On Thursday I went to lunch with Sage Lewis at his favorite restaurant in Akron, Rancheros Taqueria. Although I feel their food is very good and more 'authentic' than most Tex-Mex we get in Ohio, they are not my favorite due to their lack of a Margarita/liquor license which I sorely wish they would get.
As we sat down, Sage whips out his phone and proceeds to check-in at FourSquare for he is the "mayor" of this fine Mexican restaurant. Our conversation turns to 4sq and our likes and dislikes with what they offer and where they've gone in the past couple of years. We both have our +'s and -'s but one thing is clear: Local is BIG. Unbeknownst to the people running this establishment it has a very direct correlation to us being here this very day.
Google knows this. It's why I believe Marissa Mayer got moved there. It's why Google Places has just released the search functionality for 50 million places and why Google Boost could be the next big thing with SMB's.
Today we're introducing Place Search, a new kind of local search result that organizes the world's information around places. We've clustered search results around specific locations so you can more easily make comparisons and decide where to go. Say you're looking for that great barbecue restaurant with live music. With Place Search here's what you'll get:
The essence of this most recent change is that has changes they way it groups and orgnizes local listings. The importance of getting your local business fully listed in Google Pages does not change at all.
The purpose of the new Google Place Search is to cram as much potentially relevant information into the same amount of space as possible to let you, the user, sort it out for them.
In our new layout you'll find many more relevant links on a single results page--often 30 or 40. Instead of doing eight or 10 searches, often you'll get to the sites you're looking for with just one search. In our testing Place Search saves people an average of two seconds on searches for local information.
Two seconds! Can you believe it? What will you do with all that spare time? Pay attention small businesses everywhere.. Google Places is where you need to be. Right now. I don't have many seconds to spare.
Other than the extensive time saving features you'll love, Google has given us a link to preview how the new Place Search works. You can kick it's tires and test it out here. All my joking aside, this is a major change in how local is going to shape the future of search. You can compare those SERP's to the current version to see how things are going to be changing monumentally.
Note how how local results are much more prominent, pushing more generic content below the fold while showcasing the Place pages and aggregate data collected from places like Yelp and Citysearch. Also important to note is the map that is on the right hand side that sits above the Adwords Ads 4th position. When you scroll down the page, the map stays in a fixed position on your screen and completely blocks the PPC ads all down the right hand side! Advertisers need to definitely pay attention to this. Things do seem to go back to normal on page 2 of the results but with all this new information overload on page 1, how many people will make it to the 2nd page at all?
Here's how it looks above the fold:
Here's the scrolling map covering the ads:
Google keeps throwing curveballs. Is your small business ready to step up to the plate? Google Places would be a good place for you to start as it's more important than ever.
kudos @Danny Goodwin for the screenshots