Google’s Local Business Center is undergoing a round of changes tonight, including a name change. Forget the “Local Business Center” name; it’s now called Google Places and can be accessed at google.com/places. (Actually, the old URLs you’ve used before will still work.)
But that’s just the most basic of all the changes Google has just announced. Here’s a look at what else is new under the hood at Google’s
Local Business Center Places:
Services Areas/Locations: The tool I wrote about last month is now official. It lets local businesses without a storefront or office use Google Places by defining a local coverage area while not revealing a physical address.
Flat-rate Ads – “Tags”: I think Google has been calling these “enhanced listings” for the last couple months. They’re now called Tags. For $25/month, local businesses can add a link to photos, videos, their web site or other content and it shows up right in the business listings. They’ve been available in Houston and San Jose, and now they’re also available in Austin, Atlanta, and Washington, DC. Chicago, San Diego, Seattle, Boulder, and San Francisco will be added soon. A Google spokesperson tells me they don’t know yet about larger rollouts beyond those cities.
Interior Business Photos: This sounds similar to what Search Engine Land covered a couple months ago. Basically, Google is going to contract with local photographers to take photos of the interior of businesses and add those photos to Google Places. This will be free for the business owner. Local businesses can put in a request here.
Will the business be able to pick and choose which photos get used? The FAQ says yes: “Google will use a representative sample of photos from different locations within your business, including a picture of your business from the outside. However, if you’re not happy with them, you can upload different photos of your own through Google Places.”
A Google spokesperson wouldn’t say how much the local photographers are being paid. This service is only available now in select cities in the U.S., Australia, and Japan.
QR Codes for All: All businesses registered with Google Places can access a unique QR code and use it as they see fit.
More Favorite Places: Another 50,000 or so local businesses in the US will be getting those Favorite Places decals.
Local Dashboard in More Countries: The Google Places dashboard is now available in the following countries: Brazil, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Finland, Hungary, Japan, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Thailand, and China.
Interesting Local Stats
Google has also shared some interesting local stats as part of this announcement:
- 20% of searches on Google are “related to location”
- There are 50 million place pages
- More than four million business listings have been claimed on Google, and almost two million of those are in the U.S.
On that 20% number above, Google tells me that it includes searches with local intent that don’t have a geographic modifier, like “dry cleaners,” for example.