How Recent Google Changes Will Affect Your Dental Practice

You may have heard the big news last Wednesday. With another step forward in becoming your integrated online resource, Google Places has been merged with Google’s Social Network, Google+. Essentially, your new Google+ Local page is still your same Google Places page just with a new look. The difference being that Google+ pages also have the social features available to Google+ users.

What Does This Change Mean For Your Dental Practice?

Not much, yet.

As we’ve been coaching our network of dentists, Google is in the process of building a big-time social community that is bringing people together and with local businesses on multiple levels (see graphic below). They clearly want you as a business owner in your community to become a part of the conversation at some level and to interact with your patients online. What that means in practical terms for you and your dental office is still developing, but this is another move in that direction.

Google's Plan for Your Local Business

Right now, you don’t have to do anything. Google has already merged the pages for you. You still log in through your Google Places dashboard and the content is basically the same with the exception of videos and reviews; there are no videos on the new local business listings and your reviews are still there but they have been converted to the Zagat (1-30) point system (a company that Google has recently acquired).

If you already have a Google+ business page, Google will soon be merging local business listings with their actual business pages in Google+. Google says that there will eventually be just one page to manage with information integrated across Google Search, Google Maps, Google+, and mobile. For now, if you already have a Google+ account, you will manage these pages separately.

Update: More Answers To FAQs About Google+ Local

In addition to our observations mentioned in last week’s post regarding the announcement of local Google+ pages, here are a few more insights we have learned from Google:

  • Do you have to create a Google+ account for your dental practice right now?

Not necessarily. Some of the dentists in our network who are active online already have. They post content to their Google+ business page as they do for Facebook and Twitter. You may want create a Google+ page and try out some of the social features. If you do, Google says be sure to choose the Local category so that they can bring your multiple pages together to create one listing later on.

  • Are your patients’ reviews still there?!

Yes, Google says that your reviews will be transferred over. The ranking system has changed, however; instead of gold stars you will be ranked 1-3 with the Zagat scoring system and the score will be multiplied by 10. You may notice that they are now out of chronological order. Above the first review, there is a pull-down menu. The default is set to “Most helpful” which takes into consideration many aspects of each review’s text and author, as well as feedback from users who vote on whether the review was helpful or not.

  • Do your patients need a Google+ account to leave a review?

Yes. Reviewers need to be logged in to Google+ to leave a review. If they have a Google account but they have not yet created a Google+ profile, they will be prompted to do so. Reviews that were transferred over will be attributed to “A Google User” until the user has a Google+ account and then it will be labeled with their Google+ name.
This adds another layer of complexity in getting patients to submit reviews. If we have helped you to set up systems already to facilitate patient leaving you reviews on your former Places, don’t worry; we can help you to adjust to the new system as well.

  • Will This Change Your Google Ranking?

Google says that the Google+ Local launch was “an interface and design change” and that there was nothing specific to this change that will affect your search results, but it’s clear that they want you to join the party! In the same breath, they are clear to state that ranking algorithms are continually changing, so listings are always moving up and down. Unofficially, we are seeing that businesses that are involved with Google+ are being rewarded.

As time goes on we will have more information for you. We know you are busy providing great dentistry and patient care. It is my job to keep you in the know, so that the APM team can help you create realistic strategies that work for you and your practice. You can check back to this blog for timely, concise updates on how developments with the internet will impact your dental practice. If you have specific questions, feel free to give us a call at (952) 921-3360.

Interested in hearing about the update from Google directly?