As a major search engine, Google has been the leader of the pack for quite some time and their constant innovations with things like Google Places are one of the big reasons why. From search to tools to advertising, the Google brand has expanded to unprecedented levels. And one of the most important changes Google has made in the last year has been with the changes to Google Local or Google Places as it's now called.
By now I'm sure your familiar with the red pushpin on a map showing the locations of 7-10 of the businesses Google can find near the area you are searching for. Here is a sample screenshot:
You are also by now familar with the map which accompanies these markers:
Google Place Search
The Google Local tools recognize that to capture more regional businesses, there needs to be a simplified way to do it. Local businesses like ours deal with many challenges, from customer service, to product and service development and delivery to payroll. Because regional companies have so much to do, it is hard to focus on specific aspects of our businesses.
Google Local includes Google Place Search, designed to offer much more local content from regional advertisers. What this means for me is that I no longer have to spend my time trying to research and find local keywords, monitor the results, and modify bids for those keywords for my AdWords account.
Impact on Ratings & Reviews
The new Google Local format uses the location concept to find out what people are saying about my business in terms of reviews and ratings. These are two things I rarely had time to focus on in the past. This new tool finds all of that info for me so that I can use it to develop relevant Web content. I can also address the issues that I find by writing to consumers directly, which is something I used to have to pay a person to do for me.
The other aspect I really like with Google Local is that I can see the details that a local searching consumer is using to find my products and services. Google Place Search issues rewards to local businesses like mine with organic positioning when it finds complete and accurate content. For example, when it picks up a blog entry or article that I wrote, that info is considered and counts toward a higher placement by the search engine.
Since past attempts at organic positioning was something I wasn't able to master, the new Google Local and Google Place Search has been a lifesaver in terms of leveraging the benefits of local SEO (search engine optimization) listing and placement. Now I can focus on continuing to build a richer rating and review level using these Google resources – which means my business will grow much more easily.