Google is extending its offerings for small, local businesses with the addition of city pages highlighting Google Places pages and Google Offers for San Francisco, CA, and Charlotte, NC. Google also seems to be rolling out a free website program.
The New City Pages
City pages were first introduced back in mid-June, at which time the product was rolled out for Austin, Texas; Madison, Wisconsin; Portland, Oregon; and San Diego, California. The city pages gave local website owners a dashboard that allowed access to their local business presentation on multiple Google fronts, including Google Offers and Google Places.
The city pages also allow users to: find top-rated places; find special deals; sort through community spotlights; browse upcoming events in the area; see top-rated locations; and filter through options like "vegetarian," "coffee," "romantic," and "laptop-friendly." Even users who aren't aware of the city pages may end up using the tool, because these pages are indexed by Google.
Now users and business owners in both San Francisco, California, and Charlotte, North Carolina, will be able to take advantage of those features, as announced in a recent Google blog entry. In San Francisco, the local events and Google Offers features are already integrated, while Charlotte is starting out with just the Places highlights. There's little doubt that Places has just become more important for business owners in those two regions.
Free Websites, Courtesy of Google
However, Google Places isn't the only way that Google wants local businesses to present themselves on the web. The company has started an initiative to help small business owners get a website up in as little time as possible and with minimal cost.
Initially launched in the UK, the program since spread to Canada and Australia. Now, it seems to be making its way to the U.S.
The "Get Vermont Online" program, which offers a free domain name, website builder, and one year of hosting, was released to local business owners through seminars in Burlington and Rutland, Vermont. However, as noted by Mike Blumenthal, Google seems to be preparing a nationwide release, having launched the "gettexasonline.com" site and having transferred roughly a hundred domain names in the format of either "stategetonline.com" or "getstateonline.com."
Google is offering the free websites with the help of partners, including Intuit. A limited version of the Intuit website builder that allows the creation of three pages is being offered to new webmasters.