Google Plus Local, “Each place you see in Google+ Local will now be scored using Zagat’s 30-point scale, which tells you all about the various aspects of a place so you can make the best decisions.”
Google posted a video outlining how the new review system aggregrates and distills individual reviews into one main review for each place.
Aside from making clear use of Zagat, which Google acquired, reportedly for around $125 million, back in September 2011, the launch of the new product again underlines Google’s commitment to popularizing its social network, despite some initial reports indicating that users weren’t taking to it.
But while Google has done a nice job of integrating existing businesses Google Places content into the new Google Plus layout, not all of the integration appears to be quite as seamless.
For example, when asked whether Google was officially sunsetting Google Places, a company spokesperson responded to TPM with a lengthy statement about how Google Plus pages contained “the same information” and the “added ability to share that information with the people in their Google+ Circles.”
“That being said, Google Places for Business remains the tool through which business owners should continue to manage their listing information on the local Google+ page,” the spokesperson added. “Over the coming months, we’ll enable easier management of a business’ presence across Google, whether a business owner is posting on his local Google+ page or updating his local listing. A single page through which businesses can manage their online presence is a top priority, and we’re committed to ensuring business owners have a clear voice in how their business is represented on Google, via Google+.”
Indeed, Google’s earlier rollout of Google Plus Pages for businesses doesn’t appear to be fully linked to the company’s Google Plus Local product yet either (Example here), effectively giving many businesses two Google Plus pages to worry about though Google claims that it will soon remedy this discrepancy.
“If you don’t yet have a Google+ Page for your business, we encourage you to create one now,” wrote Fitzpatrick in her post. “And if you do already have one, hold tight for news on how to get it linked to your local listing.”