In September Google released Google Place Pages in its effort to create a Web page for every business on the Web (and, of course, take away a little steam from Yelp). Last week they offered up two new features to help make the service a bit more interactive and useful for users and business owners.
The new features also give SMB owners yet another reason to claim both their Google Local Business Listing AND their Google Place Page. It’s just one big ball of Google rolling out of Mountain View.
First, the two additions.
Post to your Place Page
Business owners who claim their listing through the Local Business Center will be able to post short updates on their pages directly through their LBC dashboard. Consider it another Twitter feed that will show up directly on your Place page. This will give you the opportunity to post about upcoming events, let customers know what’s fresh out of the oven, offer daily coupons, etc. It’s a strong sign to your community that your page is up to date and that you’ve had a hand in creating it. It helps them to trust the information that they’re reading.
Get a Badge For Your Claimed Place Page
To add extra cred and authority to their Google Place Page, business owners can claim their listings and receive a badge they can place on their page to tell customers that the listing has been verified. It will look something like this:
[click to enlarge]
While both features are certainly helpful new additions, they’re a little underwhelming. If Google created Place Pages as a way to compete with Yelp and become the go-to hub for local businesses, then they should really be looking for ways to open up the walls and let SMB owners use these Place Pages as a way to aggregate all of their information. Instead of letting them post updates from the LBC, let them integrate Twitter right onto the page. Why give them double work? Let them bring in their Yelp listings so customers don’t even have to visit the site. Let them post pictures from Picasa or Flickr. Google should be looking for ways to make Place pages branded portal pages that SMB owners can build out and control.
Matt McGee posted his comments on the new features in a post entitled Alerts on Place Pages? I Want More From Google and lists off 7 ways he thinks Google could improve the pages. I think Google would be wise to heed some of his advice because he outlines the exact direction that these pages should be going.
If you want SMB owners to claim their listings and to start looking as Google as a centralized place to house their information, then Google needs to start breaking down the walls to allow them to that. Let them use third-party widgets to highlight where they live elsewhere on the Web. Import reviews. Turn these Place Pages into business hubs. Not only are you going to encourage SMBs owners to claim their pages, but you’re also going to get customers into the habit of checking for these pages the way they do right now for Yelp.
And isn’t that the point? To make Place Pages the Wikipedia of the SMB world? While the new additions to Place Pages are helpful, they’re pretty unremarkable.
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I hear what you’re saying Lisa – make Google Place Pages much more useful to SMB. But this is a good start. In fact, most of the challenges we marketers have is to get small business owners attention and time long enough to get them to care and act even in terms of just claiming their local business listing! I did a 3-part series on my blog just to try and give SMB owners a simple, practical and step-by-step process to claim and promote their local business listing: http://zephyrmarketing.net/2009/12/17/intro-to-googles-local-business-listings/
Allow me to play devil’s advocate:
Say that Google did give you all the options you wanted to make your Places Page a real hub, the “Wikipedia of the SMB world”. The key constraint of the SMB is time and this becomes one more online location demanding time and attention. Wouldn’t the time and effort be spent more effectively on their own website? What do you think Lisa?
Robert: I definitely see that point, but there should be able to aggregate the information through widgets so you’re not really spending that much time ‘updating’ the site…it’s updating automatically as you move around the Web. Yes, it’s going to be another page that SMB owners are going to have to watch out for and manage…but I’d argue it’s already turning into that now since reviews are being put on the page.
Thanks for the update Lisa.
Interesting stuff going around in the “location” services. You are talking about Yelp. I heard that they now have a service similar to geolocation tool like Gowalla and Foursquare.
Great update but what about businesses which have no physical location – i.e. online only.
For the local businesses, it is a long and arduous process for many to verify their listings and this is part of the way towards incentivizing going through the process.