This week, Google has announced the integration of Google Places and Google Plus, to create Google+ Local. The new interface has already been rolled out to most Google Places accounts, even here in Australia.
The new interface utilises the Zagat style of rating (Zagat was purchased by Google last September), by allowing people to rate venues using their standard 30 point system. It will also integrate all the ratings and reviews already given by Zagat, offering a huge increase in information about individual venues.
Google+ Local pages are much more visually interesting than their predecessors, the Google Places pages. They also enable the presentation of a wider variety of information types and permit local businesses to interact with their customers much like they do on Facebook and Twitter.
You can reach Google+ local from the new Local tab to the left of your screen in Google+
The same information is available on Google Android devices and Google maps.
Marissa Mayer, Google VP of Product Management, said that there is a huge opportunity for the use of Google+ Local in the mobile device sphere, with 50% of the usage of Google maps coming from Mobile devices – a strong incentive to get a Google+ Local page if you don’t already have one (and if you have a Google Places page for your business, then you are set up already).
While Google says that it is going to roll out the function beyond Android phones to iOS, as SearchEngineLand mentions, it’s also possible that Apple will replace Google Maps in June with its own Maps, making the iOS development unnecessary. Having said that, Apple users would still be able to access the Google+ Local experience through the Google+ app on their iPhone.
If you’re a business owner, you can continue to manage your local listing information via Google Places for Business, however, I can already imagine this being phased out, and Google business owners being made to participate in Google Local results through a Google+ account.
Google+ Local is the latest step in Google’s quest to get everything anyone ever wants to do on the web integrated into Google+. The uptake of Google+ continues to be low, around 170 million users, compared to 900 million Facebook users (and that doesn’t even mean active users). Google+ Local is an attempt by Google to outdo and out-convenience Facebook, by adding features to their social platform, (although, Facebook might have one foot in the door with Facebook Check-Ins…).