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Google Gives Its Local Search Results A Facelift

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Google (NSDQ: GOOG), which has slowly been rolling out new local features across its properties, is now adding a new format for local search results. The company says that users who search for some local-specific terms, like “austin bar-b-que,” will now see a list of matching locations, organized around a map. Each listing features a summary of reviews of the establishment on reviews sites like Yelp and Citysearch, along with an address and phone number.

In the past, users who made a similar query would see a map listing local locations that matched the searched for term at the top of results but the remainder of the page would look just like it would for any other query.

The change comes as Google has been trying to get a larger share of the ad dollars of local businesses. In a sign of how important Google believes the initiative is, the company appointed one of its most-visible executives, Marissa Mayer, to oversee its geo and local efforts earlier this month.

Since last fall, local businesses have been able to edit websites-called “Place Pages”-which Google has been automatically generating about them and linking to from Google Maps. In several cities, Google has allowed local businesses to pay a monthly fee to promote their “Place Pages” in its search results, as well as in Google Maps. Google is calling its new local search results “Google Places” and the results appear to be closely tied to the Place Pages initiative; a link to the “Place Page” of a local business, for instance, is now prominently highlighted in all of the local results.

Google’s biggest competitor in the market is likely Yelp, which, like Google, lets businesses edit their listings for free but charges them fixed fees to promote them. Last December, Google reportedly offered to buy Yelp for more than $500 million- but the deal fell through.

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