Google My Business, Google Places, Google Maps, Google+… What Do They All Do?
Thursday, October 20th, 2016
Google has so many products that you can be forgiven for not knowing what each does. This is not helped when, over time, the function of a particular Google product is changed, renamed or discontinued.
Nowhere is this more so than in Google’s management of local business listings. Arguably it could be said that Google have tested out a number of approaches and have tried to evolve their local listings product. On the other hand, people have said that it’s been an ill-conceived mess. Here’s an update on where Google local business listings are as of October, 2016.
Google Local Listings History
Local listings started out as Google Places, not to be confused with Google Maps. Even though they looked the same they were in fact two distinct products. A local listing could be number one in the search results via Google Places but not in Google Maps.
In 2013, Google Places was superseded by Google+ Local, then the local part of Google+ was moved to Google My Business in November 2015.
At that point, Google+ was left to do what it was originally intended to do; be a social network. Google+ now focuses solely on this and is organised into communities and collections.
Google My Business became the new interface to local search. Google My Business is a dashboard that can also link other Google accounts together. Think of it as Google My Business sitting above the other products. Google+ is now just a standalone product.
Here’s a good analogy we’ve read:
“Google My Business is how people find your party and directions on how to get there and Google+ is about the actual party, what people said, photos, videos etc.”
Is Google+ Dead?
For the moment, the answer is a definite no. Even though Google+ is used by less than 1% of Google users, the Google team will be thinking hard on how to compete with the likes of Facebook and Twitter. There are rumours that Google+ will die off but for now they are just that – rumours. Surely the bright minds at the Googleplex could come up with a cohesive social strategy to leverage off their massive Internet traffic market share. Meanwhile, most website operators don’t need to consider Google+ as a player in their online marketing strategy.
Google My Business (GMB)
So, GMB is where it all happens now for local listings. As previously stated GMB is a dashboard that links other products together as well. In GMB you enter all your business details: business name, address, phone number, website, category, photos, opening hours etc. The dashboard instructs you on what type of photos and an appropriate category selection. Also, you can add a virtual tour that will display on your listing in the search results.
Aim to make your listing 100% complete. The dashboard will tell you if you have not. From the dashboard, you’ll also see the different products that are linked.
Insights will show statistics on your business listing; how people search for you, whether they found you from a search listing or map listing and what actions they take, for example visit website, request directions, call you or view photos. This is great information to assess the performance of your local listing.
The GMB dashboard also allows connection to Google+ and Google Analytics, and the Reviews area gives the option to read and manage any reviews received.
Once you start using it you’ll see that the GMB dashboard is not only very user friendly but also a great source of information for making decisions about the performance of your listing.
Google My Business Reviews
Reviews have been around for a while now, along with those orange stars on some business listings in search results. Reviews have become more important over time, in particular, those lovely star ratings. As a business, it is important to ensure you get reviews from satisfied customers. Here are some statistics (thanks to BrightLocal) from a survey about how effective those reviews and stars are:
- 92% of consumers now read online reviews
- 40% of consumers form an opinion by reading just 1-3 reviews
- Star ratings are the #1 factor used by consumers to judge a business
- Only 13% of consumers consider using a business that has a 1 or 2 star rating
Prior to July 2014, searching in Google and Google Maps provided different sets of results. After the algorithm update of July 2014 (Pigeon) Google addressed this. The results of web search and map search were connected in a more cohesive way. The data for search and maps, for businesses, is now taken from their Google My Business listing.
On the 1st September 2016, Google rolled out its ‘Possum’ algorithm update for local search. This is the biggest update to local search since July 2014. According to Google, 84% of consumers conduct local searches and nearly a third of all mobile searches are related to location (and this percentage is growing).
Local search results are now based on your IP address. Google will deliver results within a certain radius of your current location; this is particularly useful when searching on a mobile device. Another feature the update provided was enhanced local search ads and promoted pins (coming soon). Paid advertising is going to hit local search in a big way in the near future, making it an interesting aspect to keep track of.
This is the overview of how things currently stand with Google business listings in New Zealand. Google My Business has evolved into a useful and effective product that makes optimising your business, for local search, easier than it has ever been, so it’s an important component to put in your search engine optimisation plan.
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