Google is constantly make new changes to its products and service platforms. On May 30th, 2012, the search engine giant scrapped its Google Places pages for what are now called Google+ Local pages. This change underscores a big motion toward socially blended search and will set the stage for a new way of using the web.
The biggest proponent of this change is that the new Google+ Local pages are directly tied into the social network Google+. So what was once a local feature of Google search (Places) has now fused together into both a social and search portal.
There is no question that Google's introduction of Google+ Local is an effort to grow its Google+ social media network. For Internet users who've been hesitant about Google+ and becoming an honest loyal to the platform, the integration of search may offer an incentivizing feature.
Think about it. Most of us use Google for search and Facebook for social. With a common platform for both, what's not to appreciate (or at least look into)?
Google+ Resemblant of Facebook?
It is definitely no coincidence why the structure and layout of Google+ is a close cousin of Facebook. In essence, Google is paving the way for a smooth transition for millions of Facebook users. By providing a platform that uses a similar navigation in accordance with common social features, Google hopes that the masses whom interact on Facebook will soon start making their way to Google+. And with aspects of search now involved, the transition is already starting to begin.
By implementing a chat feature on the right side of the interface, along with a familiar content 'sharing' box on the home screen, there is no question that Google+ is very reminiscent of Facebook. However Google+ takes its social interaction one step further with its 'Circles' to better manage connections into groups of friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers, or whatever circle a user labels. Google+ advances its network further by adding a layer of local relevancy with its 'Hangouts' and new 'Google+ Local' pages.
Socially Blended Search
Social cues of Google+ are becoming more common in traditional search. From the paid ads, or sponsored listings, to the organic search results, the emergence of social elements in the SERPs is evolving the playing field. Such elements include images of Google+ connections who may have + 1'ed a certain business or perhaps wrote a review for certain restaurant. Within time, the prominence of these social icons will soon become more and more obvious. As more Internet users take the plunge toward Google+ and start building their social circles, the fusion of search and social will set the precedent for online interaction.
Google+ Local: The Social Evolution of Google Places
Google+ Local is essentially the evolution of Google Places. Designed for almost any type of business with a local orientation, Google+ Local pages have all the same elements as Places but with more social sustainability. Gaining positive reviews, and thus reputation management and public relations, is now a major focus for local businesses on Google+ Local. The platform employs a unique scoring system for business reviews. This has been particularly significant for restaurants now that Google has acquired Zagat and displays Zagat scores on any applicable Google+ Local page.
What is very powerful is the fact that the new Google+ Local feature on Google+ is a local search engine in itself. Users can do a keyword search for virtually anything and Google will display the local businesses that are most relevant. In short, local search has discovered a new foundation which is rooted to the Google+ platform.
Before long, Google+ Local pages will soon be appearing in the organic search results, replacing the current Google Places listings. This integration of Google+ Local in search may further steer more users to the Google+ network. It's only a matter of time before Google dominates both search and social. Google's next moves will be strategic initiatives to achieve just that, so watch closely and absorb the rapid changes, because they'll happen fast!