If you’re a business that doesn’t operate 100% online (i.e. you have a building or buildings where customers want to visit you), pay attention: Google Place Pages are up and running. In late September, these pages came along and early buzz speculated that Google was either trying to overthrow Yelp or overthrow small business websites altogether .
We don’t think that Google place pages will make either Yelp or SMB’s sites obsolete, but Google is certainly stepping up its game and that is going to force Yelp (and other social review-based sites) and small business owners to up the ante in with their own online presence.
Google Place pages have expanded upon the business information that Google had previously only displayed within ‘bubbles’ in their maps interface. Dedicated pages with complete business information are now the norm, where before this wasn’t always the case. Google is also pulling information from some other social review sites such as CitySearch, in addition to the reviews that can be posted directly via Google. Since these are unique pages, speculation is that they would start being indexed in Google search results, though this doesn’t seem to have happened yet. We think it will happen though, and that this will be yet another footprint for SMB’s to gain in the SERP’s and to continue to build online reputations.
In addition to enlisting your customers to post reviews on Yelp, CitySearch and local review sites, be sure to add your Google Place page to the list. Have customers post reviews, and monitor the ones that are posted. Any negative reviews should be handled promptly and directly by the business owner or manager. And as a business owner, in addition to having filled out your Google Local Business Listing , visit your place and upload photos, add a description in your own words, and ensure that the information displayed is accurate. Check out Portland’s Pizzicato Restaurant – their Place Page has been thoroughly updated with images, descriptions and store information, making it an informative destination for a patron looking for a slice of gourmet pizza.
Does this make the local business’ own website obsolete? Absolutely not. Does it mean that SMB’s are going to need to think about adding content beyond basic hours and descriptions to their sites? Absolutely. Google Place Pages, in addition to Yelp, CitySearch, etc. are going to remain destinations for preliminary information – store hours, reviews, basic descriptions. The businesses website needs to, then, be the deal-sealer. Once a searcher has narrowed their search by using the 3rd party sites, quite frequently they will pay a visit to the businesses site before committing to a visit. They will be looking for a menu, product descriptions, prices, history, deals and coupons. Use your site to provide more information than what might be found on these 3rd party sites and the value of your site will remain undeniable.