A few years ago, Google generously gave you a free website that included a map and a pin identifying the exact location of your business. If you were a savvy online marketer, you knew you had to verify or claim your page. You also knew how important the customer reviews were on your page and you probably had lots of photos or videos on the page as well.

If you are the savvy online marketer, you probably know this story. If not, stay with us because there’s a big change going on with your Google page and what you don’t know can hurt you.

When is the last time you looked at your Google business page? Are you using it to its maximum performance? Have you noticed any changes in the page?

You might be calling them Google Maps, but what was known as Google Places is now Google+ Local.

If you haven’t looked in a while, look it up right now. I’ll wait? (Cue the toe-tapping jazzy background music.) Does your page look any different?

If it doesn’t, it will soon!

Late to the game, but not to be outdone, Google is making sweeping changes to all of the Google Places websites. A migration is taking place to Google+ Local and if you aren’t paying attention, you might lose your Google page, which can seriously damage your Google search results!

Confused yet? (We were.) We’ve spent a lot of time on this the past few months working with our partners and talking directly to Google. Now that we’ve sorted things out, we are going to share what we know and what you need to do about it.

Here we go.Google+ Local

Google+ Local is the new-and-improved online marketing tool for small business with geo-targeting and social media features.

Look at the name again: Google+ Local.

  • First, it’s Google…only the largest, most-popular search engine in the world.
  • Second, there’s a ?+?. The ?+? is a social element that allows you to add social posts to your page, which enriches your profile, helps you connect better with your marketplace and helps you create more business.
  • Finally, it’s Local. When it comes to searching for a business, search results are Local. If you have a leaky sink in Portland, Oregon, you want a plumber in Portland, Oregon not Portland, Maine!

Google is migrating your Google Places to Google+ Local. There isn’t a timeline for completing the migration. After all, there are millions of these Google websites out there. One thing we did learn is that if your Google Places page was not verified your page is at risk of being dropped!

How can you tell if your page has migrated? Here’s a snippet from our Google+ Local page. Look at the four option buttons under the cover photo. If you have these four buttons, your page has migrated to Google+ Local.

NSM Google verified

If your Google Page is verified, your page will migrate on all its own. You can tell if your page is verified by the check mark placed next to your name.

If your page is not verified, you need to do so right away.. Here is the how-to for verification.

Or, you can forge ahead and create a Google+ Local page of your own and wait for Google to merge your pages later.

If Google+ Local isn’t on your radar screen as a key marketing tool, it should be.

  • Google is the largest search engine in the world.
  • They offer multiple platforms (Gmail, Drive, Hangouts) to keep us engaged.
  • They are now the second-largest social media platform in the world and increasingly popular with men.

Because of its importance in search results, managing your Google+ Local page is as big of a priority as managing your website.

If you are uncertain or confused, we can help. We love Facebook and Twitter but we like to stay ahead of the trend. The trend for 2014 is the rise of Google+ Local as a social platform.

There is a lot of confusion out there with these pages. Don’t walk away from the confusion. Attack it head on instead. When it comes to helping your business get found online, Google+ Local is worth the challenge.