Google+Local (Google Places)
Google+Local, developed from Google Places, is a service provided by Google that allows companies to be present in a Google Maps search. Company entries are usually automatically created by Google or can be created and managed by companies themselves via the Google Places Business Center. For the processing of an entry, it must first be verified and confirmed. Google+ Local has since replaced the Google Places system. Profiles from Google Places have since been transferred to a Google+Local profile.
Development stages of Google Places
In 2004, Google launched a new service in Google Local in order to launch the Google Local Business Center and Google Maps one year later. This allowed users to search city maps and countryside maps by company, street and city with the help of Google Maps as well as providing the ability to create their own company entry. This was then issued if a user used the search mask of Google Maps to search for keywords that matched company information.
Google Places and Google Maps were further developed over time. From the start of 2005 until 2013 Google integrated numerous techniques into its system, which it adopted from the takeover of smaller companies. Until the integration of Google Places into Google+ development steps followed, that ultimately had an effect on the entirety of Google search and also influenced mobile use of the internet. A great overview of the development of Google Places can be found here as a PDF:
How are company entries created?
In order to increase the attractiveness of its Google Maps service, Google has automatically created company entries since the launch of Google Places, independently of people’s own company entries. For this Google used data from publicly accessible sources such as the Yellow Pages or other reputable address directories. The automatically created entries can be claimed by the affected companies and edited. For this the corresponding Places entry then has to be verified and linked with a Google account. Since 2013, Google Places entries can also be edited via a Google Plus Local account.
Integration into Google+
The decisive milestone in the development of local search was the integration of Google Places profiles into the Google+ Local system. This creates new opportunities for users and company managers. In general it is suspected that Google carried out the integration in order to be able to gain more users for its social network.
How Google+ Local can use companies
While the classic entry in Google Places had a very static character and companies were given few opportunities for individualization and interaction with customers, Google+Local is currently counting on these two features.
The prerequisite for the processing of such an entry is now no longer just a Places account and a Google address, but a Google+account of the responsible person. Using this account the Google+Local page can be managed. In order to verify the account, there are various methods to choose from, including confirmation with an HTML tag.
Advantages offered by the Google+Local account:
- Google+ users can give the company page a plus and therefore increase its popularity
- A company entry can be individually designed: Alongside a mini picture that adorns every entry, there is a large graphic that illustrates the company as well as the opportunity to upload photos into photo albums
- For restaurants it is possible to give a rating
- Companies can interact with customers via “Hangouts” or via comments
- Numerous administrators can manage the Google+ company page
- The company is more present in the SERP and also in search queries via the Google Maps app for smartphones
For users, the Google+Local entry offers an opportunity to share it with other users. Also, just as with a Facebook company page, you can quickly contact a company or quickly find out information about it. Using the app, the entries are also displayed appropriately for the region thanks to IP and GPS localization.
Google Places/Local and universal search
With the introduction of universal search in 2007 Google integrated many results of its vertical search functions into the organic search results. The same occurred with the search results of Maps searches. As soon as a local reference is entered into the SERP in a search query today, the user is also shown a small map extract with regional company entries depending on their location.
The company location is also integrated into the organic hits when searching for the company. For search engine optimization the Google Places entry or the Google+Local account is an important instrument in order to stay in the top positions for local search queries as well.
The Google+account also offers the opportunity to create postive social signals. For example, individual pages of the company website can be posted on Google+ and be “plussed” by users. Good user ratings ensure that the website is better positioned in the local search results. The linking of the company website with the Google+ Local page can also further reinforce the domain.