What is Google Places (a.k.a. Google+ Local)?

Travis Van SlootenSmall Business SEO

Today’s post is part one of a four part series on what is Google Places (a.k.a. Google+ Local) and how to rank your Google Plus Local pages. If you’re wondering about the duel names, up until June 2012, Google+ Local was called Google Places.

Google+ Local pages are web pages within the Google+ social network dedicated to “local businesses.” You see Google+ listings all the time when you search for something that Google believes has local intent like “pizza” or “hairdresser” – or even something more specific like, “pizza in Minneapolis.”

You typically see them displayed as a list of results labeled A-G as shown in the following image:

what is google plus image

As you can see, Google+ Local pages get prominent placement on the first page of Google when local searches are conducted. In addition, these listings rank very high on the first page. A small business can get massive exposure and traffic with a well-optimized website and Google+ Local page!

For now, the features on Google+ Local pages are limited. There are currently only tabs for “About” and “Photos”:

google plus page

Google+, on the other hand, has all the features you’d expect in a social network with tabs for Posts, About, Photos, Videos, and +1’s:

personal google plus

While the features of Google+ Local are limited right now, it’s obvious where Google is going with this. My guess is within a year Google+ Local pages will have the same capabilities as Google+, meaning you’ll be able to write posts, add videos, add unlimited photos, and create circles. Waiting for these features to roll out may be frustrating, but there’s plenty you can do in the meantime.

First, let’s look at four Google+ Local terms that are important to understand when we’re talking about Google+ Local pages.

4 Google+ Local Terms to Know

These four terms will come up again and again as you start using Google+ Local.

1. Google+ Local Listing: Your listing is simply a search result when a local search is conducted. The “listing” will have a hyperlink to your Google+ Local page and a hyperlink to your business website (if you have one).

google plus listing

2. Google+ Local Page: Your Google+ Local page is a page about your business within the Google+ social network. It has information about your business such as your business name, address, phone number, and general description. It also includes photos and customer reviews. Click here to see the live version of the Google+ Local page screenshot shown below.

google plus local page

3. Local Search Term: Any search term that seems to be relevant to local brick-and-mortar or service-based businesses: that is, it has “local intent.” When you search for “dentist” or “pizza,” Google assumes you are looking for something locally so in most cases Google will return local search results. Of course terms which specify the location like “Minneapolis dentist” and “pizza in Minneapolis” are also local search terms.

Terms without local intent are also fairly obvious: if you’re searching for “home remedies” or “electric toothbrushes” you probably aren’t looking for a local business or service. You’re likely looking for general information or how to buy online.

4. Google Account: You create a free Google account for any Google service you use – including Google+. If you use any Google service such as Gmail, AdWords, Analytics, etc., you already have a Google account. However, if you don’t have a Google+ Local page it’s a good idea to create a new separate account for it.

By having a separate account just for your business, you can give access to your Google+ Local page to employees or SEO consultants like myself. That way they can create and manage your page for you if you desire without having access to your personal information.

In this next post, I show you the 4 pieces of the Google+ Local page ranking puzzle.