When Google moved the business Place pages to Google Plus last year, they started to slowly transition their small business dashboards to the new environment as well. Hopefully, soon there will be one consolidated dashboard where a business will be able to give Google their basic business information, add photos, buy Adwords Express/Offers, add videos and upgrade to a social stream if they so desire.
But many business listing are only part way through this transition process. It is even more confusing if you are an agency or small business looking at the businesses Plus page (aka the Places page) from the outside and trying to understand what stage the business is in. Fortunately there are subtle visual cues that indicate where a given business is in this process.
Here is a visual guide that can help you look at a given local business page in Google Plus and understand what state it is in so that you know what you might need to do next.
Unclaimed Google+ Page (previously known as a Places Page)
Google, in wanting to show every business in the world in there local products will auto-generate a listing from their third party sources. When first brought into Google the page is unclaimed and has not yet been verified by the business. An unclaimed Google+ Page will have only two tabs (About & Photos) at the top of the page and no description below the category and hours. If you claim one of these pages it will take you to the new Google Places for Business Dashboard where you can add extra details and verify it.
Claimed Google+ Page via the old Places for Business Dashboard (previously known as a Places Page)
A page that is currently claimed into the old Places Dashboard looks very similar to the unclaimed page in having only the two tabs at the top. The page is likely to have photos that have been added by the business owner although Google may have added photos from around the web. Even though the page has been claimed there is no verification badge. The truly distinguishing feature is a (up to) 200 character business description preceded by a " symbol.
Interestingly listings that have been claimed into the old dashboard can be claimed into a second dashboard by a different account. This was a "feature" of the old dashboard to allow a business that lost the login to reclaim their listings. This capability that will be disappearing with the new dashboard but this type of listing can still be reclaimed. If the account used to claim the listing has a new dashboard then the listing will be claimed into the new dashboard. If the account has an old dashboard then the listing will be claimed into an old dashboard.... still confusing, I know. Don't blame me.
Claimed Google+ Page via the new Places for Business Dashboard
Like with the previous two examples, a listing only claimed into the new dashboard will have but two tabs at the top. There are however two distinguishing features of the page. Firstly, and most importantly, there is a verification check mark next to the name. The description can have as many as 5000 characters so on many businesses claimed into the new dashboard it will be longer than the measly 200 characters allowed in the old dashboard. In theory the description field in the new dashboard supports rich text and hyperlinks. In fact when you edit it, you are allowed to add bolds, underlines and italics. However that feature has never worked properly and the rich text edits made in the dashboard do not show up on the business's G+ Page. Google has indicated that this feature will some day work but no one is saying when.
Unlike a listing claimed into the old dashboard, this type of listing can not be reclaimed without the previous owner "removing it" from their dashboard or via assistance by Google.
Note: it is possible to "downgrade" a social local page to look like this by removing the video and social tabs via the G+ Pages management settings interface thus these visual guidelines don't apply 100% but reflect the most common default layouts.
Verified Google+ Page for local with a Social Stream
Like the page claimed via the new dashboard this page will have verified checkmark and possibly a longer description. The page however is distinguished by the fact that there are four tabs at the top and the map in the header is replaced by a header photo. This page type can have been created in a number of ways. The page could have been created via the G+ Page management interface and merged with a non social local listing. A business with the new dashboard and that has a Google+ personal account with the same email might have created it with the one button upgrade option.
Recently, in some accounts with the new dashboard, Google has started to automatically add the social & video feature without the need for the business to have a personal G+ account. This is significant for businesses large and small that want to manage a social presence for the company but do not wish to have to have a G+ personal account to do so. This move seems to portend a time when all dashboards will have ready access to the same features and there will be but a single interface for the business to manage the listing. That time can not come soon enough.
There can also be a an unverified social Google+ Page for local created within the G+ Page management environment by a G+ personal account. Since the page is unverified and not associated with a business listing in the Google local knowledge base it has little value to most businesses. It would look just like the page above but would be missing the verification check mark.
Whenever one talks about Google local there is always the chance to increase confusion and not allay it. Hopefully this visual guide will do the latter for you rather than the former.