Yesterday David Mihm was pointing out on Twitter that Google had created a number of new city sites or portals. They appear to be the phoenix rising out of the ashes of Hotpot. As I wrote yesterday on my own blog, this is Google’s effort to bring a number of initiatives together in a single place: Places Pages, Offers, Mobile, Events and promotion of its ads/services to local business owners.
Google has created an appealing directory of local businesses and things to do in cities. The new sites are an extension and logical evolution of what Google has been doing in local. These city sites are also much more user friendly in some ways than Google Maps itself.
Just a Few Cities — for Now
As Mihm points out Google appears to be indexing these sites in search results. Right now they’re hard to find through Google search and any prominence in SERPs will likely create an outcry (Google referring traffic to its own properties). If you search, for example, on “Portland” or “things to do in Portland” or “restaurants Portland” you won’t find them. You have to know they exist. And they appear to exist in just a handful of cities, though more will be coming.
Here are four examples:
Portland “the Flagship”
Among them, Portland is the most fully realized of these sites because it’s the city where Google Offers has launched.
What you see above is an alphabetical directory of local businesses. It can be sorted by category, rating or attribute. There’s also a rudimentary integration of local events (that ties in to Google Calendar nicely). Users can access local Offers (after a subscription) and, of course, Places Pages for any local business listed. In a way, this is merely a nice-looking front door to a range of other Google products.
The search box is a general Google search box and doesn’t search the local directory. Google is also using the site to promote its useful Places mobile app for iPhone and Android.
Outreach to Local Businesses
The “community” tab includes consumer and SMB-facing content. The lead item yesterday was an introduction of a New York-area community manager (a la Yelp). Today’s top post is from the Google LatLong blog on “descriptive terms in local search results.” I’m sure Google is still figuring out what it’s going to use this area to promote. Ultimately it’s a communication channel to both consumers and local business owners.
A “business owners” tab introduces SMBs to a number of Google ad products and services: Places, Boost, TalkBin (mobile CRM tool) and Offers. It also comes with a video testimonial for Offers from a local Portland cafe.
In general this is the most coherent and accessible presentation of Google’s SMB-focused services I’ve seen to date.
Will Google Promote Them?
Call it the “Google Yellow Pages” or Google Cityguides, these sites could eventually compete with online yellow pages publishers (who are Google AdWords resellers), Yelp, Citysearch and other directories in local.
It will be interesting to see just how aggressively Google promotes these sites; consumer and SMB awareness is key to their success obviously. Indeed, just because Google has built it doesn’t mean they will come.
Postscript by Matt McGee, June 15: Google has now formally announced these “city pages,” saying “we’ve got big plans” for them.