Google Rebrands LBC as Google Places and Adds Features

Correction 8:50 am: Google “inadvertently included the wrong screenshot on the press site – the image of the dashboard featuring the option to add a map and download KML. We’re always testing features internally and may or may not release them; we didn’t intend to indicate that we were launching these features”.

Google announced earlier today, the rebranding of the Local Business Center as Google Places. As part of this rebranding Google has:
-Expanded availability and rebranded their fixed price enhanced listing feature as “Tags”. It appears to have moved from a test to a permanent foray into a simple fixed priced ($25/mo) SMB product.

Added the ability for business owners to more easily generate KML files and Location maps for their websites from within the Dashboard.

-Added the ability for business owners to generate a business specific QR code from within the Google Places (LBC) interface

-Announced the availability of Business Photo Shoots where “businesses in select cities can now request a free photo shoot of the interior of their business which we’ll use to supplement existing photos of businesses on Place Pages.”

Google also noted that over 2 million businesses in the US (4 million worldwide) have claimed their listings with Google and that 20% of searches on Google are related to location (somewhere close to 2 billion a month) . That amounts to roughly one in every 7 businesses that have claimed their business listing.

While the announcement may seem to some a simple rebranding or a minor upgrade, it may be more than it appears on the surface.

More business marketing and engagement: By creating a single brand that unifies Places Pages and the claiming process, Google is attempting to make the process more obvious to SMBs. They are also offering an overview webinar and outreach on the business photo shoot participation. Clearly over the past year, Google has been making an attempt to educate and engage SMBs in the claiming process and that seems to be accelerating.

Formalizing one leg of their monetization strategy: If you assume that only 15% of the businesses that have claimed their listing participate in the “Tags” enhanced listing product, it will generate over $180 millions annually in just the US. As part of this rollout Google also re-introduced their Service Area feature that was rolled out earlier in the month. This feature really has to be understood as part and parcel of their monetization strategy rather than part of their relevance or ranking algos.

Rolled out several Google Places (LBC) features: Google is formally embracing KML, QR codes and attempting to make creating a business map more obvious. These endorsements are significant in their own right. The broadspread adoption of QR codes could bridge the mobile and business marketing worlds accelerating uptake of both. Over the past few years, Google’s development pattern has been to upgrade their Maps product and then rollout additional features in rapid succession. I believe that this could very well be the case here.

Google Maps: The Good News; Rogers MN Has Been Found

I love Google Maps even though it seems that most every day with Google Maps is a Good News, Bad News sort of day. Do you want the Good News first or the Bad News?

The Good News is that Rogers, MN, the poster child for lost Google towns, has found its rightful place in the pantheon of American towns…it is once again visible on Google Maps after being missing for 27 days and some odd hours. The police, fire department and Cabelas can all be found and life can once again return to normal.

Like Rogers, Imperial Beach Ca can also now be found.

The Bad News? Wickliffe Ohio and Woodstock VA are still counted amongst the missing.

Google Maps #2 Map Provider in US- #1 Mapping Site in US? Google Maps API

This talk, The New Meaning of Mapping, was given last week by Michael Jones, Google’s Chief Technology Advocate, at theWhere2.0 conference. Previously he was Chief Technologist of Google Maps, Earth, and Local Search and was originally responsible for development of the technology used in the creation of Google Earth. The presentation includes a number of interesting nuggets

  • Google Maps is #2 mapping provider, Mapquest #3. #1 Mapping provider in the US is not Google Maps, nor Mapquest but the Google Maps API
  • How do you make the Map a place of business? Need to move from lack of information, to information, to actionable information.
  • More people use Google Earth on the iPhone than on the Mac

  • If you have any doubt about Google Mapping ambitions be sure to watch the chronological video of Street View driving to date at 12:08 into the movie. Google clearly sees Mapping as the place where business will take place going into the future.

    Will the Real Google LBC Ad Please Stand Up!

    I am not an Adwords expert and do not follow closely the issues around brand integrity etc with Adwords. I do know that Google has been criticized in the past for being too liberal in allowing others to leverage a brand and also they have been criticized (although exonerated) for allowing deceptive ads to be shown.

    I find it ironic that they should in fact suffer the same fate with their ads promoting the Local Business Center. When you do a search for something like Google Maps Place Rank you are now shown ads that look like they might be from Google. What do you get from these Google Wannabes (both are in fact owned by the same company) for $299?


    Impressive claim eh? When I showed the ads to my wife (a small sample indeed but the only civilian at hand), she was angry that Google would claim the top two spots for themselves.

    It does appear that these ads do violate Google’s Trademark policy. I guess someone at Google should report this violation to Google so that potential users of Google’s LBC are not deceived.

    Yelp Announces Transparent View of Filtered Reviews to Increase Trust

    I received this email from Yelp today announcing increased transparency around filtered reviews, the end of the “Favorite Review” option for advertisers and a SMB advisory council.

    Here is the email that was sent:

    This Week: About that Review Filter…

    A few weeks ago, we directed you to a detailed explanation (
    YelpFilter ) of the process Yelp has in place to only display reviews written by the most established users. Known as the Review Filter (or spam algorithm), it’s been a big part of Yelp’s explosive growth over the las=
    t 5 years.

    But keeping Yelp a trusted resource for 30 million people per month isn’t an easy task, and we’re constantly exploring ways to keep Yelp truly helpful for both business owners and consumers. Today, we announced ( http=:// ) that we’re now providing users with the option to view those filtered reviews.

    We’re hoping that giving people the ability to “look under the hood,”so to speak, will offer additional validation and transparency to the mechanisms that keep Yelp useful and relevant to consumers. Have your own thoughts about this? Email us at and tell us what you think!

    In addition to be able to view filtered reviews, Yelp is eliminating the “Favorite Review” option for advertisers and creating an SMB advisory council. From their blog post:

    Additionally, in an effort to more formally integrate feedback from the business community, we’ve created a Small Business Advisory Council whose members will provide Yelp management with guidance and perspective regarding the concerns of small business owners.

    Being able to view all of the information that is being kept about a business is a valuable and useful option. It is something that Google Maps should provide in regards to their cluster. It would help immensely in dealing with niggling problems that algos so often create. A decent interface to this information allows a business to see and understand why a listing is the way it is. It would be better yet, if there would be some sort of review and correction process that would additionally allow the SMB to request that the status of this information be changed. Maybe, just maybe, the algo was in error.

    Kudos to Yelp for beginning this process.

    Google to Offer Local Business Center Webinar to SMBs

    The Google Maps team will be offering a brief 45 minute webinar about the basics of the Local Business Center with a focus on Local Business Center for small businesses. It will cover:
    – adding and verifying your local business listing to Google
    – creating a great listing
    – frequently asked questions

    You will need to sign up on this form so that Google can send you an email invitation. Sign-ups close Friday, April 9, 2010.

    Since last year with the rollout of the Favorite Places campaign, their Favorite Places Poster Campaign & sponsorship of Local U, Google Maps has been involved in more efforts to reach out to SMBs and educate them about the Local Business Center and its potential. Its a welcome communication strategy that can only increase SMB participation and understanding of Local.*

    Full Disclosure – Google Maps is one of the primary sponsors of GetListed Local Univeristy of which I am participating instructor and organizer.

    Newest Getlisted.Org Local U to be in Cleveland June 30th Local University is rolling into Cleveland at the end of June! In partnership with the Karcher Group, NEOSA and Anita Campbell, it promises to be a great event.

    The Karcher Group, a strong web development & marketing group in the Akron/Canton area, contacted us in January shortly after Spokane was announced. Anita Campbell, an incredible small business consultant and blogger, agreed to help out shortly after and Brad Nellis of NEOSA, North East Ohio’s premier technology promotion group, has also stepped in as a major sponsor. All three have been great in developing this session and it’s incredibly exciting for me to be able to work with them.

    Local University: Northeast Ohio (aka neo) will take place on June 30, 2010 at the Educational Service Center of Cuyahoga County, featuring two identical half-day sessions (8am – noon and 1pm – 5pm).

    To sign up, head over to the page to reserve your seat. If you use the discount code mbNEO you will only pay $79.

    If you’re coming in from out of town, the Holiday Inn of Independence, OH is offering a special rate of $89/night for conference attendees and provides free shuttle service to the venue. Simply mention that you are attending Local University when you make your reservation.

    As with our Spokane and upcoming TwinCities events, we are committed to educating the small business community in each city we visit. 10% of all ticket sales for this event will be donated to a local educational charity. If you’d like to nominate one, please email us at

    I hope to see you there.

    Citizens of Rogers Demand that Google Be Renamed After Lost Town

    Apparently the citizens of Rogers, MN have created an on-line petition requesting that Google, renamed Topeka in honor of April 1, be renamed as Rogers until the town has been found on Google Maps.

    Their petition states:

    We, the people of Rogers, MN are looking to be found on Google Maps. Google seems to have misplaced us.

    If Google finds the job too difficult then we would demand equal time to the wannabe town of Topeka and request that Google changes their name to Rogers in celebration of our existence.

    Whether Rogers will change their name to Google is open to negotiation.

    Rogers, Mn, lost since March 17, seems to have been joined by several other “lost” communities including Wickliffe, OH & Imperial Beach, CA.

    This just in. The towns are dropping like flies. It appears that Woodstock VA has now gone missing as well.

    Review Solicitation – Dumb and Dumber

    Yesterday I highlighted a review service that was managing the review process for SMBs and posting the good ones into Google, Yahoo etc… an idea that is sure to have a short shelf life and one that is not a good long term strategy. Well here is another.

    Aggressive marketers often engage their mouth long before any cognitive activity has taken place. This is an example of that and makes one realize why the process of review gathering is often referred to as “solicitation”.

    Ben notes on his website:

    Chiropractic Marketing Exposed: We’ve launched a breakthrough new Google Booster Experiment on the Forum in which members promote each others Google Maps listing to get very high rankings on Page One of Google. Watch this Video explaining the whole thing and how to get involved. Watch it NOW!

    If you don’t have time to watch the whole video or happen to find the the presenters enthusiasm overbearing, essentially he is recommending that Chiropractors that frequent his forum leave reviews for each other on Google Maps……

    Chris Silver Smith had this to say:

    Review-swapping, like vote-swapping, strikes me as wrong for the same reasons, albeit on different levels of scale/seriousness. In my opinion, this is a thinly-veiled attempt to exploit reviews for ranking purposes, despite his suggestion of not putting false reviews. I believe Google Maps would perceive it that way, too, which makes it a dangerous tactic to be involved with.

    I believe that Google Maps is either not been weighting reviews and numbers of reviews all that heavily (in favor of other ranking factors which I’ve recently been writing about), and they also have means of telling when exploits of this sort are used. I have heard stories of people having their accounts disabled due to detection of exploits in Google Maps reviews.

    And Will Scott, Search Influence in New Orleans noted:

    We work with a couple chiropractors and there is some serious snake oil out there. These guys are well educated, with years of rigorous training, but they seem overly susceptible to shortcut marketing.

    Will’s phrase “shortcut marketing” really says it all. Any review process needs to be part of a well thought long term effort to improve your company’s visibility across the whole local ecosystem.

    Developing Knowledge about Local Search