New Features, New Name for Google’s Local Business Center

Filed in Featured, Google, Local Search, Statistics by Matt McGee on April 19, 2010 19 Comments

places-logoGoogle’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 (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.

google maps

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.

Comments (19)

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  1. Ben says:

    So have the issues with the “Service Areas/Locations” tool you described last month been resolved?

    I am still a bit hesitant to go ahead and make a switch (I am a contractor) because of your previous post on this.

    • Matt McGee says:

      @Ben – if you go back and re-read that post, I was wrong in connecting my trouble with the new service area feature. Maps had other, borderline unexplainable malfunctions that caused my wife’s listing to be merged with another real estate agent.

      @John – I think that’s possible, but it’s too soon to say with any conviction one way or another.

      @Cindy – haven’t tried it myself, and I suspect there aren’t enough Average Joe’s out there who have the right phone/software to access a QR code decal, nor to know what to do with them. I think this is a low-adoption thing.

      @Liam – good questions, but don’t know either one. Sorry.

      @Cindy – part of my job as Assignment Editor for means that I communicate pretty regularly with their PR people in various departments.

  2. John says:

    Matt, do you think it’s likely that businesses that choose not to show their address may in general rank lower than businesses that do? I know there are a number of other ranking factors but it seems to me that a business choosing not to show their address may be perceived as less trustworthy.

  3. Cindy Lavoie says:

    Interesting stuff — thanks for the update! We haven’t tried the QR Codes yet — does anyone have experience with this? Is this Google’s answer to FourSquare? Would love to hear what others have found with it.

  4. Liam says:

    Any ideas when it reaches the UK?

    Also any idea how Google will “select” local photographers??

  5. Rich says:

    I wouldn’t go near the new “service areas/locations” until we get the green light from Google. I activated my listing when it first came out and I fell off the face of Google Maps. It took about 3 days to get my listing back to where it was… carefull.

  6. Cindy Lavoie says:

    Where do you get your Google updates from? Are you willing to share your source for the latest information on Google Local/Google Places news?

  7. Thos003 says:

    Have you seen the service area in action? Not really what I was hoping for… All you get from it is a little link on your listing that says “Show service area”….,+NV&view=text&ei=ymLPS96gMY_WsgOc1qWvDg&ved=0CBQQtwMwAA&ll=36.189984,-115.20813&spn=0.193127,0.308647&z=12&iwloc=B

    And yet the maps continue to fill up with spam…

  8. Debra says:


    It would be useful if users had the option to select “Do not show my business address on my maps listing” when the “No all customers come to the business location” is selected.

    My business is run from home but I don’t want to show the address. However my market is the whole of the UK, not restricted to a distance.

    I wonder It there a way of doing this?

  9. Thos003 says:


    That is an option… but use at your own risk. When I used this option it removed my company for local searches on the maps.

    More specifically, North Las Vegas location shows for “North Las Vegas Pest Control” I tried the “Hide Address” option. **POOF** No address, and no longer in the results.

  10. Hubert says:

    I wonder how much of the 20% of local searches on Google are zip code related verses the city and state? Do you think they will release this data? Some of the search data for locales can be obtained through the adwords keyword tool but only is a certain volume is reached.

    • Matt McGee says:

      Hubert – from looking at my own analytics for several local sites/blogs, there are very few searches that use a zip code. I suspect that might be different, though, in a bigger city where zip codes are more dense.

  11. Thos003 says:

    I don’t think the 20% of local was determined by just zip codes, or just searches with GEO names,i.e. “Phoenix Hair Salon”

    By watching their visitors and the ads they click on and the results they click on google has determined that one someone search for “Dentist” they want a local result.

    When I am searching for “pest control” I want a local company. Google was smart to give the little guys a shot at the first page. Sure there may be an Porkin and Termipest in almost every major U.S. city, and they’ve got the money to be on the first page of Google, but the internet revolutionized business. Why? Because it was a field leveler. Maps, as much as I hate them, I love them for being a field leveler.

  12. Debra says:


    Thanks for the reply.

    Not for me, it’s only an option when:

    “yes this business serves customers at their locations”
    not when
    “No all customers come to the business location” is selected, which would be a useful option.

  13. Mara Alexander says:

    One thing that frustrates me with Google Local Business Center/Places is the company email address looks as if it’s required. It isn’t.

    Problem is, that text box will only take a standardly formatted email address, as opposed to the URL to a contact page.

    How I get around that is to not include the email address, but create a new category and label it “Contact Us” with a link to the contact page.

    Why do this? SPAM. A day after I added my own company’s LBC listing, I suddenly became popular with every SEO company on the planet.

  14. Thos003 says:

    @Debra… Yep you are correct. It’s only available when using the service areas.

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