Welcome to the Era of Google+ Local
"Wait, what?" you might say. Ending a year of speculation as to how (it was never really an "if") Google+ Pages for Businesses would impact Google Places, yesterday Google flipped the switch on the integration. 80 Million Google Place Pages were converted to existing Google+ pages, but if a business has not yet created a Google+ page, the Place page is still active.
The new Google+ Local page contains most of the same information previously on the Google Place page. A map, reviews, photos (served via tab), general location and the biggest new change, an area that captures and scores ratings. By the way Google, you might want to name that area of the page, since it's kinda hard to describe. The ratings served up are a combination from the Zagat guide, Google reviews, and will certainly also include any reviews from people in your circles.
These Google+ Local pages will be delivered through search on Google.com, Google Maps and Google+, all yielding slightly different search result pages. Additionally, the Places layer on Google Maps on android mobile will also deliver this improved content, so be sure to check that out. One new change to note with Google+ Local is the addition of a tab on the left-side nav bar of your Google+ Page. It delivers recommended places near your current location and also allows you to publish (and be credited for) any of your previously written Google reviews. There does not seem to be a way to personalize the content on this page (yet) but it's likely in the works.
OK -- so what does it all mean?
Well, if you are a small business and had not set up a Google+ Page, you've got no reason to wait around any longer. You should also list your business through Google Places, if you haven't already. The official "Google and Your Business" blog mentions that business information will continue to be managed through the Google Places portal.
And here's the clincher: Google+ Local pages will be indexed on Google-- unlike Google Places, Facebook or Twitter. From an SEO perspective, there will be a tremendous advantage for businesses that deploy their Google+ Local pages over those that do not. There are certain to be additional changes as the integration rolls out, so stay tuned.