This past week roughly 80 million Google Place pages worldwide were automatically converted into 80 million Google+ Local pages.
In September 2011 Google acquired ZAGAT.com a restaurant rating and reviews service. Zagat reviews and ratings are the cornerstone of the new Google+ Local experience. Google+ Local reviews will be displayed from people in your circles with scores and summaries from Zagat. The 5 star places rating system has been upgraded to the Zagat 30 point system. You may also notice that the search functionality within the Google+ Local tab is like Yelp. Users can enter in a search term as well as the city search criteria.
This change puts more focus on user-generated photos and reviews. Google business place reviews will finally be verifiable. If you want to write reviews or upload photos, you’ll need to have a Google+ profile. Your Google+ name will appear with your review or photo and will link to a list of all your reviews.
Some people have been behaving badly on Google Places adding fake positive reviews for their own businesses and add fake negative reviews for the competition. Reviews will now be more authentic as they are linked directly to a Google+ user in the same way that a LinkedIn recommendation is associated with the profile of the person making the recommendation.
If you previously wrote reviews or uploaded photos in Google Places, all of your old Google Places reviews and photos are currently public but attributed to, “A Google user.” If you want to attribute these reviews and photos to your Google+ name, all you need to do is migrate your old Google Places reviews and photos to Google+ Local. At that time, you can choose which content to make public.
As a business owner you can continue to manage your information in Google Places for Business, eventually however you will need to move over to the Google+ Local interface.
From an SEO perspective this change is huge. Most notably, unlike Google Places pages, these new Google+ Local pages will be indexed. Since Google will be indexing these results, businesses owners who want to stay ahead of their competition will need to get on Google+ and start using it.
Please add your comments and let me know what you think of the Google+ Local changes.
Sources for more information about Google+ Local: