On May 30th, 80 million Google Places pages were converted over to Google+ Local, Google’s latest attempt at marrying social with local. According to Google, “97% of consumers search for local businesses online” and “20 percent of all searches in Google are for nearby information.” This move not only gave Google the opportunity to update a tired UI and create something fresh and new within Google+ (G+), but also allows them to grow their G+ user base with consistent messaging that persuades users to at least consider joining.
Upon clicking on what previously was a Google Places page link within a Google search, the non-Google+ users can view the page in the updated look, but will also see a big red button on top that prompts them to JOIN Google+, there is also a link to SIGN IN now, and one to learn more about Google+ Local. Once you’ve signed in or joined Google+, you’ll not only see all reviews, but reviews by those in your circles are listed first because research shows those carry more weight.
TripAdvisor, a pioneer in the travel reviews space, has reported Word of Mouth content as the most important factor in influencing purchasing decision. In a recent survey, 76% of the respondents said “Recommendations from people I know” is most important. Google’s obviously paying attention to this kind of reviews data, and with their purchase last September of Zagat it’s now clear that authoritative, reliable reviews which Zagat is well known for, will be a huge and influential part of Google’s local/social Google+ future plans, bringing them closer to being the one-stop shop for information on the web.
Highlights of the recent change include:
- A clean, fresh new look that fits within Google+
- For G+ users, a new ‘Local’ tab within the left hand navigation
- For non-G+ users, a button prompting you to JOIN, and another link to learn more about Google+, which are all bound to increase G+’s user base
- New reviews partner Zagat for ratings based on their 30-point scale (purchased by Google in 9/2011)
- Google’s star ratings across all products (Maps, Local & Search) are being replaced by Zagat’s 30-point scale ratings
- Integration with Open Table for restaurant reservations
- Enhanced reviews from people within your circles shown when user is signed into G+
- Based on your prior reviews, Google+ Local will personalize and make similar recommendations based on what you have liked
- Currently in Beta-testing with a small group of businesses, are additional POSTS and Videos tabs within the Google+ Local listing which allows the business to post to their followers in a Facebook type format (see bottom of article for screenshot and link to one of these businesses)
Suggestions for businesses who want to thrive in the new Google+ Local…
- Hotels…get your direct hotel pricing and inventory listed on this growing channel now! Google+ users will certainly be using it for reviews and rates for hotels will be listed, so don’t let the OTA’s get all your bookings on this growing channel!
- Check your new listing and make sure your hotel is well represented – photo’s, location & correct name, direct phone & website information
- Pay attention to your Zagat reviews, they just became MUCH more significant
- If your hotel or restaurant already asks customers to go to sites to review your product, make sure you mention Zagat in addition to TripAdvisor, Yelp or others
- Sign up for Google+ and start building your circles (for yourself and your hotel)
- Watch for more Google+ enhancements to come (Google recently started running commercials on TV for G+, we’re convinced…this is just the beginning)
- We wouldn’t be surprised if Google eventually updates the look of Google’s Hotel Finder to compliment Google+ Local, or even add a shortcut to Hotel Finder within Google+ in the near future.
We’ve found these recent articles on the subject of Google+ Local if you’re interested in reading more:
Below is a capture of Google+ Local beta testing their new POSTS and Videos tabs which will be very beneficial for Hotels and Restaurants: