With one of every five Google searches now related to location-specific queries--translating to more than 20 billion searches per month worldwide--it's no surprise the digital services kingpin continues to channel more of its energies into solutions optimized for local businesses. Chief among them: Place Pages, a Yelp rival that provides information on local retailers, restaurants, landmarks, transit stations and related points of interest.
In April, Google changed the name of its Local Business Center to Google Places to underscore its tighter integration with Place Pages. According to Google, more than 4 million businesses have claimed their Place Pages, posting contact information, hours, photos, video clips and coupons. Business owners can use Place Pages to get customer feedback and communicate with patrons, and a personalized dashboard compiles data including how many times people have found your firm on Google and what keywords they used to sniff it out.
Other new Google Places features:
Real-time updates: Businesses can keep customers apprised of sales and new merchandise and post coupons (including discounts formatted for mobile phones).
Tags: For $25 a month, businesses in select cities can add Tags (yellow markers promoting aspects of their businesses) to their Google.com and Google Maps listings to stand out.
Photo shoots: Companies in select cities can request free photo sessions to spotlight the business interiors.
Customized QR codes: QR codes are matrix codes designed for high-speed conversion via camera-enabled mobile phones. Businesses can download unique codes to include on marketing materials.
Favorite Places: Businesses that generate a lot of Google searches are recognized as Favorite Places. Recipients get a window decal.
Chicago-based writer Jason Ankeny is the executive editor of Fiercemobile content, a daily electronic newsletter dedicated to mobile media, applications and marketing.