Google has changed the rules of the game yet again. Google Places is now Google + Local. The new concept integrates your Google + for Business account with your Google Places listing. If you didn’t take my advice before and get a Google + for Business account, sign up for it now. Seriously, open a new tab or window and sign up for Google + Local For Restaurants. Once you have finished claiming your account, come back and finish this article.
I have been an outspoken advocate of Google Places for Restaurants. This is the great equalizer for local restaurants to compete with national chains. I am also strongly convinced that Google+ is the future of social networks. Mark my words: Google+ will turn Facebook into the next MySpace. By integrating Google+ for restaurants as the primary local search platform and presenting Google + local for restaurants on search engine result pages, Google is making it clear that it alone has the ability to seamlessly blend search, marketing, and social networking into one platform. Other than your website, in the next 24 months, Google + Local will become the most important web asset you have.
Google also dropped another bombshell on the restaurant industry last week. They are now integrating the reviews from Zagat on Google search results. This means that when you search a restaurant, the Zagat ratings will show up automatically on the right side of the page. Don’t have a Zagat listing? Get one now. Not sure if you have a Zagat listing? You had better check and see what people are saying about you. This is a bold move by Google to crush Yelp, UrbanSpoon and other review websites. Only time will tell if Google eliminates their own ratings or integrates them with Zagat. Either way, you need to make sure you have both listings secured.
Why the urgency to claim the listings? If you don’t claim them, your competitors might. If a competing restaurant claims your listing, Google has safeguards in place to prevent them from posting negative information. The bigger issue is that when a listing is claimed (by you or a competitor) then it can be tied up for weeks before giving control to the rightful owner. Unscrupulous internet marketing companies have also been known to contact restaurants and claim their listings. Once the restaurant complies and provides the verification data to the marketing company, the company can hold the listing hostage unless the restaurant pays them to set up the account. Don’t run the risk. Claim your Restaurant’s Google+ Google Places, and Zagat listings now.
I would also highly recommend not using a personal Google account for this. Create a Gmail account for setting up these accounts. Record the username and password several times and do not lose them.
I will not make any promises that simply claiming these accounts will take you to the top of Google search results. I will tell you that not claiming them is going to make it increasingly unlikely that you will rank as high in search engine results. It is easy to predict that Google will incentivize signing up with better search results placement. It is equally easy to predict that after a trial period to sign up Google will begin to penalize restaurants that do not claim their listing (as they already do with Google Places).
For the time being, my best recommendation is to claim your Google Places for Restaurants and Google+ for Restaurants listings. Sign up for a free account at Zagat and get your listing in order. I am already in the process of testing different rating factors for some of my clients. Over the next couple of weeks, keep an eye out for more tips and advice on how to improve your search engine results with Google + Local for Restaurants.
Here is an intro video straight from Google:
And more on the Zagat merger: