Google Places – A New Way to Find Local Businesses

Google decided earlier this week to change the way it provides local business listings.  When searching for local business info, previously you would have seen this:

You got a little map with a list of nearby local businesses matching your search.  Since this map consistently showed up above regular search results, some businesses could rank high for keywords that they didn’t otherwise.  Now that’s all changed.  Here’s what it looks like now:

Gone is the map inserted into the results – it’s now on the right side, pushing down any PPC ads that didn’t appear in the top 2 or 3 spots, off the page.   And the listings of nearby businesses has been integrated into the regular search results, potentially shoving a lot of previously well-ranking websites further down (or off) the page.  This has concerned some and angered others.  However, since it’s launch on Tuesday, Google seems to be tweaking the layout still.  So who knows what we’ll ultimately end up with.

What does this mean for your business?  It means it’s now more important than ever (although it was pretty important before, too) to make sure your business is listed properly with Google Places, in addition to any Search Engine Optimization and/or Pay-Per-Click campaigns.  What do you think – is this a bad change or is it better for searchers than the previous method?  Is it better for businesses or worse?

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