Merger of Google Places and Google+ Local: what consequences?
By Marion Hirtzig - SEO Consultant.
We have been waiting for Google Places and Google+ Local to merge for some time now, but the process seems to have finally started, making our job easier at times, but also causing some unexpected problems. We thought we should share our findings with readers of our blog!
The difference between Google Places for Business and Google+ Local
First of all, the existence of Google Places for Business and Google+ Local can be confusing, so what is the difference between the two? The short answer is: one belongs to the past, the other to the present and future.
Indeed, Google Places, known before April 2010 as the Local Business Center, should soon become history. Seeing as Google Maps is used by so many Internet users (and I’m also thinking of its use nowadays as a GPS on Smartphones), it makes sense to want your business to appear on it. This is what Google Places is for: registering your business with as much useful information as possible so potential customers can find you or discover you on Google Maps. When creating a business page in order to appear on Google Maps, be sure to give relevant information such as opening hours, and a phone number, along with pictures to make people want to visit.
And don’t forget to include your website address!
If you've created a Business Page on Google+, what I've just said will sound familiar. Indeed, when you create a G+ Page (called “+page”) you are asked to fill in the same kind of information. The difference is mostly the fact that you can interact with people through your G+ page since it is a social media platform. But as far as making your business seen on Google Maps, there isn't a big difference, as it’s just an evolution, a Google Places 2.0.
If you type “Orantec” on Google you can see that our latest post on G+ appears alongside a map to help find us and one of the photos we had posted on Google Places.
Consequences of Google Places and Google+ Local merging
1 page for your business instead of 2, if you only have one place of business
The merger is good news for the smart people who had registered with Google Places in 2010 or before and then created a +page when Google launched Google+: now you can merge your business page and your G+ local page so you don’t have to update both separately. One problem that still hasn’t been fixed is that G+ only allows you to register and verify one business; this means that if you have two shops/offices or more, you can either create a G+ profile and everything for each shop – which is only worth it if you’re a chain – or you can merge one page and keep the other Google Places page(s) separate for now.
Your +page automatically created
What we’ve also learnt in August is that Google is auto-merging G+ pages and Google Places. This is a rather slow process, seeing the number of businesses to deal with, but this means that a G+ page is automatically created for your business if you don’t have one already. Small glitch: it gets tricky to change photos and information that were migrated from Google Places if you’re not the one who created the Google Places page! Also, the confusing bit is that Google is upgrading the Google Places interface, which is likely to mean that Google Places will still be around for some time despite its merging with G+.
Problems with changing business information on G+ via Google Places
We were recently faced with the following issue: we needed to change the phone number of a client. Easy peasy will you say? Not so much actually! We had created and verified the page on Google Places, and now we needed to change the +page after it had been automatically created. When we clicked on “Is this your business? Manage this page”, got redirected to Google Places for Business and changed the information, the changes didn’t appear on the +page. Verifying may have helped but we weren’t even offered the possibility to re-verify the business, and it was quite out of the question anyway as our client was a very big company abroad. Chances were the postcard would get lost if not in the post, in the office building itself, so we had to find a way around it.
Changing information directly on Google Maps… when it works
Clicking on a place marker on Google Maps generally gives you access to contact details, allows you to get directions, save to a map or “more”, i.e. move the marker, report a problem or edit details. What do you do when this is greyed out?
When Google fails you - by which I mean that our search online was a bust - you try and find the answer on your own.
We first tried to see if it was a problem on our end; was our client the only one with greyed out options in the marker pop up window? The answer was no. We could not change anything in countries such as Japan, Egypt, Mauritius, Saudi Arabia or Zimbabwe, when Russia, India, South Africa, France and the USA were fine. Something to do with the language maybe?
As I write this blog however, this problem seems to have disappeared. Was it a temporary glitch or just a known problem now fixed? I guess we’ll never know.
Google Map Maker
So what did we do? We remembered Google Map Maker. This very useful feature allows you to edit Google Maps, by adding or deleting information on businesses, but also on roads, railways and such – your changes will however only become live after approval, obviously.
Now our client’s phone number has been successfully modified, so all’s well that ends well.
Have you encountered similar problems with Google Places and Google + Local merging? We’d love to hear from you and know what you did to solve your problem, so please feel free to comment below or contact us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+!