Google is making major changes to their Google Places service and appears to be leveraging their market share to force businesses to create a Google+ account, which is Google’s version of Facebook. The dust has not settled and there is some variation geographically. The biggest takeaway is that if you want to continue to be towards the top of search engine results in Google, you will probably have to create and optimize a Google + account. I know, most of you have no interest in opening and maintaining another social media account and prefer not to be social like Facebook but if you want to be towards the top of Google, you will ultimately need to follow their rules. Uugghh….
As part of this evolution, here is what we see:
- Google will integrate several Google properties underneath the Google+ Local service. This means Maps, Places reviews, and some elements of local search. This will be Google’s competitive answer for Facebook. Right now, Google+ has very little traction (low market share) but since savvy business owners want to be towards to top of Google search results, Google will use the heavy handed stick to force them to open a Google+ account.
- Google will introduce a reviews/recommendations twist from friends/family/colleagues that are connected to you (think LinkedIn 1st, 2nd, 3rd connections). My gut, this is a page they will be borrowing from LinkedIn.
- Google will integrate Zagat reviews, which is a property Google acquired Sept 2011, across the board. This means they will introduce a 30 point rating scale rather than 5 star reviews. I know, what does Zagat reviews mean outside of restaurant reviews and how does that translate to accounting services. My gut, this is a page they will leverage against Yelp, which Google tried to purchase on two separate occasions. The argument is that the 30 point rating scale will provide more differentiation than 5 star reviews and there will be categories of service (food, service, atmosphere). I have no clue how they will categorize accounting services.
- This is the first phase of Google’s transition. Much like the recent algorithm changes (Google Panda, Penguin), there will be more wrinkles to come. Those businesses that are willing to adopt early will gain an advantage, even if you are kicking and screaming.
For updates, here is Google’s blog on this rollout:
Here is our educated guess on steps you should take:
- If you have a Google Places account, you should complete the profile as much as possible. Now!! This means everything from hours of operation to adding 6-10 pictures to forms of payment accepted. The pictures should be optimized with descriptive text. If you have a video, add it now before this feature is closed. Your goal is to elevate your % of completeness to the 90% to 100% range (log into your account, see score on right hand nav). If you business address is incorrect, submit an update. Your address should be the exact same across all mediums (Suite 3, not Ste 3 on Yahoo and # 3 on Bing and Unit 3 on Google).
- If your office has multiple locations, you will want to validate ALL locations. I recommend the postcard method to validate because Google does not like auto-tellers.
- You will want to create a Google+ account for your business and make it visually appealing (like your website) with lots of pictures. After you complete your Google+ page, you will want to connect with business clients and encourage them to review your services. Obtaining reviews will be imperative. Below are three examples that Google provided:
For more information on Google’s transition, below is a article that goes into more depth: