The recent launch of Google+ Local is shaking up the local search game in a handful of ways. It replaces what’s currently the core connection between Google and local businesses: Google Places pages. It also harnesses the gravitas of Zagat, the iconic restaurant reviewers acquired by the premier search innovator last fall. And, by integrating information from Google+ into search results on Google Maps and replacing Google Places, the launch makes Google+ itself almost unavoidable for businesses who’d rather not dabble with social media outside of a basic Facebook and Twitter presence.
As Google bills it, it’s “Local—now with a dash of Zagat and a sprinkle of Google+.” But it’s also very, very social.
Basically, the strength of Google+ Local will be its ability to take what your friends, family, colleagues and friends of friends think about different restaurants, shops and other local businesses and apply it to search results when, for example, you get hungry and go Googling for nearby brunch.
Here’s how Google explained it on their Google blog:
Google+ Local helps people like my husband turn a craving—“Wow, I need brunch”—into an afternoon outing: “Perfect, there’s a dim sum place with great reviews just two blocks from here. Let’s go.” It’s integrated into Search, Maps and mobile and available as a new tab in Google+—creating one simple experience across Google.
Furthermore, by mixing in Zagat reviews, Google addresses a problem posed by using purely user-generated content from sites like Yelp. For example, it’s sometimes handy to browse through what 50 strangers have to say about that hip new nearby café, but it’s easier to trust a well-written opinion from a proven pro like Zagat. The social aspect partly addresses this “mob review” problem as well—people are more likely to trust the opinions of friends and family than random Internet strangers.
The beauty of local search is how utterly useful it has made the web in our day-to-day lives. Each of the major search engines and social media heavyweights are increasingly seeking to achieve the same thing: to connect people to each other and to the daily information and services they use, desire and need.