Google recently sent the Internet business community into a frenzy with its announcement that Google Places would no longer be called Google Places. In addition to its new name – Google+ Local – the business listing powerhouse will also change locales, to be housed in Google’s relatively new social networking platform, Google Plus. Google Plus Local pages still have much of the same functionality of the previous Google Places format, only they are more advanced and provide both businesses and customers with more communication options. Want to get in the know when it comes to this exciting new business frontier? Here is a guide to understanding the new Google Places (a.k.a. Google+ Local): Social networking via Google+ Local. Because Google+ Local is fully integrated into the Google Plus social networking platform, businesses now have the opportunity to interact with their customers on a large scale via their Google+ Local pages. You can post updates, send and receive private messages, develop a following, organize your following into categories (or “circles”), and even leave reviews for other businesses using your Google+ Local profile. These advanced social networking features carry a broad range of exciting opportunities for connecting with your customers in powerful new ways.
Google+ Local reviews. Google Plus completely revolutionizes the way customers leave reviews for your business. First of all, customers who want to leave reviews must be logged into their Google Plus accounts. This means that there are no longer anonymous reviews, which carries two very important benefits: 1) malicious and spammy reviewers will be deterred from leaving reviews, and 2) you will know exactly who left what review, and you can respond to them directly, through their Google Plus profiles. The second great thing about Google+ Local reviews is that, in place of the previous 0 to 5 star rating scale, there is now a 30-point rating scale that requires reviewers to break down their ratings into specific aspects of your business (customer service, food, and décor, for example). This gives you a great advantage when it comes to interpreting and applying reviewer data for the betterment of your business.
Reach. It used to be that Google Places listings were only shown on Google Search results pages. Now, your Google+ Local listing will show up when web surfers search Google.com, Google Maps, and Google Plus, as well as when people access Google through mobile apps.
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