By Guest blogger and Leasing Specialist James King

Recently, Google decided to ditch its Google Places site in favor of a brand new application.  The new, revamped Google+ Local integrates the best of both the Places site and the social network Google+.  Much like its previous iteration, Google+ Local is the first thing customers will see when they search for your company’s property.  So with these new changes, how should your business adapt to increase your customer base?

The most game-changing feature is the new Google ratings and reviews feature.  For several months, users have been able to leave reviews of companies that would show up on the business’ Google Places page.  After the revamp, these reviews are front-and-center.  As soon as a potential customer puts your name into the search engine, they will be able to see what others have been saying.  Google’s star ratings have also been replaced with a Zagat style scoring system.  When a user writes a review, they are asked to rate the business on a scale of 0-30.  Once enough reviews are compiled Google assigns a score from 0-30, 0 being very poor and 30 is approaching perfection.  This number is in a prime location directly under your company name.  Because of this, it is VITAL to keep track of your online reputation.  Several bad reviews will mar your image, and will influence prospects to take their business elsewhere. Thankfully, Google has also implemented a feature we have often requested, the ability to apply to reviews.  Once a review is posted, the owner’s of your page can respond to the post.  This gives management the opportunity to shine by offering to right any wrongs that may have been committed in the past.  The more reviews your receive, the easier it is for your page to appear higher on Google.  Try to encourage all of your customers to leave a review on the new Google page.  Unfortunately, customers who have bad experiences tend to take the time to write a scathing post more often than those who enjoyed your product.  Whether through consistent follow-up or incentivizing users, make sure that you have positive reviews of your business on Google.

The layout of the new Google+ Local can also go a long way to show off your property.  On the very top of your business’s Google page user’s can see images that you have uploaded, as well as those uploaded by other Google users.  This means you can’t rely on the same photos that you have used everywhere else.  If your residents upload a picture to your page that shows a trashed lawn, poor amenities, or damaged property, that will also show up on your page.  This is all the more reason to consistently check up on your property’s online reputation.  Google users also have the ability to +1 any picture you have, which shows up in the users Google+ feed and spreads your image to his/her circles of friends.

With these new changes to Google, it’s more important than ever to stay on top of your online reputation.  Better yet, encourage your residents to review your property and upload their favorite photos of the property.  Once you have established a few good reviews and some great photos to show off your property, prospects will come flocking to see what all of the online buzz is about!