“Google Places” come “Google+Local” is soon to be a new product with no name just to make things as clear as mud. Let’s call it the “New Google Places”.
The New Google Places has launched in some areas of the US and is set to roll out to single language countries in the next few months. Although Australia does not appear to be on the immediate roll out list I predict it will be here before the year is out.
The New Google Places dashboard will mean smoother merging of Google+business pages and Google+Local pages. Merging the two pages allows local businesses to have the social benefits of Google+ right on their local listing page (The New Google Place). This merging is a simple 1-button process with the new dashboard. All reports are, that this has handled most of the bugginess that has occurred with manually merging these two accounts.
Before merging the two accounts either now or when the new dashboard is rolled out here, be sure your business complies with the many terms and conditions.
If your business is mobile or services customers at their locations, your business does not in most cases qualify for the new Google places page or dashboard. This is rather stupid on Google’s behalf in my opinion, as about 1/2 of local businesses are mobile or service customers at their locations. It is my opinion and that of several other marketers that Google will change this particular clause of their T&Cs. However as it stands if you already have a Google Places Page or Google+Local page it’s best not to merge the accounts.
Google are automatically merging many accounts and all new accounts will have the New Google Places dashboard. If your business is one that currently does not meet the T&Cs it’s my advice to wait for the automatic merger to take place (your business may not be merged automatically however) or to wait for the T&C to update.
Other new aspects of the new dashboard are allowing fast and easy upload of photos, statuses and video (which are currently not available on Places pages). It is currently taking up to 8 weeks for updates made from the current dashboard to go live. With the new dashboard these updates are happening in a matter of hours. With the new page you can now have split opening times and the description field of the page will take a lot of data. This field in the current Google Places or Google+Local page is limited. You can also use rich text in this field, another great way to catch peoples eye. The new dashboard allows you to have 10 categories rather then the current 5, however they all need to be from a standard list that Google provides : there are no custom categories.
Overall, these changes will make Google Places more efficient and beneficial to business owners and despite all the changes, the ranking algorithm has not change significantly.