New Favorite Places Feature on Google: Good, Bad, Indifferent?

When I'm traveling, sometimes, the toughest decision I have to make is where to eat! Especially in big cities, the choices can be overwhelming As a restaurant owner, how do can you make sure that hungry visitors like me know that your place is the best? Well, Google has just launched a new feature that identifies over 100,000 businesses in the United states as "Favorite Places on Google" based on users' interaction with their local business listings. You can read the full description of the service official Google Blog, but I'll try to summarize it briefly here.

Google will begin sending out window decals to businesses in the United States that have been the most searched and researched on and Google Maps. Each of these window decals also contains a special barcode, called a QR code, which can be scanned with a smart phone like iPhones, Android-powered phones, BlackBerries, and others (Google recommends searching for the model of your phone along with "QR reader" to determine if your phone can do this, and what app you'll need). Once you've scanned in the QR code, you can go right to the business's Place Page on your mobile phone to read reviews, search for coupons, or star the business to revisit later. Oh, by the way, your business needs to be listed on Google's Local Business Center (free to do so) to be considered.

Whew, pretty fancy huh? When I first read the article, I thought, "cool!" But then I thought about it a little more and the more I thought about it the more question I have. Here are some questions and observations I have made:

#1 How will this affect Restaurants and Businesses that aren't part of Google's Local Business Center?

Now, I'm all for technology, and adding your eatery to Google's Local Business Center is free and easy to do. But at the same time, some of the best restaurants I've ever eaten at, or businesses of any type I've worked with, don't even have a website. Yes, the internet, technology, blah blah blah is going to continue to be the wave of the future. But there's something about that little hole-in-the-wall pizza joint that's just great, and many of those places don't have a website. If this takes off, will these types of places start hurting?

#2 What Exactly Does A Favorite Place Mean?

Now, I've read Google's description of what you have to do to become one of these, and I think I understand it. But I almost feel that the Google favorite logo could be misunderstood. It's not a straight rating or review, like a Zagat rating or framed newspaper reviews that are commonplace in many restaurant windows. The way I understand it, all it means is that the place is a popular search in Google and Google Maps, and you have to have decent content on Google's Local Business Center. Sure, it gives you the functionality to go to the Business center (see my first question) and read customer reviews, but I'm curious to see how many people will actually do that. So what is the real advantage to having this logo? Maybe no one can really say until it's been out for a while...

#3 On the Other Hand, This Could be a Great, Inexpensive Way to Increase Your Exposure

Directly in conflict with my first two questions, I also think this could be a great way to increase your business's exposure without a lot of effort! With the ability to add all sorts of content to your business listing, like videos, photos, coupons and more, It's an interesting system with a lot of marketing potential. Even if you don't have the time or money to develop a website, you can still create a digital presence for your business.

What do you think? What don't you understand? Do you have a sticker? Has it had any impact on your business? We want to know! Log in and post your comments and questions!

Posted in: Restaurant Equipment | By Brian Montgomery
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