Google has made a mess of things. As I’m sure you’ll remember, Google Places way back in the day was complicated enough. Now, thanks to Google+, we have to worry about Google+ Local, Google+ for Business, Google+ Profiles, and yes, we still have Google Places. What’s the difference between them all? Do you even need them?
In this article, I will explain the differences between each Google+ offering with step-by-step instructions on how to set up a page for your hotel. I will also cover some of the most frequent troubleshooting issues our clients have had with Google+ products, including merging Local and Business Pages.
Part 1 – A Short History
- February, 2005 – Google Maps Launches.
- March 15, 2005 – Google Local Business Center Launches. Business owners can add their property to Google Maps.
- September, 2009 – Place Pages Launches. Business owners can create or claim a unique landing page for their business.
- April 20, 2010 – Google Places Launches (merges Local Business Center and Place Pages). Business owners can update their Place Pages and map info from one spot.
- June 28, 2011 – Google+ Launches. People can make Google+ profiles.
- November 7, 2011 – Google+ Pages Launches. Business can make Google+ pages.
- May 30, 2012 – Google+ Local Launches (merges Google Places and Google+ Pages for local businesses).
As you can see, Google has evolved their local business solutions quite a bit, and they will probably change more in the future.
Part 2 – Product Breakdown
A Google+ profile is for people, not businesses. Profiles have certain social functions that Pages do not, such as the ability to add other profiles into your circles, and to complete Google authorship markup with websites. Hoteliers should not create Profiles for their business, because profiles lack the business functionality of pages. Instead, they should make Google+ Local Pages.
Google Places is a legacy (outdated) search engine marketing solution for businesses. Google Places have been succeeded by Google+ Local Business Pages, and all Places pages have been converted into Local Pages. Business owners who create new Places will actually be creating a Google+ Local Page that they can update from the old Places dashboard.
Google+ Business Pages
Google wants you to think of Business Pages as social websites for your hotels. They want you to use Google+ Business Pages as the primary way you socialize online with your guests. You can use the pages to share photos, hotel news, deals, coupons, and more.
That said, only a handful of hotels have leveraged Google+ Business Pages successfully. Google+ users are niche. It may be hard to find a lot of guests who use Google+—therefore, your community on Google+ may not be very robust.
The true usefulness of Google+ Business Pages, at the moment, are Local Pages, which come with several powerful features that can increase your hotel’s prominence on search engines.
Google+ Local Pages
Local Pages are Google+ Business Pages. The difference is that when the owner created the page, he or she chose “local business” instead of “brand, organization, team” and so on. This selection converts the Business Page into a Local Business Page, which can appear on Google Maps, in Google Local search, and have Local perks like Zagat ratings, user reviews, and so on—basically, everything Google Places previously had, and a few extra perks that came with Google+. I did a breakdown last year of Google+ Local features for hotels which you can read here.
Hoteliers must create Google+ Local Pages, because Google currently rewards Local pages with search prominence for local queries—which are the exact ones you want your hotel to rank for. When a guest Googles a local query like “New York hotels”, Google will show ads first, then one or two organic results, and then a big block of Google+ Local results. If your hotel does not have a Google+ Local Page, it will not appear here. If your competitors do not have them, but you do, then you may outrank them—even if your website’s Page Rank and Domain Authority are inferior.
Many hotel properties with Google+ Local Pages enjoy a large promotional box in the Google search engine result page (SERP) for branded search queries, which can include reviews, Zagat rating, directions to the hotel, phone numbers, and a link to the website.
Read section two, which provides steps on claiming your hotel’s Google+ Local listing.