SMBs: What you need to know about Google Places & Google Plus Local

UPDATE: Google has recently added the option to contact them for Google Local support (even in Canada!). If you’ve gone through these steps and are still having problems, click here and then click the red contact us button in the top right. Then click call us, and follow the steps.


Google made some big changes to their local listings service back in May of 2012. Generally speaking, these changes were for the better, but they also left local business owners either completely unaware that they needed to take action, or utterly confused about how to do so.

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To this day, 9 out of 10 businesses that I look at still haven’t made the move to managing their Google listings on Google Plus.

Unfortunately, most of the articles you’ll find when searching for help are from back when the changes first took place, when the process was unclear and convoluted. The good news is it’s bit more straightforward to take care of now. The bad news is, it can still be pretty confusing for the average user.

What happened to Google Places?

Google Places is basically swimming with the fishes.

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You can still sign into the back end (which I’ll touch on later), but you no longer see Google Places listings in Google. The data from your old Google Places listing has been repurposed and now sits in a Google Plus Local page.

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Some notable things about the new platform:

  • It looks better
  • You can share links, videos, and anything else in a posts feed, much like Facebook
  • All the data and reviews from Places pages were migrated over to Plus
  • The review system got an overhaul (improved rating system, no more anonymous reviews, etc.)
  • You can assign multiple managers to manage a Google Plus Local Business page, and you can give another person ownership (this was a big shortcoming of Google Places)

No service interruption, a more modern interface, social network integration, and multi-user management… Sounds pretty good, right? It is. But in order to take advantage of any of it, you need to get control of your listing.

As I mentioned, you can still log into your crusty old Google Places account. You may also be also make certain changes to listings from the Places interface, but I wouldn’t expect that to go on working indefinitely.

You won’t be able to reply to reviews or take advantage of all the new features in Google Plus, though. You also might be missing out on the authority boost that goes along with a verified listing, which could potentially affect your search rankings. That would be sad.

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New features and pretty pages aside, the important thing to be aware of is this:

You are no longer the verified owner of your business listing in Google.

How to verify your listing on Google Plus

At this point we’re under the assumption that you had a Google Places listing (verified or not) and it now displays as a Google Plus page. (If you did not have a Google listing as all, these steps can get you started too.)

Get a Google Plus account – https://plus.google.com

You should only have one Google Plus account, and it’s best to use your real name. If you have a personal Gmail address, that’s the one you’ll want to use for Google Plus. If not, go ahead and sign up for one. You don’t need to start a new Gmail account to use for business listings because now you can transfer ownership and assign multiple managers (no more finding out the guy you fired has the keys to your business listing).

Make a duplicate page of your existing listing

This is the part that throws people off. You need to make a new Google Plus Local page and verify it. Then Google will merge your old Places listing data into it.

  1. In your Google Plus account, navigate to Pages (this will probably be under the More tab on the left).
  2. Click the Create New Page button (top right).
  3. Select Local Business or Place (very important).
  4. Enter your business phone number. This should be the same phone number used in your existing listing.
  5. A box will pop up asking you to select your business from the list. Select it. In most cases there should be only one business associated with your phone number.
  6. Confirm the map marker location, and press OK.
  7. Enter your business name and add a link to your website. NOTE: Take this opportunity to update your business name to your Doing Business As name, if it’s not already. (Ex. Top Draw Inc. NOT Top Draw Edmonton Web Design)
  8. Once you press continue, you’ll see a mostly empty Google Plus page. Click Finish. Now you’ve created your duplicate page, one that you own. It won’t do anything until you verify and merge it though.

Verify your new duplicate page

Right beside your business name, it will say Unverified. Click that. Then click the Verify now button. Verify that your address is correct and send the postcard. Then keep an eye out for it to arrive in the next week or two.

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When you receive your postcard, log into your Google Plus account, visit the page, and enter the PIN. Now, hang tight and keep an eye on the page over the next week or so. It should merge with the data from your old listing and you can begin taking advantage of all the great new features of Google Plus. Awesome.

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