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Local businesses and entrepreneurs need to be aware that business listing service Google Places as we know it is going away.
Google Places has been an important citation platform for getting found on mobile, search and improving local SEO and a must have part of any local company's marketing strategy. However, this is now being replaced by Google + Local.
Google + Local ties together Google+, local business listings, maps, and Zagat ratings for enhanced mobile, search and social media marketing all in one place.
This builds on a slew of social search changes by the major search engines over the last few months and makes it even more critical for businesses to be using Google+.
If business owners want to continue to rank well, be found, and attract traffic, they are going to have to embrace this and make it a part of their ongoing marketing strategy. However, don't expect it to take off all on its own.
Besides a proactive approach to adding connections and keeping the conversation going, Google + Local and Google + profiles must be optimized for the search engines. This includes proper placement of the most commercially valuable keywords in the correct fields as well as being careful to maintain matching contact information across all local business citations on the web. This includes the spelling of business names, addresses, domain names, and of course, business phone numbers and vanity numbers.
The savviest business owners are making sure they capitalize on one secret weapon that 95%+ of other organizations are missing out on when it comes to social marketing strategy. Instead of spending a ton of resources on developing restrictive social media policies which hinder growth, forward thinking firms are using this capital to provide training and actively enroll all staff and contractors in their social efforts to build a larger and more interactive authentic community.