Google just announced that it will kill its “Google Places” offering in favor of a new version on Google+ called “Google+ Local”. Why does this matter? It is interesting that Google has decided to build out its business listing service on its very own social network. What this can potentially lead to is for Google to essentially create a “Place Book”. Basically, a social network for businesses to rival Facebook’s consumer based social network. Imagine if you will, a network where a small business could go to interact with other small businesses, say its suppliers or its partners. This would create a one stop shop where a business owner can get all their needs met.
Now, add in Zagat and you have a powerful draw for consumers as well. Zagat reviews are valuable because of their rating methodology. It is considered much more reliable because they are based on surveys. The reason this matters to consumers? Simple. Yelp reviews can be skewed to favor the loudest person on the site. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how to game the system. It is as easy as putting an add on Craig’s List and hiring a “Yelper” to write reviews for your business. I am not suggesting that this is the case with every review, but it can happen. Furthermore, businesses like Zagat for the same reason, objective reviews. I have heard small businesses complain that Yelp will not accept some positive reviews because it doesn’t “deem” them real. Then, the company asks the small businesses for money to include the positive reviews on Yelp. Not sure if this is true or not but I do know some small businesses are not fans of Yelp.
The other important consideration is Location, Location, Location! By making its “business listings” part of its social network, Google will be able to more easily encourage and prompt business owners to update their information. This is the same information that is included in Google MAPS. The search giant will also be able to incorporate this into its mobile strategy. The fact is that 20% of searches done in Google are for places nearby. This is huge! And will only continue to climb. In addition, 40% of all searches on Google are for “Local” businesses. This represents almost $2 Billion per month.
Overall, I think this was the best strategy Google could have taken. It will definitely increase the ad spend from local, small businesses. While Google+, when compared to Facebook, may be the smaller of the two social networks, it certainly promises to be the most profitable.
What do you think? Did Google make the right move? Tell us!
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