Google Places, erstwhile known as Google Local has always been a vital service both for users as well as marketers, Google Plus on the other hand has never gained the amount of traction that Google wanted it to have in spite of desperate attempts to force users across almost all popular Google properties to join Google Plus. While the web is abuzz with Vic Gundotra leaving Google and Google Plus being a walking dead, in the last couple of years attempt one thing that Google has successfully done is to mess up the Google Plus and Google Places inter relation, leaving marketers in a “don’t know what to do” state.
When Google Plus was introduced there was no talks of integrating with Places, thus many marketers went on to create their own pages in Google Plus. Later Google wanted Places to be integrated with Google Plus and as a result, for all the existing Places listing a corresponding Google Plus page was created – IRRESPECTIVE OF THE FACT WHETHER THE BUSINESS HAD A GOOGLE PLUS PAGE OR NOT.
Consequence : The business now has two pages in Google Plus – one that was actually created by them ( possibly with a lot of content and information) and another automatically created by Google with only the information they fetched from the Places Listing.
The Bigger Problem : In local search results, Google actually links to their Places Listing Google Plus page rather than the page that is actually maintained by the business.
Now let’s think of a business with multiple locations. Yes, you guessed it right ; for each of the locations Google will create a separate Google Plus page based on each of the Places listings. So, if you are a retail chain with 10 shops – you will have 10 different G Plus pages, showing address and details of only that specific outlet. You might have another brand page in Google Plus where you feed in all your valuable content and try to build engagement, but Google will show only those Places pages in their local search results – depriving the audience from viewing all the other content you are posting on Google Plus.
At present there is no way to consolidate:
a) Your existing Google Plus Page with your Google Places Page on Google Plus
b) Your multiple location specific Google Plus pages ( if you are a multi-location business)
Now that Gundotra is gone, I have no idea by when this will get streamlined and if this is a priority for the Google Places team but till then we marketers have to live with all the confusion.
P.S. Google has been strictly against thin content pages and has been cautioning people against creating them. When you look at those Google Plus Pages based on Places data – I can’t help but think of those auto-generated business directories that would harvest yellow pages and put up zillions of pages to rank in Google. I hear they don’t rank anymore in Google. Google Plus is however their own ☺