I was frustrated and disappointed when the news broke that Google retired Google Places services and replaced it with a new Google+ Local. I already spend a lot of time adding and verifying businesses on Google Places and didn’t want to go through the same process again.
However, when I logged in to the new service at https://plus.google.com/local, I found that nothing fundamental has really changed – Google just transferred data, adding more information and additional features like business score and recommended local places. Those businesses which are not verified by their owners still require verification by phone or mail, the same way it was on Google Places. Meanwhile, the new local pages look fresh, engaging, and have more features for business owners and visitors.
Here's what it looks like (click the image to enlarge):
With this new local service, Google is trying to add more traffic and users to Google+ and compete with Facebook business pages and services like Yelp. By combining Google+, Google Pages, and Google Maps under the same roof, Google is (naturally) pushing the Google+ social network, realizing they are still behind with just 100 million user profiles compared to the 900 million users on Facebook. Now, when you search for businesses in Google search, it brings you to the Google+ business profile page, where you can see more photos, business information, and reviews on Google and other networks like Yahoo or InsiderPages. There is no doubt that Google relies on its search power to promote its social networks; it is forcing business owners and visitors to register for Google+ if they want to claim this space for their business or submit a review.
As for now, Google Pages is still active and business owners can log in and update or verify their business there, but most likely it will be shut down in a matter of time.
This is a guest post by Sergey Rusak, PPC Marketing Strategist at WordStream.