Google Local Business Centre Listing never really rolled off the tongue, thankfully Google have resolved this by renaming this feature Google Places. Though having seen what now comes with it, it would appear to be more than just a branding exercise.
I haven’t got a pressatgoogle.com account so have not been able to read the press release that accompanies this rebrand but apparently the reason behind this move is:
“Millions of people use Google every day to find places in the real world, and we want to better connect Place Pages – the way that businesses are being found today – with the tool that enables business owners to manage their presence on Google.”
Which sounds good, but personally, I think from looking at the list of new features:
Enhanced Listings is the real motivation, because for just $25 a month you can tag your listing with a yellow marker to promote aspects of your business.
So essentially, you can make your listing more prominent at the top of the first page of Google, like this (currently only available in San Jose and Houston so thanks to Search Engine Land for the pictures)
But is it actually really that enhanced, from a user perspective?
That is of course presuming your listing appears within the top 7 results that are displayed, because these “Tags do not affect the rank of search results; they simply add more information when a particular user is searching.”
The cynic in me would think that surely if someone is paying money to enhance their listing, until all 7 appearing on page 1 are paying to promote their listing, then they’d expect to see it given some prominence. Because otherwise, how many people are likely to take up this offer? I'm a big fan of Local Listings, they are fundamental in any digital marketing strategy which has local goods and services to promote, but this could change the playing field somewhat, particulary for those companies who "guarantee a page one listing" (i.e. local listing for long tail keywords).
We’ll see how this goes... up until now citations, reviews, relevancy and good optimisation have been enough to get you there but if there’s money involved, I can’t see how it won’t affect who gets shown and who doesn’t.
But like I said, that’s just the cynic in me.