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Why Should You Care About Google Places

By most accounts, is still the leading point of entry for citizens looking for a neighborhood bakery, bike shop, or nail salon.  Working hard to attract attention are the biggest online companies, with Yahoo.local, Bing.local, Apple Apps, and of course Google all offering unique solutions.  As the really big fish fight for position, the smaller fries still have a shot for dominance.  Yelp, CitySearch, MerchantCircle, HotFrog, and SuperPages are niching themselves smartly and hoping for a shot at the next tier.  Meanwhile Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and others are being touted as the next best way we will begin our shopping day. 

This blog is dedicated to the theory that Google Places has the most juice, the clearest path, and the best basics to end up as top gun.  And after 4 months of changes to the product on an almost weekly basis, Places seems poised to make a move to become the killer app. 

First, there's the real estate.  If I were a government lawyer, I think I could make a case for unfair competition when it comes to the search engine with 80% of search putting its own local search engine (LSE) in color at the top of the page for searches that include local businesses.  But with no such effort coming from justice, the other players have no answer to the location, location, location issue.  If Superpages or Yelp can sometimes manage to find themselves first in the organic, this doesn't come close to the power of the single out or seven-pack Places presentation. 

If this isn't patently obvious, just ask a plumber, locksmith, or carpet cleaner what they want for Christmas.  The answer is clearly a #1 position on Places.  When emergency services companies get that coveted location, their phone rings.  #1 in the organic is lovely, but not even close.

Second, there is the relevancy of the results.  Sorry to all the rest of the LSE's.  Your relevancy is third rate in comparison to Places.  Do the lookups yourself.  Try Italian Restaurant Miami or any other local search on YellowPages or Yelp.  You are as likely to find a chiropractor who mentions italian cooking in his description showing up in the top ten as your are to get Luigi's.  Are there odd results in Google Places.  Most assuredly yes, but the results are far superior to any of the others.

Third is the quality of the reviews.  Google is 100% hands off, and the result is much more like Amazon.  You, the consumer, get to figure out who is spamming, gaming the system, or giving real reviews.  Yelp is the worst in this part of the business, with their bizarre conclusions regarding who is a reviewer worthy of posting reviews, and who isn't.  Now that Google is pulling reviews from other LSE's, the potential for tons of good info is growing rapidly.

The recent changes instituted by Google Places are generally going to improve the listings for the businesses and improve the experience of the searcher.  All this bodes well for the future of Places.  However, there is plenty wrong with Places and that will be covered on another "Page" of Google owned, Blogger.  Find that page here.