Today, the Official Google Blog announced that the Local Business Center is becoming Google Places. Why? According to John Hanke, Google's VP Google Maps, Earth and Local, "Millions of people use Google every day to find places in the real world, and we want to better connect Place Pages -- the way that businesses are being found today -- with the tool that enables business owners to manage their presence on Google."
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Google launched Place Pages for Google Maps last September. Since then, four million businesses have claimed their Place Page on Google through the Local Business Center, which enables them to verify and supplement their business information to include hours of operation, photos, videos, coupons, product offerings and more.
Google Places will continue to offer these same tools, but it is also introducing several new features:
- Service areas: If you travel to serve customers, you can now show which geographic areas you serve. And if you run a business without a storefront or office location, you can now make your address private.
- A new way to advertise: For just $25 per month, businesses in select cities can make their listings stand out on Google.com and Google Maps with Tags. As of today, Google has rolled out Tags to Austin, Atlanta, Houston, San Jose, and Washington, D.C. In the coming weeks, it will be introducing Tags in Boulder, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle.
- Business photo shoots: In addition to uploading their own photos, businesses in select cities can now request a free photo shoot of the interior of their business which Google will use to supplement existing photos of businesses on Place Pages. Google has been experimenting with this over the past few months, and now have created a site for businesses to learn more and express their interest in participating.
- Customized QR codes: From the dashboard page of Google Places, businesses in the U.S. can download a QR code that's unique to their business, directly from their dashboard page. QR codes can be placed on business cards or other marketing materials, and customers can scan them with certain smartphones to be taken directly to the mobile version of the Place Page for that business.
- Favorite Places: Google is doing a second round of its Favorite Places program, and are mailing window decals to 50,000 businesses around the U.S. These decals include a QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone to directly view the mobile Place Page for the business to learn more about their offerings.
Over the past few months Google has also added the ability for business owners to post real-time updates to their Place Page. You might want to promote a sale, a special event or anything else that you want customers to know right now, and this feature lets you communicate that directly to your customers. You can also provide extra incentive by adding coupons, including ones specially formatted for mobile phones.
Hanke added, "To keep track of how your business listing is performing on Google, we offer a personalized dashboard within Google Places that includes data about how many times people have found your business on Google, what keywords they used to find it and even what areas people traveled from to visit your business. With the dashboard, you can see how your use of any of these new features affects interest in your business and make more informed decisions about how to be found on Google and interact with your customers."
One out of five searches on Google are related to location, so it makes sense to take advantage of the new features announced by Google Places today. But they would have been worth using even if the name hadn't changed.
Hanke says there will be additional posts on the Lat Long blog throughout the week to provide a deeper dive into many of these new features. Or, if you're already to get started, go to google.com/places.
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