If you follow my twitter feed you would have seen that on 31st May 2012 Google Places has been replaced by Google+ Local. Google Places has been integrated with Google+ so it becomes more social, you can add a place to your ‘cirlces’, write reviews and upload photos.
The way Google displays local listings have changed. Under local listings, now you will see either a link to the Google+ Page or a link stating how many reviews there are for this place. You may also see a “score”. The score is an average calculated on a 30 point scale based on user reviews.
The reviews are supplied by Zagat, a system Google acquired last year. The review score does not have a great effect on rankings if any at all. Just like the old Places system the most important factors for high rankings in to have a fully optimised Places page and good citations. Although having good reviews could bring more visitors to your website as this will improve your click through rate (CTR).
A Google citation is simply the name, address, and phone number of your business as Google sees it listed across the Internet. More commonly known as NAP. A citation does not necessarily need to have a link back to your website but a mention of your URL is preferable and a link whether it be a follow or noffollow is better.
As with backlinks some citations are worth more than others so try and get citations on authority websites. Good places to get citations are local directories such as Hotfrog and Browbook and review sites such as Qype and Tipped. You can research your competitors’ citations by simply searching Google for “their URL” +”first line of their address”.
Make sure every citation lists your NAP in exactly the same way, if your address contains “street” make sure that you use the word “street” and not the abbreviation “St” or visa versa. Similarly your business name should be consistent, do not try and stuff keywords into your business name. Your NAP should be the same on your own website and on your Google Places listing.
We recently lost our number one position for “web design in Folkestone” because we have moved offices. This has caused a major headache as we have to change the address on all of our citations. We currently hold the number 2 position and hopefully we will regain our number one slot once we have changed enough citations.
So if you are a local business or do SEO for a local business check your Google+ Places page and make sure all is OK.