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If there were still people out there unconvinced as to how big a part Google + was going to play in the big Google shake up then the latest in a string of big updates (from Google) should finally give the biggest indication yet.
Google Places is dead
Long live Google + Local pages.
Around 80 million Google Places profiles have been converted into Google + Local pages in a huge overhaul in Local profiles.
These new pages offer yet another change in the information available via local listings. The aim from Google is to give people all the information they need when searching for local services, places or products.
There is even a new scoring system for Restaurants with the integration of Zagat providing a score out of 30 instead of a star rating.
Google Reviews remains present.
Most interestingly we can also see the return of reviews from 3rd party sites such as Qype which took a back seat during the last update to local profiles.
So with this change comes the integration of a Local tab in Google + itself.
This means that these listings are now going to be available in Google, Google + and Google Maps.
These new Google + Local pages provide a much more social experience with the feel of a fan page on Facebook. Again indicating just how important social now is to businesses and Google.
As this is plugged straight into Google + you will receive personalised information on local pages you view.
As I touched on earlier, you will note from the screenshot below that we are now seeing the inclusion again of 3rd party review mentions.
Is this an indication that reviews from these types of sites are important to your Google + Local ranking?
Personally I don’t think they ever lost as much value as was suggested. The last update from Google simply tried to get more people using Google Reviews.
Google + Local pages will also be indexed giving businesses yet another option for gaining exposure online. And with the whole social element Google are clearly looking to entice more and more to use Google +.
At present you are unable to verify your listings in the same way you could with Google Places, however Google will be introducing this in the near future, so you need to keep an eye on this.
It is now unavoidable. Every business needs a Google + profile. There can be no further thinking about. Even those who aren’t sure if they want to get involved in “social”. It won’t be long before everything Google will be integrated with Google + and if you don’t have a presence you will not only be behind but possibly not even ranking.