Local Search: Google adds Service Areas with its transition into Google Places

As always, Google is improving.  This time the improvement is within the realm of local search.  The Local Business Center is now, or rather becoming, Google Places.  Let’s get right to the meat of the improvements:  Service areas: If you travel to serve customers, you can now show which geographic areas you serve. And if you run a business without a storefront or office location, you can now make your address private.”  This is huge for the masses of small businesses that travel to their customers or offer on-site service.  Previously, the SBC primarily catered to the brick and mortar storefronts who’s customers came to them.  Now, Google Places allows you to display your service area.  Here is a list of the other improvements and features:

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  • A new, simple way to advertise: For just $25 per month, businesses in select cities can make their listings stand out on Google.com and Google Maps with Tags. As of today, we’re rolling out Tags to three new cities — Austin, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. — in addition to ongoing availability in Houston and San Jose, CA. In the coming weeks we’ll also be introducing Tags in Chicago, San Diego, Seattle, Boulder and San Francisco.
  • Business photo shoots: In addition to uploading their own photos, 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. We’ve been experimenting with this over the past few months, and now have created a site for businesses to learn more and express their interest in participating.
  • Customized QR codes: From the dashboard page of Google Places, businesses in the U.S. can download a QR code that’s unique to their business, directly from their dashboard page. QR codes can be placed on business cards or other marketing materials, and customers can scan them with certain smartphones to be taken directly to the mobile version of the Place Page for that business.
  • Favorite Places: We’re doing a second round of our Favorite Places program, and are mailing window decals to 50,000 businesses around the U.S. These decals include a QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone to directly view the mobile Place Page for the business to learn more about their great offerings.

Also worth mentioning is the ability to post real time updates to your Places Page.  How very social media like of Google.  This can be used for specials, sales, etc.

The real question in our mind is how this will affect local search, specifically.  Currently it is fairly difficult to rank for search terms incuding a city in which you are not located, but still offer service.  Will the addition of Service Areas help SB owners overcome this obstacle?

Google’s blog post about Google Places

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Blair Neher

Blair Neher

Chief Primate at Talking Monkey Media
Blair Neher is the owner/operator of Talking Monkey Media, a web solutions company based in Richmond, Va. Blair writes about all things Web and Small Business related. Read more About Talking Monkey Media. Connect with Blair on Google+, Twitter, or LinkedIn.