This week, Google announced the release of Google+ Local. You may have already seen how this change will affect Google+ users in general, but what does this mean for your business?

We’ll try to keep it as simple as possible: the change means that all Google Place pages have been replaced by new Google+ Local Pages. Additionally, Google has indicated that businesses will soon have the ability to link their new Google+ Local Pages with their existing Google+ Pages, resulting in one combined page that is integrated across multiple Google services (Search, Maps, Google+, etc.). Here’s a look at what a Google+ Local page will look like when the transition is completed:

Oh Sushi Google+ Local Page

Notice the strong emphasis on reviews, as well as the ability to “follow” the brand by adding it to your Circles. Also note the new Local search option in the left sidebar. (With a richer experience in terms of the results provided, this update arguably makes Google+ a better local search experience than Google or Google Maps.)

So? Like it or not, your Google Place page just got social, so it’s probably best to start considering a Google+ strategy (if you haven’t already). Businesses have always had the ability to post status updates to Google Places, but the feature was buried and few businesses used it. Now, you’ll have the opportunity to have your updates show up on your page, directly in the streams of anyone who “circles” you and other prominent placements across other Google services.

When your business’s Google+ and Google+ Local pages become linked (no official word yet on when this will be possible), you will have a much more interactive platform, with your info available across many Google services. The interactive nature of Google+ Local opens the door for customers to engage more with your business, while allowing you to give customers a better sense of what you’re about and why they should do business with you. Google+ Local also puts a heavy emphasis on photos and reviews, allowing you to make a great impression by customizing your Google+ Local page with images, videos and other unique content.

Again, most of these changes will not go into effect until Google allows you to directly link the Google+ Local page to your business page on Google+. While we wait, there are a few things you can do to stay ahead of the game:

  • Make sure you have claimed your Google+ Local page (formerly Google Places) and added all of your business’s information and details. This will still be managed through the Google Places login for now.
  • If you don’t already have a Google+ Page for your business, create and customize one now. Be sure to use the same information (especially phone number and physical address) that is listed on your Google+ Local Page, to ensure the future merge goes smoothly.
  • If you’re ready for it, start considering a content strategy for Google+ Local. What kind of impression do you want to make? How do you want to communicate with current and potential customers there? How do you want them to interact with you?

Here’s an overview of the search and review experience from Google:

We’re expecting more information from Google soon, so stay tuned to find out what your next steps should be. Have a specific question? Schedule a free Office Hangout to talk with us about it.

What are your first impressions of Google+ Local? Does this make you more likely to include Google+ into your marketing & communication mix for your business?