Google Places

In what appears to be an effort to support local business, build a more robust travel database, and stem the tide of other sites in this arena, Google is expanding it’s “Business Center” feature to integrate with the place pages feature launched last year.   The combined effort is called “Google Places” and it’s a very good idea that appears to have the backing of Google’s massive promotional / advertising / search juggernaut.     Today in “Introducing Google Places“, over at the official Google blog, John Hanke of the development team writes:

we want to better connect Place Pages — the way that businesses are being found today — with the tool that enables business owners to manage their presence on Google.

Google is adding several feature to the site, such as free photo shoots of business interiors (a clever idea!), real time business updates, and $25 business advertising.

I remember talking with Google several years ago at a search conference about how they were struggling with ways to support and expand their local business features.    They could not hire an army of salespeople and wanted to partner with sites that were working the local angles.    Luckily for Google most businesses now have broadband and a much higher level of internet savvy and acceptance, so Google can effectively bypass partnerships with intermediaries and work directly and scalably with local business.    Seems like a winner for everybody but the intermediary sites like Yelp, CitySearch, and TripAdvisor, all of which offer similar features.   This may be good for most but will diminish the value of sites that will need to compete with Google Places for the attention of people and advertisers.