We keep saying that things never stand still in this industry and here we go again. I thought I would take a nice break have a holiday and celebrate the Queens Diamond Jubilee in style with friends and family so I booked a nice holiday to coincide with the Jubilee Celebrations and when I come back I discover that one of the tools that everyone is always bitching about has gone.

Google had recently announced that it was completely replacing ‘Google Places’ with, wait for it……’Google+ Local’ pages in what is clearly another effort to get more of us using the Google+ social network. Google + local effectively combine all of the local business aspects of the old Places with the newer aspects associated with Google+ such as peer-review and social trust.

Many in the online community are seeing this as the recent acquisition of Zagat by Google coming to fruition (Zagat is a site known for its trusted and accurate restaurant ratings).

Those of you, who have been using Google Places already, will not see that much that has changed and beyond the facelift to the way the pages look when you visit them and the fact that you will have to join Google+ in order to be able to leave a review, nothing really has.

For the business owner the business end of the software has retained the same look and feel (for now), so you will still need to optimise your Google+ Local listing in much the same way as you would have done in the past and endeavour to get high quality citations.

So what exactly has changed?

Well apart from the obvious name change there will appear a new Local Tab within Google+, this will appear on the left hand side of Google+ and uses the by now very familiar Places icon.

You will also see the free availability of the integrated Zagat reviews as mentioned utilising its entire archive across categories. This will also see the old Google Star Ratings replaced by the Zagat 30 point rating which some argue is a much better system.

Expect much more integration of these new Google+ Local pages across the many other Google properties such as search, maps and mobile, with the ability to filter the results in a much refined manner by the use of Google+ Circles enabling you to see recommendations by friends/family etc.

As we have said already above, we don’t think getting used to the new look of the facelift applied to the old style pages will cause much concern for anyone as it is much easier on the eye and makes much better use of the photographs making them the focus of attention, but it will be interesting to see how some businesses cope with the required need to dig a little deeper into Social Media.

So has it been a change for the better? Will it help with your Local SEO?……..Only time will tell