This is part of a general clean-up of unclaimed or dormant pages/listings. Blog author Mike Blumenthal has also asserted that the move “is a final step in separating local from Plus.” Indeed, it would appear to be part of the larger move away from Google+.
Here’s an excerpt from a Google email that has been circulating in local forums and local search blogs:
In the past few months, you may have seen some changes in the look of Google+ pages that have been associated with Google My Business (GMB) accounts. These changes, including how we treat business pages without owners, are part of Google’s ongoing effort to simplify people’s experience with our tools. We are constantly working to provide only valuable and rich content to our users.
On July 28, Google will begin shutting down those GMB-associated Google+ pages that have not been associated with user accounts and are also not verified. You may find that some of your Business View tours also sit on such pages, but note that after this removal of unverified Google+ pages, the Business View tours will still remain available on Google Maps and Google Search.
Unclaimed Google+ pages are not good for the product or for users. In addition, Google is creating incentives here for people to claim their listings and actively engage with Google My Business.
Some folks are celebrating the move (Phil Rozek):
“To me this just seems to be more a long-overdue house cleaning . . . “
But others (Joy Hawkins) have raised concerns it will make the work of local SEOs harder:
Am I the only one thinking that this will actually make our (SEOs) jobs harder? For me, the unverified pages show me insight into bad NAP or things I need to fix for clients. Without that insight I feel like diagnosing is just about to get harder…
Here’s what the Google Maps team recommends:
Encourage your business customers to verify their listings if they wish to retain their Google My Business page . . .
If a business owner decides later that they would like to have a Google My Business page, please advise them to create a new page and verify their listing. The Business View virtual tour can be then transferred to the new verified listing. Please log a case to our support teams to request that images for your business customer be forwarded to the new GMB page.
Please point your business customer to their images in Google Maps.
Do you agree this is a welcome development? Do you think, as Mike Blumenthal suggests, that this is a final uncoupling of Google+ and local search?