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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

Google Rolls Out Android Mobile Places Dashboard App

This afternoon Google rolled out a new mobile Google Places for Business app that allows management of a business’s Google Plus listing via  Android.

From the Google Play description:

Keep your business listing fresh and up-to-date across Google with the free Google Places for Business app:
– Update your business information, including hours, address, contact information, photos and description
– Keep your customers in the know by posting updates and photos
– Respond to comments and +1’s on your posts
– Learn how customers find and interact with your business with insights
– Manage multiple business locations from one app

The app shows the way for the new dashboard to provide an integrated experience to the SMB that wants to interact with all aspects of their listing as well as their public social stream from one unified interface. In that sense it might be providing a look at what the desktop dashboard might become.

The interface, like the desktop Places for Business Dashboard, is intuitive and easy to use. Unlike the desktop dashboard, this product is fully integrated with the Plus social stream and allows for social posts that include photos and for social responses. For those businesses that have a social presence and would like to keep it updated frequently with photos it offers a compelling solution.

There are some limits to the product
– U.S. listings only
– Business must already have the new dashboard
– no iPhone version

Besides the lack of an iPhone app and the inability to respond to reviews, the rap against the app is the same criticism that I have of the desktop dashboard – it just doesn’t do that much that would compel a business owner to return regularly to check in. If their business doesn’t have a strong social presence and doesn’t have a need for regular photo uploads (which is most local businesses), the app and the Places for Business dashboard desktop provide little reason for regular visits to Places.

That being said, the Places Dashboard was built as a platform for the future and is able to readily be expanded with new functionality. One presumes that the mobile version is similarly designed. Google has not provided many reasons in the past for a business to continually check into their dashboard. This had lead to a situation where the listing data gets stale, the SMB understanding and appreciation of the product is decreased, passwords are lost and there is little opportunity for Google to entice the SMB with additional functionality, paid or otherwise.

My sense is that Google understands this and will, at some point in the future, provide increasing functionality to the SMB. Here’s hoping its sooner rather than later and that once Google gets past the very painful transition from the old to the new Places that we will see steady and valuable updates to the dashboards both mobile and desktop.

Here are some additional points provided to me by Google about the app:

Q: Why isn’t there an iOS version? When will you have it?
A: Our goal is to make this app available on iOS but we do not have a timeframe to share with you today. But we encourage you to keep an eye on the Google and Your Business blog for the latest developments.

Q: Will I be able to use the app outside the US? When?
A: Not at this time. The app is available for US businesses only. We do hope to expand its availability to other countries soon but don’t have anything to share with you today.

Q: How is this app different from “Page identity” in the Google+ app?
A: Great question…both apps do have some similar features. But there are some key differences that are important to point out. They are:

This new Places for Business app enables businesses to interact with all aspects of their information on Google. For instance, they can change their posted store hours as well as add photos to their business listings, and share via posts with customers. The changes made with this app will appear across Google properties including Search, Maps, Mobile and Google+.

The Page identity feature in the Google+ app enables you to view your business pages and use social features on those pages, such as updating circles and sharing posts and photos. Today, businesses cannot use the Google+ app to update their business information.

Q: Will I be able to manage my personal Google+ profile and/or my Brand page?
A: No. The Google Places for Business app will only let you manage local pages.

Q: Will I be able to read and respond to user reviews from the app?
A: No. At this time, it isn’t possible to view or respond to user reviews from the app.

Q: Does the app have any features that general consumers can use (e.g., to find or review businesses)?
A: No. The Google Places for Business app is specifically designed for merchants to manage their listings on Google.

Q: Can I claim or create new listings in the app?
A: The ability to claim or create new listings is not currently available. We’re working hard to make these actions possible, and we will update the app with them as soon as we can.

Full disclosure: I was the recipient of a loaner Nexus 4 from Google to test this product.