Earlier today, Google announced the launch of Google+ Local, a new social local search experience that will spread across Google+, Google Search and Google's mobile search. It uses Zagat ratings and Google+ connections, and gives businesses a chance to make their local search presence more social.
Google said business owners will continue to manage their local listings the same way, using Google Places for business, but Google seems to be making Google+ a much bigger part of the local search equation. We asked Google a few more questions about it. Following are responses from a Google spokesperson.
Will businesses have to be on Google+ to be listed in Google Places?
"Much of the information from a business owners' Google Place page - such as the business address, phone number, description, and Google reviews, and photos submitted by business owners and users - will automatically be ported over to the upgraded local Google+ page."
"People used to be able to find information about a business on the Google Places page, but now, they’ll find much of that same information on the local Google+ page and enjoy the added ability to share that information with the people in their Google+ Circles. This means that a business listing that could previously be found across Google Search, Google Maps, and Google Maps for mobile is still available in all those places, but is now also more easily discoverable to the millions of users on Google+ as well."
Will users have access to the same info from Google Places that they always have, if they do not have Google+ accounts?
"We encourage people to sign-in to Google+, as it will provide the best experience possible across Google. For example, if you sign-in, Google+ Local shows the recommendations from your friends and the Google+ community, and you can share your own experiences. You will also get free access to the full Zagat scores and reviews, and results will be tailored to your interests and location. People who choose not to sign-in to Google+ get all same information they could before, including basic information like a business address and phone number, as well as Google user reviews, maps, etc. They will also see Zagat score highlights and review snippets."
Is the Google Places name going away?
"Google Places for Business remains the place business owners should go to manage their local listing. Over the coming months, we’ll enable easier management of a business’ presence across Google, whether a business owner is posting on his local Google+ page or updating his local listing. A single page through which businesses can manage their online presence is a top priority, and we're committed to ensuring business owners have a clear voice in how their business is represented on Google, via Google+."