Google Places (also known as Google Plus Local) and Google Plus for Business are useful tools for your business that can help you show up higher in search results, especially local search results.

What is the Difference between Google Places and Google Plus?

Google has been fairly confusing during the changes that it made to how local businesses are listed in its Maps and Search that rolled out last year, and it has not made things easy or clear for local businesses.

Originally, a local business could create a listing for themselves on Google Maps by using Google Places. After the creation of Google Plus, Google also made it possible for businesses to create social pages on Google Plus, called Google Plus for Business — similar to Facebook pages for businesses.

Google’s ultimate goal has been to combine the map listings of the Google Places pages with the social aspect of the Google Plus pages. The first step in this process was to upgrade the look and feel of a Google Places page so that it looks more like a Google Plus page. With the redesign also came a new name: Google Plus Local. Totally not confusing at all, right?

Some months later, Google rolled out a process by which you can combine your Google Places (Google Plus Local) page and your Google Plus for Business page into one complete page that is both listed on Google Maps and has social features. Take a note here: before you run to go do that, it might not always be a good idea, depending on what type of business you are. See the “Combining” section below.

Google Places

How to Set Up your Google Places and Google Plus Pages

Important things to note about setting up your pages:

  • Fill out as much information as possible. Business name, address, and phone number aren’t enough. Fill out hours, fill out your business category, add a description and pictures and videos. Note: if it’s a Google Places page, any videos you add won’t be displayed. Those must be added to a Google Plus page or a combined page.
  • Your address should appear on your Google Pages exactly as it appears on your website. Google has its own standard way of displaying addresses, so if Google displays your address differently once you enter it into your Google page, you should change the address on your website. Google is more likely to rank you higher if all of your addresses everywhere on the web all match exactly.
  • Don’t use a P.O. Box or a UPS Store as your address. Google will delete you. If you can’t receive mail at your address, Google does have some guidelines about what to do.
  • If you are a Service Area Business, or a business that only serves customers at their location (such as a locksmith or a cleaning service), you must hide your address by checking a small box that says “Do not show customers my address.” The reasoning behind this is that the reason customers want an address would be so they can come to your place of business, and if you don’t serve any customers at your place of business, Google doesn’t want to confuse people by showing them an address. This little requirement also means that you should not have a “local business” Google + page since the address cannot be hidden, and you should not merge your Google Places page and your Google Plus page (see below).
  • In general, the name that you put as your business name on either your Places or Plus page should match the signs that you have outside your business and the business name that you use when you answer the phone. Google moderators may check your street signs on Street View, or they may call your business to double check your information. Unless everything matches, they may delete your listing.
  • If you have time, familiarize yourself with the Google Guidelines for these types of pages. If you violate Google’s guidelines, you may be subject to removal. Most of the guidelines are pretty straightforward, but there are some exceptions depending on what type of business you are, such as service area businesses.

Combining Your Google Places Page and Google Plus Page

Tired of managing and updating two separate pages? Google has made it possible to combine your Google Places page and your Google Plus page. However, you should only do this if you fit these specific criteria:

  • You don’t use the Bulk Uploads feature
  • You are not a Service Area Business that only serves people at their homes
  • If your Google+ page is not listed as a Local Business
  • You have a Google+ page
  • You can receive verification postcards
  • Your business’s Google Places listing and Google+ page were claimed by the same email address

If you fit all the above criteria, merging your Places listing and Plus page should be possible. However, merging the pages will not necessarily help your SEO in any way. Benefits to doing this mostly include ease of managing pages.

Where to Get Help

The first place to get help is to look through Google’s Places Help pages and Google’s Plus Help pages. In addition to articles about common problems, there are also ways to troubleshoot and report issues and receive support from Google.

In addition, Google also provides the Google and Your Business Forum where business owners can ask questions and get answers from other knowledgeable people and Google employees.

For even more good information on this, see the dedicated, well-researched information on local search — primarily Google, but information about improving your business across all local search platforms in general.