There has been a lot of hub-bub since the Google+ Local hit. I pretty much agree with what Mike, David, Greg & Chris have had to say on the matter. And I pretty much agree with what I had to say on the matter about one year ago.
While I have been pondering what this means for SEO, I have found myself more interested in what this means strategically for Google and Google+. I was a big user of Google+ in the early days – I mean check out my Google Plus Tips post. It’s insane. But over the past few months I have found myself spending my social media time elsewhere (aka Facebook & Twitter) despite it being clearly in my interest to dive deeply into G+.
Now I’m not saying that my data point of one is an indication of any global trends – there are plenty of people spending lots of time on Google+, but more and more I am thinking that G+ is in fact California City, except they have a great happy hour that pulls you in every time you see that red signal.
To me, the Google+/Places merger was a way to change all that. If people were not flocking to Google+ naturally, well then they need some kind of incentive, right? If Google+ activity has a serious effect on the SERPs, then businesses have a serious incentive both to get active on G+ and to pull their customers in (say hello to Google Offers). Once inside G+, I imagine Google hopes that people discover how awesome Hangouts are – and they are pretty awesome – or how easy it is to add text to your photos and make a meme-like thing (not so awesome I guess), or perhaps how the cool-looking G+ app automatically uploads your entire iPhone photo library into your G+ account and drains your battery without even asking permission first (#uberawesome).
It all sounds like a great strategy except for two things – 1) it’s unnatural for people (as in “we already have a place to do our social stuff – Facebook”) and 2) I suspect it’s unnatural for businesses (as in “we already have a place to do our social business stuff – Facebook”).
When I take a constitutional down Pleasanton’s Main Street, most shops have a “like us on Facebook” sign up and when you’re at the register, there’s typically some kind of “like us and get a cup of coffee” type promotion. I don’t see a ton of Google Places stickers.
Just like I can’t seem to find the motivation to get all Plussy, even though it’s in my economic interest to do so, I wonder if businesses will have the same experience with Google+ Local? Are they all going to change their signs to say “Like us and/or +1 us”? And if businesses don’t get on board, it’s going to be even harder for non-businesses (aka “people” Mitt) to get into G+. The Zagats reviews and the Places reviews should prove another big lure, and should create a lot of valuable local search inventory to monetize, but generating a lot of local reviews is not the same thing as creating a thriving social network at the scale G+ is trying to achieve. Yelp is not Facebook, right? Update: @MattMcGee rightly points out that the requirement to have a G+ account and use a real identity could hamper review growth
What do you think of G+ Local? Ghost town or…