As of yesterday your beloved Google Local Business Center has a new name and a new, more locally- based attitude. The LBC would now like to be called Google Places and for your trouble is willing to offer small business owners several new features. Google says the name change was intended to make a more clear connection with Google Place Pages. Or maybe because they just got the domain. Who knows.
What can SMB expect from the newly branded Google Places?
- Local Service Areas: We already covered this one in a recent SmallBizTrends post.
- New Tag Listings: For $25 per month, businesses in select cities can make their listings stand out on Google.com and Google Maps using Tags. The tags are currently only available in Austin, Atlanta, Washington, D.C. Houston and San Jose, CA. More cities are expected to be introduced soon.
- Business photo shoots: In select cities, SMBs can request a free photo shoot of the interior of their business. Google will then use the images to supplement existing photos on Place Pages. [How cool!]
- QR codes: US-based businesses can download a QR code from their dashboard that is unique to their business. The QR codes can then be placed on marketing materials, which will take customers to their mobile site once scanned with a mobile device.
- More Favorite Places: Google will be sending out more window decals to 50,000 businesses around the U.S. as part of its Favorite Places program.
- Real-Time Updates: Not necessarily new, but worth another mention, nonetheless. A few months back Google added the ability for business owners to post real-time updates to promote sales and use mobile coupons to help drive foot traffic into the store.
You may notice that many of the “new” features are things we’ve already soon or heard were coming. It looks like Google tried to pull out all the stops when announcing the rebranded of Google Local Business Center to get maximum attention.
With so many geolocation services sprouting up, Google wants to make sure that they plant themselves as the source of local on the Web and they’re getting their ducks in a row to do that.
As part of its announcement, Google also revealed some interesting stats to demonstrate the power of Google Places and local search as a whole. For example, Google shared that four million businesses are now set up with a Google Place listing (2 million claimed) and that one out of five searches have a local intent. That’s a huge testament to the power of local search and Google’s foothold in the space.
To help small business owners further, Google will be holding introductory a series of webinars to get SMBs up to speed. You may want to check that out. If you haven’t read Google’s announcement, I really recommend that you do. Everything you need to know about Google Places and how small business owners should be taking advantage of local search is there for the taking. With 20 percent of all Google searches having a local intent, there’s a huge opportunity there for the small business owner. But before you can be found, you have to be listed.