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Google Places Out, Google+ Local Takes Over

Last night several new rollouts were seen in Google+ Local, seeming to merge Google Places accounts into the newest social search display of your Google+ dashboard. Here's what we've seen in our research about the new way search and reviews are changing for Car Dealers for automotive internet marketing on Google.

Do the new changes show in Google Search today?

As of this article's publishing, no. However, we're sure its only a matter of time before the Google+ Local becomes integrated into your standard search engine results page from Google. Where can you find the new Google+ Local Search? Log into your Google+ account. You'll find the new Local button on the left dash.

From there, the Search boxes at the top are broken down into two uses: What you're looking for | Where.

In the following example, we went looking for "jeep dealers" in "Philadelphia, PA". Just like in Google search, the auto complete starts as you begin to type, and its obvious some of the "Categories" from Google Places have made it over to Google+ Local.


What do Google+ Local Search Results Look Like?

From the looks of the new search results, Google has been busy! Immediately we're presented with a new layout of information. You've got your standard Company Name, Address in a lighter color text, then your overall review score, At a Glance terms, and a quote from your most recent review. Photos are a bigger deal taking up a larger portion of the listing.

Even more shocking, where did your star ratings go? Some car dealerships will notice that reviews have been dropped in the transition, something we hope Google notices and fixes in the future. (Read more about reviews below)

While Google has dedicated more room to the first photo of your account, and the new reviews rating system, it has left a lot of the "Where did that come from" information on the listing, namely the "At a glance" terms.

I was fortunate enough to have spoken with some of the Google Places team at a conference earlier this year and I asked them where the "known-for" or At a Glance terms came from. Their response: "even we don't know", its another part of a Google formula most of the Google Places team is not familiar with, or was unable to comment on. My speculation, its from an old patent Google applied for several years ago surrounding actionable or descriptive wording. Type "great customer service" in a review, Google might be grabbing those  descripters after positive or negative indicators.

The map display with pins is nothing new along the right side of search results and the "Key To Ratings" helps describe how the review values have changed.

30 is the new 5! Big Reviews Change for Car Dealers on Google+ Local

There have been many changes in the way review information is handled in Google+ Local. First point of business, they've moved away from the STAR value reviews. Its now apparent Google's acquisition of Zagat several months ago was only the beginning, as  they've rolled out No Stars, but a point scale ranging from Zero to 30. This also brings up the question, will Google move away from displaying Star values in standard SERPs from other sources like Yelp & DealerRater, only time will tell.

Past reviews are there, some have been dropped, but most have made it over. The new 0 to 3 values are a departure from 1 to 5 stars. Perhaps this is an answer to the requests from review writers to be able to give a Zero star rating in the past, so Dealers be warned, no longer can you score a 1, you can be a zero. The overall formula is pretty simple to grasp. Previous reviews are still rated in a conversion of 5 stars now equals 3, averages are made, and then multiplied by 10, rounded and there's your 30 points.

When writing new reviews on Google+ Local, you're prompted for 3 different ratings. As seen in the screen shot above, Google is asking for your feedback based on different "Labels" or areas of review. By default, the systems asks you for a 0 to 3 rating on Quality, Appeal & Service. It appears right now that there are no specific review types for "Car Dealer", so hopefully this will be a change in the future. Even when testing and writing for this article, we found different variations for the "Labels" that were available, first only 5 selections, then by mid-day 7.

Its easy to see that once enough of these new reviews have been created, Google will roll out the individual Label ratings like they do for restaurants; the threshold at which point that will turn on was not apparent in our testing like it is for Places (the star rating turned on when you hit 5 reviews).


Photos, Reviews now pop on Business Listing

The company name is still front and center, but if its more than 33 characters its currently being cut off after character 32 with an ellipsis (...). For some reason, the address is in the listing info twice, once under the company name, and again under About. Fancy new icons represent different parts of the data. Phone number and Toll-Free numbers are displayed but not labeled, and the website URL seems to stand out less. Categories carried over from Google Places, along with the Hours of Business. We'll be watching the "actions" in the Google Places metrics to see how this new layout changes the way customers use the listing.

If you're wondering where all the time you spent picking those 5 key categories went, and now you're only seeing 2 or 3, click on the new Categories terms, and you'll see a list of hidden items, who really knows why they didn't display all by default, there's certainly enough room.

Your standard Description from the old Places listing has been brought over and is now called "From the owner:". The once large, bright red "Write a Review" button has changed to a more soothing white text on light blue. Another more transparent black on white Review button has also been added at the bottom of the page.

Abilities to Google +1, Share (only on Google+ of course) and upload a picture have all been added or moved around, but are in a logical flow as buttons under the Map on the right side of the listing.

Hopefully, the amount of personal data that is now displayed via the Google+ profile when you leave a review will discourage those hit and run negative reviewers.

Claiming and Optimizing your new Google+ Local page


Not much has changed when it comes to claiming your listing, even Google admits this process is the same as it has been.

You're still presented with the old Google Places claim interface asking for verification.

However, from the outside trying to update an unclaimed or claimed listing that is not yours, the editing screen is significantly different, as seen in this screen shot.

You can now select which part of data is incorrect and how it should be corrected. While the old radio buttons are still available a level or two down into the editing screen, there's more specificity to your edit suggestion.


 



What's a Car Dealer to do now that Google+ Local is taking over Google Places?

Go with the flow. Google is just asking you to do what it feels is best business practices. Claim your account, add a description, photos of the staff & showroom, pick the right default categories, fix your marker, ask for reviews in the service lane and at sales.

Start to focus on social indicators like Google and Bing are now doing. They want a personalized feeling for your customers, and increased engagement with social factors like +1, Shares, Tweets, Links and Likes.

Expect that the next change is just around the corner, and when Google flips the switch you'll need to be on the cutting edge to keep up with automotive internet marketing.

UPDATE! As of May 30th @ 5pm Eastern:
There seems to have been an update to Google Maps searches, but not to Google SERPs for straight search. What we're seeing now is if you do a search in "Maps", it now displays the new Google+ Local review ratings and upon clicking "XX reviews" are brought to the new G+ L listing page. Interesting, we'll see if tomorrow brings us the actual Google Search change.

 

UPDATE! As of June 7th: We have started to notice the "Response from Owner" in the review stream finally coming over from the old Google Places system! Your weeks of being polite and responding or defusing bombs is still paying off!

Views: 1156

Tags: google, google+, local, places

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Comment by Aj Maida on June 8, 2012 at 9:48am

Noticed a drop in both impressions and actions for the first 4 days but it seems to have returned to normal the last few.

Comment by Matthew O'Such on June 6, 2012 at 8:35am

Nicole, thanks for the update. Yes, it does look like the 360 degree "tour" system has had it over to the new Google+ Local system. Dealers, were you aware Google is now promoting local photographers to come and take a 360 tour of the dealership?

The walk thrus I've seen have looked great for car dealership show rooms! http://maps.google.com/help/maps/businessphotos/

Comment by Nicole Heyart on June 4, 2012 at 11:17am

Google interior 360 spins are still prominently displayed and are a great showcase any dealership. Check out Tom Holzer Ford in Farmington Hills, MI.  https://plus.google.com/109304065516551976171/about?gl=us&hl=en

Comment by Matthew O'Such on May 31, 2012 at 12:02pm

@TysonGamblin - Good question, As of today, the Google team says there's no way to merge or connect the Google+ Local page with your Google+ Business/Brand pages. We can be sure they're working on a way to connect the two. What's odd is that the Google+ Business/Brand pages do have very similar data requirements to be created as a Local page does.

Big update! - It seems that the changes are rolling out over standard Google SERPs for the new way of review scoring!

Comment by Steve Davern on May 31, 2012 at 9:14am

Thanks Matt! I will share this with all of my customers.

Comment by Aj Maida on May 31, 2012 at 6:22am

As Tom Gorham said, as well as my earlier post all my reviews have come across, but none of my owners (wink, wink, cough, cough) responses followed. What are others seeing?

Comment by Ralph Paglia on May 30, 2012 at 11:42pm

This is an excellent update and another example of the high quality information coming from Matt and his team.

Comment by Tom Gorham on May 30, 2012 at 8:37pm

Very interesting.  All of our reviews are still there.  Went from 5 star to 28.  I like the way the reviews can be sorted.

Comment by Tyson Gamblin on May 30, 2012 at 4:53pm

Is there any way to sync the Google+ brand pages with the Google local page?

Comment by Glenn Pasch on May 30, 2012 at 4:34pm

Great job Matt. PCG is compiling notes from all of our team's investigation. We will keep everyone posted.

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