In the ever changing landscape that is the Google catalog of web services, Google Places, the yellow pages-like product for businesses to list themselves, has now been changed to Google+ Local. Recall that Google+ is Google's social networking site that is similar -- in concept -- to Facebook. Many people think this transition is designed in order to generate more of a buzz and more user activity for Google+
While the exact details are still emerging, and will become more clear as the weeks progress, as of now, June 2, 2012, here are the major highlights of this change. Please remember that whenever Google migrates or changes a service that there are often quite a few bumps in the road, and changes that are made until the transition is finalized.
1. Your Google Places page will be automatically migrated to a Google+ Local page. The major difference (for now) is the look and feel of the page. As of now these new Google+ Local pages will not have the same social features that a standard Google+ page already has.
2. If you already have a Google+ page for your business and/or a Google Places page, you can continue to use these pages. Eventually Google plans to combine these pages into one page so you can manage everything in one place.
3. There's nothing that you as the owner of a Google Places page need to do at this time. You can still manage your Places page as usual, but know that more changes are coming,
4. The days of the "star" rating system are now gone and are being replaced with a Zagat-style 1-30 rating. Your existing ratings and reviews should remain intact, but people are seeing varied results in terms of the ordering of their reviews. These quirks should resolve in the next few weeks as Google rolls out this change.
5. Lastly, one of the most critical changes appears to be that users now must have a Google+ account in order to write reviews about you. This change opens up an entire can of worms on the subject of getting reviews, and is something I will discuss as these changes are rolled out.
I hope this summary helps you to get your arms around these new changes. I will be posting a follow-up article to this one towards the end of the month to go over some more of the changes, the implementations, and the implications for dentists and physicians.
As always please post any questions or comments below.