It was touched on by Brian Pasch that Google Places would be no more only a week ago, and it seems that change comes fast in the world of Google.
Last night several new rollouts were seen in Google+ Local, seeming to merge Google Places accounts into the newest social search display of your Google+ dashboard. Here's what we've seen in our research about the new way search and reviews are changing for Car Dealers for automotive internet marketing on Google:
As of this article's publishing, no. However, we're sure its only a matter of time before the Google+ Local becomes integrated into your standard search engine results page from Google. Where can you find the new Google+ Local Search? Log into your Google+ account. You'll find the new Local button on the left dash.
From there, the Search boxes at the top are broken down into two uses: What you're looking for | Where.
In the following example, we went looking for "jeep dealers" in "Philadelphia, PA". Just like in Google search, the auto complete starts as you begin to type, and its obvious some of the "Categories" from Google Places have made it over to Google+ Local.
From the looks of the new search results, Google has been busy! Immediately we're presented with a new layout of information. You've got your standard Company Name, Address in a lighter color text, then your overall review score, At a Glance terms, and a quote from your most recent review. Photos are a bigger deal taking up a larger portion of the listing.
Even more shocking, where did your star ratings go? Some car dealerships will notice that reviews have been dropped in the transition, something we hope Google notices and fixes in the future. (Read more about reviews below)
While Google has dedicated more room to the first photo of your account, and the new reviews rating system, it has left a lot of the "Where did that come from" information on the listing, namely the "At a glance" terms.
I was fortunate enough to have spoken with some of the Google Places team at a conference earlier this year and I asked them where the "known-for" or At a Glance terms came from. Their response: "even we don't know", its another part of a Google formula most of the Google Places team is not familiar with, or was unable to comment on. My speculation, its from an old patent Google applied for several years ago surrounding actionable or descriptive wording. Type "great customer service" in a review, Google might be grabbing those descripters after positive or negative indicators.
The map display with pins is nothing new along the right side of search results and the "Key To Ratings" helps describe how the review values have changed.
The company name is still front and center, but if its more than 33 characters its currently being cut off after character 32 with an ellipsis (...). For some reason, the address is in the listing info twice, once under the company name, and again under About. Fancy new icons represent different parts of the data. Phone number and Toll-Free numbers are displayed but not labeled, and the website URL seems to stand out less. Categories carried over from Google Places, along with the Hours of Business. We'll be watching the "actions" in the Google Places metrics to see how this new layout changes the way customers use the listing.
If you're wondering where all the time you spent picking those 5 key categories went, and now you're only seeing 2 or 3, click on the new Categories terms, and you'll see a list of hidden items, who really knows why they didn't display all by default, there's certainly enough room.
Your standard Description from the old Places listing has been brought over and is now called "From the owner:". The once large, bright red "Write a Review" button has changed to a more soothing white text on light blue. Another more transparent black on white Review button has also been added at the bottom of the page.
Abilities to Google +1, Share (only on Google+ of course) and upload a picture have all been added or moved around, but are in a logical flow as buttons under the Map on the right side of the listing.
Hopefully, the amount of personal data that is now displayed via the Google+ profile when you leave a review will discourage those hit and run negative reviewers.
There have been many changes in the way review information is handled in Google+ Local. First point of business, they've moved away from the STAR value reviews. Its now apparent Google's acquisition of Zagat several months ago was only the beginning, as they've rolled out No Stars, but a point scale ranging from Zero to 30. This also brings up the question, will Google move away from displaying Star values in standard SERPs from other sources like Yelp & DealerRater, only time will tell.
Past reviews are there, some have been dropped, but most have made it over. The new 0 to 3 values are a departure from 1 to 5 stars. Perhaps this is an answer to the requests from review writers to be able to give a Zero star rating in the past, so Dealers be warned, no longer can you score a 1, you can be a zero. The overall formula is pretty simple to grasp. Previous reviews are still rated in a conversion of 5 stars now equals 3, averages are made, and then multiplied by 10, rounded and there's your 30 points.
When writing new reviews on Google+ Local, you're prompted for 3 different ratings. As seen in the screen shot above, Google is asking for your feedback based on different "Labels" or areas of review. By default, the systems asks you for a 0 to 3 rating on Quality, Appeal & Service. It appears right now that there are no specific review types for "Car Dealer", so hopefully this will be a change in the future. Even when testing and writing for this article, we found different variations for the "Labels" that were available, first only 5 selections, then by mid-day 7.
Its easy to see that once enough of these new reviews have been created, Google will roll out the individual Label ratings like they do for restaurants; the threshold at which point that will turn on was not apparent in our testing like it is for Places (the star rating turned on when you hit 5 reviews).
You're still presented with the old Google Places claim interface asking for verification.
However, from the outside trying to update an unclaimed or claimed listing that is not yours, the editing screen is significantly different, as seen in this screen shot.
You can now select which part of data is incorrect and how it should be corrected. While the old radio buttons are still available a level or two down into the editing screen, there's more specificity to your edit suggestion.
Go with the flow. Google is just asking you to do what it feels is best business practices. Claim your account, add a description, photos of the staff & showroom, pick the right default categories, fix your marker, ask for reviews in the service lane and at sales.
Start to focus on social indicators like Google and Bing are now doing. They want a personalized feeling for your customers, and increased engagement with social factors like +1, Shares, Tweets, Links and Likes.
Expect that the next change is just around the corner, and when Google flips the switch you'll need to be on the cutting edge to keep up.
UPDATED MAY 30th @ 5pm Eastern: - There seems to have been an update to Google Maps searches, but not to Google SERPs for Search.What we're seeing now is if you do a search in "Maps", it now displays the new Google+ Local review ratings in a maroon box and upon clicking "XX reviews" are brought to the new G+ L listing page. Interesting, we'll see if tomorrow brings us the actual Google Search change.