Getting To Know The New Google Places

google places for businessBusiness owners trying to navigate Google’s local business management offerings know that the system is messy and confusing. However, the new Google Places for Business dashboard aims to make life easier for all involved. As the upgrade is adopted, businesses will be transferred from Places to Google+ Local.

Initially, the upgrade was only available to new signups within the U.S., but business owners around the world can anticipate gaining access in the next few weeks, as Google announced last week that businesses in the U.K. can now utilize the tool. The upgrade will gradually be dispersed to business owners, but SEOs still expect more updates. This version of the tool is a step up from the previous incarnation, but Google will still be working out the kinks that bother business owners. Most local businesses understand the importance of using Google’s tools, but the frustrations they express should spur Google towards improving its product!

What’s Better

Initial reactions indicate that the appearance of the dashboard is more in line with the current Google aesthetic. Although the aesthetic of a tool is not necessarily the most important point, SEOs do appreciate the chance to work within a more appealing design!

More seriously, one new feature the business owners will appreciate is the interface guides. These guides offer tips and advice that lead users through the process of setting up shop while avoiding any pitfalls. In addition, a new widget streamlines the set-up process into 3 quick steps.

With the upgraded dashboard, businesses are able to take advantage of heightened integration with other Google products. For instance, AdWords can be managed directly from the dashboard. In addition, the dashboard is connected to G+, so businesses can easily interact with their social connections.

SEOs are particularly excited about the prospect of quicker updates after edits. Google is notoriously slow in posting changes to business’s profiles, but this upgrade promises that updates will go live within 48 hours.

Other improvements include:

  • More in-depth tracking insight
  • The ability for service-based businesses to build a Google+ Local page
  • A rich text editor that offers more options

What Still Needs Improvement

Mike Blumenthal astutely pointed out that the update is more focused on commerce than content. His post also discusses in length the problems that persist in this version of the dashboard.

Some of the problems that remain severely limit the capabilities of businesses to promote their brand appropriately. For instance, the new dashboard no longer offers the option to create a custom category for your business listing. Unfortunately, this means that all businesses must choose a category from Google’s pre-determined list of 10 choices. Another annoyance is the lack of ability to post videos on a listing.

The largest problem is that the process is still pretty messy. There are now 4 options on Google for managing your business’s presence. Wading through the different choices is confusing and time-consuming.

Finally, I have to point out that this upgrade is a shamelessly obvious attempt on Google’s part to monetize “Local.” The dashboard makes it easier than ever to purchase AdWords Express. Although you can’t blame Google for wanting to make a little extra money off of the local search trend, their promotion of AdWords Express is a little too in your face.

What’s your take on the new updates? Do you think Google took a step in the right direction?

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Sarah Beth

Sarah Beth Wiltse earned her BA in English at Boston University. Though she currently lives in Dallas, TX, she spent a year in Paris, France after college, cultivating her love of the French language and a passion for travelling. She has spent much of her life developing her skills in the arts, primarily as a ballerina, violinist, and pianist - and now, a writer! Follow her on Twitter!

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