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Google + Cnanges

A Range Of Changes Implemented

Here’s a brief overview of what’s new and what’s changing:

  • The substitution of the new Google+ Local pages (as mentioned) for Google Places pages
  • The appearance of a “Local” tab within Google+
  • The integration and free availability of Zagat reviews (its entire archive across categories)
  • The integration of Google+ Local pages across Google properties (search, Maps, mobile)
  • Integration of a circles filter to find reviews/recommendations from friends/family/colleagues

Static Places now give way to more dynamic Google+ Local pages. Google’s star ratings are also being replaced by the Zagat 30-point rating scale (for user reviews as well).

Below is an example SERP for “burgers near Seattle.” The top screenshot reflects the “old” Places look and feel. The second is the new search results, sans stars.

Marissa Mayer argued to me that Zagat scores can express much more differentiation and nuance because they contain separate scores for food, service and atmosphere vs. a five star scale, which is forced to factor all those considerations into a single rating (read: Yelp). The greater, 30-point spread also prevents everything from converging at 3.5 stars.

Consistent Experience, Several Doorways

Users will be able to discover the new Google+ Local pages in several ways: through a search on Google.com or Google Maps, in mobile apps or through a search on Google+. The image below an example of a local search result within Google+.

As a result, Google+ becomes another local search destination within Google, arguably with richer content and more functionality than Google.com offers at the SERP level.

Not unlike some similar functionality offered in Foursquare, users will be able to sort and filter search results by several criteria, including “your circles,” which will reveal places “touched” by friends. Currently this means reviews and posts, but could extend to check-ins later.

Google had originally hoped to make Places into interactive content pages that merchants would use regularly to communicate with customers and prospects. However that didn’t happen in part because of the limitations of Places pages themselves. Google+ Local pages are much more versatile and “social.” Indeed, it gives Google a local vehicle with functionality equivalent to Facebook and Twitter.

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