“My Google Places is going away!” There’s no doubt you’ve heard this over the last week or so, as more and more people are discovering that Google+ Local Pages (which ties in with Google+ Pages) is replacing Google Places. Here we will try to calm you down a bit, and explain what these changes entail.

First there was the Google Local Business Center, which was upgraded to Google Places. Google recently transformed Google Places into Google+ Local Pages in an effort to make Google+ more competitive with Facebook and Yelp, and to merge all business listings into one. In a blog post, Google states, “With the release of Google+ Local rolling out today, we are bringing the community of Google+ to local business owners around the world. We aim to improve the way people discover new businesses, rediscover places they love, and share them with their friends across the web.” Google+ Local Pages offers an improved rating system and a more social experience for users making location related searches.

Google Places had a rating scale of one to five stars. However, Google+ Local Pages utilizes the Zagat rating system, which they purchased last year. Avni Shah, Google director of product management, explained, “Each place you see in Google+ Local will now be scored using Zagat’s 30-point scale, which tells you all about the various aspects of a place so you can make the best decisions.” Now, individual user ratings are expressed on a 0 to 3 point scale:

  • 3 = excellent
  • 2 = very good
  • 1 = good
  • 0 = poor to fair

These user-provided ratings are then averaged and multiplied by ten to arrive at the overall score for the business listing. Overall scores are ranked as follows:

  • 26-30 = extraordinary to perfection
  • 21-25 = very good to excellent
  • 16-20 = good to very good
  • 10-15 = fair to good
  • 0-9 = poor to fair

Overall ratings offer a snapshot of public opinion about the business and are also displayed if there have not been enough reviews on a location to display multiple aspects.

Another useful aspect of Zagat is that ratings can be based on multiple aspects. For example, restaurants are rated on food, décor, and service. Hotels are rated on quality, facilities, and services. This allows users to see more detailed ratings based on aspects that are most important to them.

Google+ Local allows you to see all reviews and photos for a business listing. The added bonus is you can see reviews and photos from your friends or family within your Circles, a trustworthy source. Also, it is simple to share your opinions, photos, and recommendations from those in your Circles on Google+.

What does this mean for businesses?  Businesses will still be able to access their established Google Places pages. However, the two will eventually merge. Additionally, unlike Google Places, reviews will no longer be anonymous in an effort to mitigate spam reviews. Google+ Local pages will require users to sign into their Google+ account, thereby decreasing “fake” reviews that try to boost or lower ratings. Finally, Google+ Local pages allow businesses to leave reviews from their business page. For example, a business can leave a positive review for an insurance firm they use.

Below is a video that explains the new features of Google+ Local. You can also click this link to view on YouTube.

Additional Reading:

Search Engine Land – Google Places Is Over, Company Makes Google+ The Center Of Gravity For Local Search

Note on September 19, 2012: Google Places is still a usable google product and many are finding it helps with their search rankings. We recommend you still validate your listing through Google Places and still create a Google+ Page to help with your Google+ Local Listing.

What do you think of the new change? What do you like or dislike about Google+ Local? What has your experience been like with it so far? Share your comments below and retweet, Facebook like, and share this post with others interested in Google marketing by using the bookmarking tools below.