Google seems to have an addiction to releasing new products, and the latest may be a direct attack on a favorite of the social media scene, Yelp.
Google has announced a new product named Place Pages for Google Maps that will give you pictures, information, YouTube videos and reviews of local businesses all on one handy page. The pages will be created for businesses, points of interest, transit stations, neighborhoods, landmarks and cities for every place in the world, making this one of the largest indexes of information every assembled.
While reviews have been possible on Google Maps for a long time now, they were never organized in such a fashion before with so much ancillary information included. This new system puts the reviews front-and-center in a much handier format.
One of the biggest changes about the system is the new search engine friendly URLs that are created. While they still aren’t something you can remember off the top of your head (for instance the Ruby Tuesday in my home town has a URL of http://maps.google.com/places/us/kirksville/n-baltimore-st/2510/-ruby-tuesday-kirksville), they are far more search engine friendly, and this is where the new product could cause problems for a site such as Yelp.com.
For those unfamiliar with Yelp, it is a well-known social media review site where users can create reviews for any business or establishment that they want. These reviews have become a major marketing tool for some businesses, especially restaurants, but it has led to some controversy. While it isn’t too shocking that some businesses have found ways to bribe customers into writing good reviews through free gifts and giveaways, Yelp itself has had some controversy surrounding it for calling up businesses and offering to help them rid themselves of negative reviews for a fee. This has really placed the validity of the service in question with some users.
While there are sure to be business owners who still try to game the system on Place Pages, it seems unlikely you will see Google pulling any similar shenanigans itself with trying to get business owners to pay for the removal of negative reviews.
Combine the brand name of Google with easily indexed URLs, and a site with a tarnished reputation, and the Big G may have another winner on its hands.