There has been chatter over the past couple of months about whether or not Google+ is a ghost town, but one thing remains certain—Google still has big plans for the social network and keeps adding features. On May 30, Google provided Google+ users free access to 35,000 Zagat scores and write-ups of local businesses recommending where to eat, drink, stay, shop and play worldwide.
When Google purchased Zagat in September 2011, it was intended to serve as the "cornerstone of its local offerings," and this appears to be the next phase for the product.
The new feature, called Google+ Local, enables users to make their own recommendations and see evaluations from the official Zagat guide as well as from others in their Google+ Circles. These reviews are integrated into Google's search, maps and mobile features—creating one simple experience across the Google universe. Each place seen in Google+ Local will now be scored using Zagat’s 30-point scale, which rates the various aspects of a place, including food (if it's a restaurant), decor and service.
"With the release of Google+ Local, 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," writes Jen Fitzpatrick, VP of engineering at Google, on the Google and Your Business Blog. With one listing, businesses can now be found across Google search, maps, mobile and Google+, and customers can easily recommend businesses to their friends or tell the world about it with a review.
Business owners and managers should continue to manage their information in Google Places for Business, writes Fitzpatrick, who says to hold tight for news on how to link a business' local listing to its Google+ page. From there, they will still be able to verify basic listing data, make updates and respond to reviews.
Whether or not Google+ is a gold mine for user engagement, a Google+ brand page creates one business identity across Google's dominant search, maps and mobile features—reason enough for local businesses to solidify their pages.
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