Tag Archives | Google Places

Google Hotpot Advances the Assault on Yelp

For a while, Google’s been morphing its local business directory into a Yelp rival, but Google Hotpot is the most obvious offensive yet.

The big problem with Google’s local results, up until now, is their reliance on reviews from other Websites. Sure, Google has its own ratings and reviews, but for any given business, links to Yelp, UrbanSpoon and other sites are more prominent. And rightfully so; those sites have far more user participation than Google does on its own.

Hotpot is an attempt to build Google’s review database a lot faster, while also making it more social. Continue Reading →

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Google Place Search is No Yelp Killer (But Maybe That’s Not the Point)

Google Places is getting a kick in the pants with more information delivered automatically in search results.

The newly-announced Place Search will be part of standard Google search. When the engine thinks you’re looking for local information, it returns mostly local businesses as results. Google already does this to some extent, but only in a small bubble of listings next to a local map. The new results have longer descriptions and review snippets, and when you scroll down the page, the little map follows along in your browser window. (Place Search is rolling out over the next few days, but you can see a preview here.)

Google is also adding a “Places” link in the left sidebar, should you want to see only local results. This comes in handy when searching for a specific menu item or attraction, like “foosball,” which might not trigger Place Search on its own.

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Google Strengthens Local Business Services

Google has taken a big step forward in providing local businesses a way to reach out to customers by beefing up Google Local Business, now known as “Google Places.” The search giant hopes that the stronger offering draws more local businesses to use Google to promote their services.

“One out of five searches on Google are related to location, and we want to make sure that businesses are able to be found and put their best foot forward,” Google Maps vice president John Hanke said.

Having used Google Places myself for my side job at a ski shop here in Reading, Pa., these changes are pretty exciting. For many small businesses — especially new ones like ours — the quickest way to get on the map and attract customers is through the Internet.

Service and home-based businesses will benefit through the ability to define service areas, allowing customers to more accurately find businesses that serve them. Additionally, home-based businesses that don’t want to make their home addresses public can hide them from the listing if they so desire.

In select cities, the company is offering free photo shoots of the interior to supplement the exterior photos already on the Places pages of the business. While the company says a business owner could do this themselves, the Google photographers will come with panoramic and fish-eye lenses to photograph the business, something the business owner may not have.

Finally, the company is taking advantage of QR code technology, giving Places pages users the opportunity to print out their own QR code to post in their windows (here, try the ski shop’s on the right). A customer can scan this, which then would take them to a mobile version of the Places web page.

The company had started to use these in a “Favorite Places” campaign it launched last December to 100,000 of the most searched for businesses nationwide on Google: it has now expanded that to an additional 50,000 businesses on top of offering the service to all who choose to use it.

Google’s latest changes to Places follow some others that have been introduced over the past few months, including the ability to post real-time updates — useful for promotions, sales, and the like — and coupons, which the business owner can even format for the mobile phone.