Google Kills Off Google+ Local but is Still Committed to Local Search

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Google Kills Off Google+ Local but is Still Committed to Local Search

So, guess what? Google has changed the way they show local results! Again!

For those of us who operate in and around the local search industry this change is just another in a long string of functionality changes, display updates, and rebrands that Google Local has been through in recent years.

The latest change came out of the blue on November 17th. Google gave very little warning or explanation to business owners about these changes, which has created plenty of confusion and frustration among many SMBs. It feels like Google has ripped the rug out from under their feet and they’re left wondering whether it’s worth bothering with local search any more.

In this post I’ll explain what Google has changed, why it’s changed, and why Google Local is still a huge opportunity for local businesses to attract new customers.

What has Google Changed?

These changes are entirely centered on Google+ Local pages. Up until recently these pages displayed all the useful & important data that Google holds about a business, and Google linked to these pages from local and map search results.

In September, Google removed the links from Search Results to Google+ Local pages and now they have removed most of the business data from them.

The new look Google+ is a place for ‘interests’, with an emphasis on its ‘Communities’ and ‘Collections’. I explain more about these later in this post.

The most important point for business owners to understand from this change is that Google is still committed to local search & giving searchers information about local businesses, but they no longer think that Google+ is the right place to display business information.

So let’s take a look at the changes & compare old vs new.

Old Style Google+ Page

The image below shows the old Google+ interface which displays plenty of useful and important information about a business (note that Google still offers a link “Back to classic G+” so you can still view this old style page, but this won’t be forever).

I’ve highlighted a number of sections in red to show which info/content has been stripped away in the new interface.

Old Style Google+ Page

This old style page was rich with content that was relevant to local businesses, including map, photo uploads, business description, and reviews. However, the new G+ pages no longer display the following features and info:

  • Reviews / Star Rating
  • Business Categories
  • Maps / Directions
  • Photo uploads / Interior photos
  • Opening hours
  • OpenTable/ Apps integration

So if we take away all those features, what are we left with?

New Google+ Page

New Style Google+ Page

The first thing you will notice is that the new Google+ is much simpler, and also more mobile friendly. According to Google, it focuses on ‘simple navigation and improved search’.

But there is almost no information about the business.

In the red circle I’ve highlighted a very discreet ‘info’ icon. Clicking on the info icon opens up an ‘About’ page, which loads the following pop-up which does contain very basic contact info:

New Google+ Page info page

What are Communities and Collections?

The new Google+ is geared towards sharing content with those who share similar interests. Communities and Collections are areas on Google+ where users can find people with similar interests, and share content related to those subjects.

  • Communities – Google states that Communities now average 1.2 million new joins per day, and allows users to immerse themselves in content they are interested in, such as Star Wars or SEO.
  • Collections – Launched just five months ago, Collections are growing even faster and broadly focus on more creative or niche groups, such as Zombie Cats and Motorcycle Art.

Why has Google Made These Changes?

Google+ started life as a social network, but for a number of reasons it never really took off and Google is systematically breaking it up and keeping only the pieces that did work – e.g. Photos, Communities, and Collections.

Google+ Local piggybacked on G+ and became the place that Google displayed local business data. It always felt like an odd association – social features with business information – and now that association is ending.

As I said above, Google is still staunchly committed to providing quality local information, but this isn’t via Google+ anymore.

What Does the Change Mean for Local Businesses?

The change doesn’t have a material impact on local businesses. The reality is that very few search users actually visited/used Google+ Local pages because they got the information they needed from within search results pages.

Google+ Local pages are mostly used by business owners or SEOs to help them check, audit, and manage their business information. From this perspective, the change is annoying but shouldn’t affect how local businesses attract new customers from Google.

Google still presents local business data prominently in both normal search results and in map results (see screen shots below)

In fact Google now shows local/map results for more search terms than ever before – because they know that searchers want local information. Great news for local businesses!

local business results in google search

We can see that on a typical search for a local service / product (in this case “Plumber Boston MA”), Google gives plenty of real estate to local business websites; not only in the three pack (left), but also in the additional results featured on the Local Finder page (right).

Google’s relationship with local hasn’t changed. Local search optimization has never been just about Google+ pages, and over the years Google has demonstrated its commitment to showcasing not just large, popular brands, but also small and local businesses that can serve a users’ needs.

Google My Business: Still the Place to Update Your Business Data

Nothing with Google My Business (GMB) has changed and you should continue to use your dashboard to manage your business information. The data from your GMB dashboard will show up everywhere that Google deems necessary; notably in Google Search, Maps, mobile search, and the Knowledge Graph.

In the annual Local Search Ranking Factors study, GMB signals made up 14.7% of the overall ranking factors (see image below). This is not going to change overnight, so Google is still very much focused on local, and there is little need for SEOs and local business owners to worry about changes to Google+.

Local Search Ranking Factors

Still Not Convinced?

If you, or a client, still have doubts about the effectiveness of Google/Local Search to drive new customers, then here are some tasty stats to convince you of the continuing power of Local Search:

Image credits
Featured Image: rvlsoft /, Screenshots taken Nov 2015

Myles Anderson

Myles Anderson

CEO / Founder at BrightLocal
Myles Anderson is the Founder & CEO of BrightLocal provide a unique & specialised set of local SEO tools for SEO Agencies, Consultants and... Read Full Bio
Myles Anderson
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  • Roger Rogerson

    I do wish G would stop messing with Local.
    It seems not a year goes by without them fiddling, faffing or the other f-word-ing about with it.
    And it always seems so slap-dash.
    The one class of business that cannot afford to be messed around with is Local,
    and yet they get the short of the stick every single time.

    • Getting Healthier

      I agree with you Roger,Google is messing again n again with local.i can’t find poll options,i end up posting in a group rather than publicly.I have experienced the same problems as Marc.

    • While I agree that local doesn’t have the funds to have changes made arbitrarily, I think a real problem is that so many people use local to try and cheat the system with SERP results. From agents listing their homes as local businesses for online stores to the really old tactic of trying to list an apartment in the center of a city as the business when local targeting wasn’t exact.

      • Roger Rogerson

        Spam/Abuse has been a long-standing issue with local/business listings.
        So have various “bugs” (like the merge issues etc.).
        Then there’s the general lack of “thought” from G in some cases (how long for them to figure multi-location businesses, or business hours).

        I’m always left with the impression that Local is little more than an afterthought. It’s the proverbial ugly red-headed step-child, given as little attention as G can get away with.
        Which I find odd considering how influential it can be for SMBs.

  • Google took something that was working for users and ruined it.

    • Marc_Razia

      I don’t know about local, but G+ as a whole is much better now. it took a day or two to get used to where things are, but overall this change has been tremendous.

      • I disagree.

        Poll options are gone. You often post in a group when trying to post publicly, as this now requires a manual change. Loading images now requires an extra step. You can’t open multiple tabs, just one window at a time unless you again, manually do it by opening a new tab then opening Google+ there. This is a deficiency of mobile/desktop conversion, as now desktop users are forced to cut down their efficiency to suit the whims of mobile.

        I expect Google will take none of my complaints or the complaints of others into consideration. They’re the new IBM and we should all do our best to take them down, ridicule them, and generally point out that they’re not cool.

      • Marc_Razia

        Other than the lack of polling, which was not something I valued, I’m not experiencing the issues you describe. But as I said, it was an adjustment to get used to the change, but I think its much more seamless now.

        And I don’t mean to diminish the complaints about some of the functionality they let go of, as I am sure there are some users who are upset about losing things. But they clearly made those choices based on how often they were used.

        I don’t think its that they ignore your complaints, they just have hundreds of millions of users and there’s not likely a large enough segment that share your view of what is essential. That’s a harsh reality, but a fully understandable one from a business perspective. I”m sure if millions of people valued polling the way you do, they’d have kept it. In my experience, most people on G+ don’t, and even when polling was present, I’d rarely see them relative to normal posts.

      • How do you know these things? Oh…they’re opinions, aren’t they?

        Since we know just 9% of Google+ users even post content, I guess the network doesn’t really matter anyways. To my way of thinking, Google is telling me to go somewhere else from now on.

      • Marc_Razia

        I thought it was assumed we’re both giving opinions here. Anyway, best of luck.

      • I’m exactly the same.

      • The problem, I think, is that Google launched G+ as the backbone of their “Identity” network. Something that tied all your google properties together but importantly also allowed you to say “This is me!” to the world through verified web addresses. They also tacked on their idea of a social community, one that had people gather around interests instead of “real world” relationships.

        People, business owners and marketers being some of the worst offenders, decided to treat it just like Twitter/Facebook. 99% of businesses I come across on the platform use it as little more than a Buffr funnel. Many “verified” local businesses don’t reply to reviews, they don’t have a cover photo, and they don’t post. For individuals, they signed up because they had to, and then ignored it, leaving a ton of dead profiles.

        I’m still not sure what I think of some of the UI changes (biggest one for me is image browsing is a bit less slick than it was before), but as a G+ user I’m glad that they’re stripping out the things that made businesses and people feel like they had to post there. My stream didn’t slow down when they did this change, and it’s nearly as active as it was when I first started and a few of us used it as it’s own social network. I’ll have to see what the results are going forward.

      • Roger Rogerson

        Complaining to G will generally achieve nothing.
        Point out when they have done something wrong just gets a golden nerd upset.

        You have to remember these are usually the best and brightest – they can’t do wrong. It’s simply the case that you’re to stupid/short sighted to understand their reasoning and the implications (that’s their view, not mine).

        Trust me, I spent more than a little time pulling apart stupidities by Googlers, even calling some out on things. It just builds up resentment, and gains you nothing.

  • Carsten Legaard

    To make it short: Google communities is meant to be a Twitter killer and Google Collections is meant to be a Pinterest killer. Good luck, Google.

    • Ever think maybe G+ was meant to be something different? Google is not the type of company that develops apps to destroy other apps, they are a company that designs completely new and innovative apps that change the world.

  • Robert Kirk

    Really interesting post Myles. I find it so difficult to keep up with the local changes. They make nothing simple, like leaving a reviews something which should be pretty straightforward really is that easy now.

  • texasadvertising

    Is Google still rolling this out? I checked multiple businesses that I work with and they all still have their old setup.

    • It’s fully rolled out world-wide, but only as a preview. So you have to opt in to see it. You either did not opt-in, or after you did you clicked “return to classic”. If you had the update you would not see reviews, descriptions or any of the other stuff Myles mentioned on the listings and they would look totally different.

  • moneyroad

    Actually I hate new design and how it works, it was easier before or maybe I need some time to become usual

    • Marc_Razia

      I didn’t like it at first, but after a couple days of getting used to it I’m now liking it better. Don’t get me wrong, I was frustrated, but I guess it just took me forcing myself to figure it out.

  • Roger

    It’s an interesting change, however, I still believe that reviews will be an important ranking factor for local results. Beware because the new design no longer supports links pointing to the review box (e.g. LRD identifier has to be used instead of ?review=1 parameter. So don’t forget to update your links!

  • bizgolf

    Amazes me how Google just changes things but never comes to town to show businesses what the changes do for them. Good job here breaking down what Google is doing. Would give Google more credibility if they put a roadshow together to explain the changes and allow direct questions from their users and from those of us who train businesses how to optimize their Google products.

  • great sharing

  • True enough – Google just up and does things with little to no notice… That’s Google for you.

  • Kris Olszewski

    Question: It used to be that you could contact Google to clear up Multiple pages and conflicting data between Maps, G+ and Local. I am now finding that Google my business data is not over riding maps data and I cannot get the maps data to update. I am also not able to get Google to return calls like used to happen through the dashboard contact feature. Has anyone found a solution?

  • markwaldin

    I think you are full of ***. Google is NOT local business friendly and Google+ is a giant mess. I have had many conversations with Google about this with no real insight. It is impossible for anyone to find Google My Business pages and the information we all enter there is simply wasted. In spite of that Google insists that filling in all the information and continuing to add to it is very important. What?

    This is Google. The company that says great SEO is simply “do your marketing like you would always do and results will follow”. Well, if I did marketing without worrying about SEO I sure as heck wouldn’t waste time filling in and maintaining information in Google My Business. Yet that is exactly what they recommend.

    I am not sure what you are smoking? “Great news for local businesses!” – how can you say that. Your article reads as if you work for Google. Do you?

  • I don’t know of any other company in the world that can do what Google does to it’s users and customers, they might as well be telling them to f.. off.

  • Great, basically Google just made a bad product even worse. When they went back to crowdsourcing local data issues a few months ago I thought it was a positive sign, but now I’m not sure what they are doing.

  • a chance they did not kicked away google my business

  • Thanks for the write up Myles. I noticed the changes on the G+ pages recently so I thought I’d research into it a little more and see the full extent of the update.

  • Excellent article – thank you. Is it still possible to leave reviews on a G+ business page?

  • David Coppedge

    They don’t seem to have transitioned to the new style across the board yet. My 3 large retail clients still have the “old” style appearing in Google+. Definitely good to know that this is coming down the pipe, but Google + Local pages haven’t quite been “killed off” yet.

  • Great XD:) I have a question can I transfer ownership my google+ page.

  • pilar coats

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    that has 6 million forms . If you have been needing IRS W-2 as well ,
    here’s a

  • Bill

    Great post I was a big fan of Google+ and I thought that by placing all of the vast Google digital assets onto the social platform as simple as G+ was a brilliant idea for Google+ but It did not work as planned.