Type the name of a local restaurant into the Google (NSDQ: GOOG) search box, and one of three options are most likely to show up above the fold: A link to the restaurant’s homepage, a Google Maps module showing the restaurant’s location, or a Yelp review page. Often, the SEO-friendly Yelp reviews dominate Google’s local search results, which is partly why the site has gained so much ground against Citysearch over the past year.
But now Yelp and other review sites will have some new competition from Google itself, as the search giant is rolling out “Place Pages,” new webpages that aggregate info about a specific place — from reviews, to images and videos, and even local transit info — that users can access by clicking the “more info” tab next to the search results on Google Maps.
Google says the goal of the Place Pages is to “organize all the relevant info” about a specific place — be it a restaurant, local landmark, or even an entire neighborhood — but the pages also create more inventory for the company to run text and display ads, not to mention increase time spent on Google Maps, vs. review sites like Yelp. The Place Pages also include contact info, so searchers can even bypass going to a point of interest’s site itself, if they just want to get driving directions or call for a reservation.
In a related map-based ad development, Google is testing embedding sponsored images right in the maps themselves (via the SMH). The company added landmark and business icons to its maps a few months ago, but they were never sponsored; a spokesperson said the image ads will only be shown to a “small subset of users” in Australia.