A fundamental shift has taken place on Google: the Local/Maps sector is no longer connected to the social network Google+. This means that Google+ Local pages are going to lose a lot of the attributes that made them “Local” in the first place. According to Google:
The following features are no longer supported for Local pages — Reviews, categories, directions, stars, photo uploads, maps, hours, opentable/apps integration.
Where have all those features gone? They are alive and well in Google My Business. In fact, Google already rolled out a new dashboard for Google My Business a few months ago. The new Google My Business has been in place for a while now, and it did not change when this most recent Google+ transition occurred.
Here’s the important takeaway: Google+ Local pages will now be different entities from Google My Business pages.
Google+ has been stripped down to two core services: Collections and Communities. Collections is for sharing and storing photos; communities is for engaging with folks who have the same interests and hobbies as you. Google has also tweaked the appearance and layout of Google+ and the new look is being widely criticized.
This new Google+ effectively ends the four-year experiment of Google dragging local business owners to its social network. Google+ has been pared down to focus on the things that its users actually want: pictures and communities.
It has been well-documented that business owners and average consumers were reluctant to adopt Google+. However, they were forced into Google+ if they wanted to claim a business listing or write a review. Now that Google My Business and Google+ are operating separately, that forced engagement will decrease.
As for the Google+ Local pages, they will be hidden away on Google+ and not visible on Google search or in Google Maps. You will have to venture into Google+ in order to find the Local pages, unless you come across a direct link to a Google+ page on a website or blog post.
(You may have noticed in the last few months that links for “Google+ page” have disappeared from the search results — that was an early indication that Google+ Local pages had fallen out of favor with the almighty G.)
The reviews, photos, hours of operation, etc. are gone from Google+ Local pages but they are NOT gone from Google. All of the relevant local business information is managed via Google My Business.
Google has essentially stripped Local out of Google+. In a sense, this is the rebirth of Google Places. Of course it now goes by a different name, but Local appears to have finally been unshackled from Google+.
If you are active on Google+ and have built up a following, you should continue to engage your audience on Google+. However, if you are posting on Google+ for SEO purposes and not getting any real engagement, you may now stop doing that.