Google’s Local Business Center has been renamed “Google Places.” The re-branding effort is accompanied by a handful of new features designed to help local business owners gain an edge in search engine marketing.
The name change was made to better tie the business owner dashboard with Place Pages, the Yelp-like local business landing pages that Google launched about six months ago. Just as before, owners can fill out basic details about their business, share special offers and other info through tweet-like updates, and track exactly how people are finding their business using Google’s search engine.
The new features are a diverse bunch. If your business delivers goods, you can now specify your geographic delivery range to potential customers. Since people like pretty pictures, you can also request that Google come and take photos of your store, restaurant, studio, etc. for free. This could be the feature that rumormongers dubbed “Google Store Views” in February; if so, it doesn’t let customers virtually browse the store like originally imagined.
Google has also added a new advertising program called Tags. For $25 per month you can make your business stand out in Google Maps searches with a little yellow tag. Users who investigate the tag will see customized deals that you’ve opted to provide for them.
Finally, Google is now offering custom versions of those QR codes it started testing out a few months ago. You can request a QR code using the dashboard, or you can wait and see if Google sends you one on its own. A new round of the “Favorite Places” has been initiated, so 50,000 businesses will soon get window stickers with QR codes in the mail.