Google Places, Google Maps, Google+, Google Local... chances are you have your business listed somewhere across these Google products, but how do you know what they are used for and how to make changes to them? Here's a handy guide for figuring out what is going on with your Google listings and how to make sense of them.
What Kind of Page Do I Have?
First, let's determine what kind of page you have - if you haven't created a new Google page in the last year or so, you've probably got a Google Places page.
So, where do you log in to see your listing? That will determine what type of page you have:
Google Places for Business: http://www.google.com/business/placesforbusiness/
Google+ Local: http://plus.google.com
So, What's the Difference?
Google+ is Google's own social network. We can compare a Google+ Local page to a Facebook Company Page - it's a page that represents your business within the context of the Google+ social network. Individual users can follow your page and your content will display in their home feed.
Google Places is a listing of your business used in Google Maps, Google search results and other Google Products. It typically displays a map, reviews and details about your business such as hours of operation, address, and contact information.
Why You Should Switch to Google+ Local
Your business should have a Google+ Local page to take advantage of the social networking features it offers. Share visual content, status updates, video, and engage in conversation with your followers. Users can "+1" your page and your content to "Like" it. As social signals become a larger part of Google's ranking algorithms, you can be sure your Google+ activity will have an impact now and even more so in the future.
As a social network, Google+ offers some unique features to local businesses. One of them is targeted posting. Once you've amassed a group of followers, you can segment and target specific groups - say, offering up a special coupon to your VIP customers.
You've also got to remember that since Google+ is a Google-branded product, the content you share on the network is likely to carry weight when it comes to ranking in Google SERPs.
The New Google Maps Relies on Google+
You may have heard about the changes coming to Google Maps. This will affect how your business ranks in local search, and in turn, how you optimize your Google listing. Google Maps listings will become personalized for the user, taking to account the user's location as well as ratings and reviews from those in their Google+ social circles. As a business, you're going to have to solicit good reviews and ratings from customers through your Google+ page in order to improve your rankings in Google local listings.
I Want a Google+ Page! What do I do?
If you don't have a Google listing at all, you can create a Google+ Local page from scratch.
If you've already got a Google Places page, you can create a new Google+ Local page and then merge it with your existing Places Page. Upon merging the two pages, the content from your Google Places page will be moved into your Google+ Local page.
Merging your Google Places and Google+ Local pages gives you the best of both worlds - your social content, photos, map, business information, customer reviews and uploaded videos will all be available to followers and potential customers all in one place. Best of all, this page will replace your old Google Places listing and appear in Google Maps and search results, meaning users will find your new content-rich, social-business hybrid listing.