What you need to know about Google+ Local

Last month, Google announced the launch of Google+ Local, a new way to search for and share your favorite restaurants, local hot spots and pretty much every other business you can think of. The launch is the first step in integrating with review site Zagat since the acquisition of the company by Google in September 2011. Although this integration is still in its early stages, we wanted to outline the major effects it will have on hotels and restaurants.

Google Places listings now featuring Zagat ratings
Similar to the Places listings you’ve seen in the past, new local listings feature contact information, images and reviews with ratings with one key difference — the traditional star ratings has been replaced with Zagat’s 30 point rating system. Summarized local listings are displayed in organic Google searches and on Google Maps. Users seeking more detailed information and reviews must sign into Google+ to view the full local listing, complete with a professional Zagat summary and user-generated reviews from both Zagat and Google.

How to manage your Google Places account and respond to reviews
For the time being, business owners can continue to manage their local listing information and respond to reviews via Google Places for Business. As Google continues to enhance local listings, we speculate that there will be closer integration with Google+, requiring all businesses to manage listings and content through a linked Google+ account. If you haven’t already done so, we recommend creating a Google+ Page for your property, as it is likely that Google will undergo a ‘merging’ phase similar to Facebook with the evolution of Places.

What’s to come?
Although it’s not entirely clear where Google is headed with local listings, we noticed a few areas where we could see significant changes in the future.

1. All business will be required to manage content through Google+ — This seems like a logical step for Google, as they continue to look for ways to build the popularity of Google+. In our opinion, having a centralized place to manage content that appears in several different areas on the web is a great way to keep your property’s image and messaging consistent.

2. Zagat reviews will now accept management responses — In the past, Zagat did not allow managers to respond to reviews posted on the site. We see this changing as Google currently allows for management responses.

3. Zagat will no longer have a standalone website — In an effort to clear any confusion between the two sites and strengthen Google+, we imagine that at some point, Google will do away with Zagat’s standalone website. This step would again support the push for Google+ to be a central location to mange and find content.

For more information on the evolution of Google+ Local, visit Google and Your Business Blog.

Michelle Wohl is the VP of Marketing at Revinate. Based in San Francisco, Michelle has worked in technology marketing since graduating from Cornell University.

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