June 1, 2012, 3:50 PM

Google+ goes local

The leading search engine combines its social network with local listings and customer reviews.

Lead Photo

Retail chains can now add another set of possible tasks to their social media to-do lists, as Google Inc. this week launched a new service called Google+ Local, which automatically extends businesses’ Google+ profile pages to its local business listings.

That means a retailer like Macy’s Inc., for instance, which has about 840 stores in 45 states, now has 840 separate Google+ pages, each featuring an area map and details about the store. Google is also including past customer reviews and scores from Zagat, which Google acquired last year, in these local listings, and consumers will be able to post new reviews and add photos of that particular location on their own.

Google is indexing each of the local pages so that those reviews also show up on organic search results. For example, a search for “Macy’s” on Google from a Chicago-based computer now returns nine results under the heading “Places for Macy’s near Chicago, IL.” Results also include a local address and phone number, as well as a customer rating score and reviews for each location; shoppers have the option to click on each location’s Google+ page. The Google+ Local page for a Macy’s store on State Street in Chicago, for example, shows a score of 15 out of 30 and 44 customer reviews.

While retailers will still have control over their national Google+ page, any changes a retailer makes or posts there do not transfer over to the Google+ Local listings, so it may be beneficial for retailers to check each of their local listings to see how consumers are reacting to their brands, says Greg Sterling, founder of consulting firm Sterling Market Intelligence.

“All retailers’ locations are in Google+ Local now, whether they like it or not,” he adds. “Those reviews will be present on that location. Ignore them at your own peril.” Retailers can manage these pages by going to each Google+ Local listing and click “Manage this page.”

 “That’s another incentive for retailers to go on there and own these pages and add content,” Sterling says. “Those companies that claim them and make them into something valuable are going to be rewarded with loyal fans and followers.”

The local nature of these pages may bode well for retailers, as consumers are often more engaged with companies that are in their areas and talking about local trends or issues, he adds. “The brand for some of these retailers is monolithic. Even though it may a national brand, the idea that it’s grounded in the community and can speak to local events, weather or news items, that makes it much more accessible to people.”

The local information is also available on Google Maps, as well as mobile devices.

April Anderson, industry director, retail, at Google, will speak at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012 in June, in a session entitled, “Paid search strategies for the smaller merchant.

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