Google’s social networking site Google+ is quickly becoming a one-stop shop for individuals and businesses trying to improve their brand.  While connecting with others and promoting content is key to taking advantage of Google+, the site offers many more advantages including search engine ranking factors, +1s, and of course Google+ Local.

For those who are unfamiliar, Google+ Local took the place of Google Places just a few weeks ago and can be found by clicking a “local” tab on a Google+ page. This new tab will allow users to easily find local listings right from the social networking site. If your company already has a Google Places page, it will be automatically switched to a Google+ Local page. In other words, it is extremely important to understand how this new page works to make sure you’re taking full advantage of the new system.

Understanding the Google+ Local Changes  

First, the Google+ Local tab as well as the listing will have a different format. Users will be able to click the tab and then type in a search query and location for easy browsing. All of the results show up with a large picture and an overall score. Below is a screenshot that shows the local tab on the left hand side and the search bar at the top:

Second, Google+ Local has included Zagat scores to help you determine the quality of the listing according to those who have experienced the local spot or service. Zagat scores are shown as actual numbers as opposed to stars and allow users to rate different aspects of the business. For example, someone may want to give a retail store a good score for customer service but a bad score for quality of clothing. The scores are calculated on a 30-point scale and then averaged for users to see. The screenshot below shows the overall score of a restaurant as well as the individual scores that users gave the business:

Third, Google+ local pages will show up whenever you’re using Google search or Google maps. Although this may not seem significant, it makes a company’s Google+ Local listing page even more important. Zagat scores will also show up when completing a search.

What Does This Mean for Businesses?

In terms of optimization, companies do not need to change much. Keywords and great pictures are even more important with the new listings, but ultimately it is a Google+ presence that will really give a company visibility. Below are a few things that a company should do to get started taking advantage of Google+ Local:

  1. Google+ Profile – Companies need to have a Google+ profile set up in order for Google+ Local to work. You can visit here to get started.
  2. Claim Listing – A company will need to claim their local listing and make sure all of the information is correct. This is free to complete and only takes a few minutes. If you don’t already have a business page to claim, this link makes it easy to set one up.
  3. Categories – Adding categories to your local page will help users narrow down your business into the correct niche.

As a whole, getting started with Google+ local is extremely simple. Although there have been mixed reviews about the Zagat ratings, most companies do agree that Google+ Local pages are intuitive and easy to read. By bringing these pages onto a platform where people feel comfortable, it only makes sense that more and more users will begin to go to Google+ local when searching. Only time will tell!

Have you used Google+ Local or found success through the new platform? Do you think Zagat reviews will help or hurt Google+ Local? Let us know in the comments!