In a bid to get more advertising dollars from businesses located near people using its search engine, Google Inc. is revamping how it displays information about local enterprises.
Google Fights Facebook, Microsoft in Social Search Google's Place Search, which is expected to roll out globally by Thursday, gives Google users more information about local businesses, such as restaurants and dry cleaners, directly on the first results page, including a photo, review ratings and a snippet of a review from sites such as CitySearch.com or Yelp.com, as well as links to those review sites.
Laurel Tate, co-owner of Two Sole Sisters LLC, a small shoe and accessories shop in Boulder, Colo., says the new format could help small businesses like hers.
"When it populates and gives more information, especially for people who don't know me, it gives my store legitimacy," she says.
However, she speculates that not all businesses will share her enthusiasm—especially those that carry poor reviews on sites like Yelp, since those reviews may be more readily accessible, she says.
Google's new format builds on the previous search results for Places, which included a list of blue links with addresses and a phone number, and a map that showed where they were located. Place Search is triggered automatically when the Google search engine believes a user is searching for local information, similar to how separate product or image searches are triggered and appear on the main results page.
"This is a fundamentally different way of showing local results," said John Hanke, a Google vice president of product management, in an interview.
The move comes as Google competes for more local business ad dollars and faces increased competition from Facebook Inc., the social-networking service, and other sites.
On Monday, Google announced a new advertising opportunity for local businesses called Boost. The Boost ads, which generally cost between $100 and several hundred dollars a month, appear above the Place Search results but look similar to those organic results. Earlier this year, Google rolled out tags, which highlight deals offered by local businesses on Google Maps.
Mr. Hanke said thousands of businesses have signed up for tags that cost about $1 a day.
Google last year began creating Place pages for millions of public places, including businesses. Businesses that contact Google online can lay claim to a Place page, gaining more control over the content on the page. They also can see the origin of Google users who visit their page and sign up to advertise their services to users of Google's search and maps.
Google, which for years has been amassing business listings, has said more than four million businesses have a Place page. The company said about 20% of Google search queries focus on local places, and Mr. Hanke said he expected the redesign to increase the number of local searches handled by Google.
In a concession to websites such as Yelp.com, Google earlier this month discontinued its practice of listing snippets of numerous reviews from such sites on Place pages for businesses. Yelp had complained publicly about the matter.
On Wednesday, Mr. Hanke said that in response to such complaints the company talked with "a number of partners about ways to summarize…what they have to say about a place in a way that they felt good about" and that would lead to more clicks to their sites.
The redesign could boost traffic to sites like Yelp in part because Google will provide links in the main results page to a list of reviews for a particular business on such sites, Mr. Hanke said.