Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Google launches Hotpot

Google has launched a new service called Hotpot, which is described as a local recommendation engine powered by users. This social recommendation tool will contribute information to local search results for places on Google, making the information more personal, relevant and trustworthy within a social group.

By using Google Places as the base information, logged in users will be able to rate places and see information about other similar rated locations. This rating information can then be shared with friends and, in return, users can also see the places their friends have recommended. To accompany this service, Google has created a Hotpot rating app that allows users to quickly rate all the places they’ve been to and choose exactly which friends they want to invite to Hotpot.

As a logged in Google account user, people can see recommendations in search results, or recommended places by using the new Place Search and clicking on the “Places” filter. Users can also see recommendations when searching on Google Maps, Google Maps for Android or when checking the Place pages for a specific business.

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Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Add replies to comments in Google Places

Google has introduced an option for verified Google Places business owners to publicly respond to reviews that have been written by Google Maps users on the Place Page for their business. Google Maps has encouraged the addition of reviews to help prospective customers make informed decisions about local businesses, so that users can share their opinions by writing reviews directly on the Place Page of any place they've visited.

However, sometimes these reviews can be critical (and may also be posted by competitors!) so that Google is now enabling companies to engage with the people who have reviewed their business. Google adds that both positive and negative feedback can be good for a business and help it grow, although negative reviews certainly need to be handled carefully in terms of reputation management.

At least this option is now available to business owners and their comments are indicated on the reviews section. By responding to praise or criticism in a positive manner can enable companies to build stronger relationships with existing and prospective customers. Google has provided some tips and instructions on how to respond to reviewers.

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Thursday, 22 April 2010

Google's Local Business Center become 'Places'

The Google Blog has announced that they are renaming the Local Business Center as 'Google Places' as part of a rebranding process for their maps-based data, and to mark the inclusion of some new features. Every company should be listing their business details on this part of Google's service, particularly if they target a localised area, and the updated Places service will enable new ways to market to customers through search.

Google launched 'Place Pages' last September to provide users with more detailed information through the Google Maps service, with locational information such as restaurants and hotels to dry cleaners and bike shops, as well as non-business places like museums, schools and parks. The renamed Google Places now coordinates business listings with this branded service and allows businesses to verify and supplement their business information to include hours of operation, photos, videos, coupons, product offerings and more.

The new features being made available include the ability to define 'Service areas' covered, new advertising options on maps using tags, the option for businesses to request a free photo shoot of the interior of their business to supplement existing photos of businesses, and customized QR codes for use on mobile smartphones, which can be placed on business cards or other marketing materials.

These features are initially being made available to companies in the USA, and in some cases limited to selected cities, but are expected to be rolled out to other countries in the future. Google is also providing more detailed analysis within Google Places that includes data about how many times people have found a business on Google, what keywords they used to find it and even what areas people traveled from to visit the business.

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Friday, 6 February 2009

Google introduces Latitude

The Google Blog has announced the launch of a new service called Latitude. Promoted as a tool to find out 'where your friends are', Latitude offers a similar tool to that found on the iPhone, whereby you can use GPS positioning to find the location of others using the same service. Latitude is a new feature for Google Maps on a mobile device and also a gadget for iGoogle users on a computer.

Currently available in over 25 countries. Latitude users can see the approximate location of friends or business colleagues who have decided to share their location. So, in real time, users can find where another individual is, based on their mobile or laptop, through an icon on a map. It also allows communication via SMS, Google Talk, Gmail, or by updating a status message. According to Google, 'it's a fun way to feel close to the people you care about'.

Of course, as this new technology is developed for a variety of purposes, privacy remains a key concern and Google says they have built 'fine-grained privacy controls right into the application' and ultimately everything is opt-in, so all users control access to their positioning, including the ability to actually set their location to somewhere other than they actually are, on a friend-by-friend basis!

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Thursday, 22 January 2009

Google adds features to Local Business Ads

As Google's Local Business Adverts become a more popular feature within localised search results, the Google AdWords blog has announced the addition of new features to this option within Google Maps.

Firstly, a local business ad will now feature new interactive links within the panel for the business, that are designed to provide more information for users and to connect them to the business quicker. Previously, this panel would only provide a link to the business website but now users will be able to interact with the info window to get the information they’re looking for about the business, such as "Get Directions," "Street View" (where available), and "Save to My Maps."

Google AdWords will also be adding a new interaction report for local business ads in the near future. This report will help advertisers to assess the activity through the local business ads and the return on investment, with such information as how many users opened the info window and clicked on each of the new interactive links.

Google says that Maps users are often looking for different information than Search users so that these new interactive links and the reports should help customers connect with a business faster as well as help the advertiser understand how to better target Maps users versus Search users.

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Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Google Street View launched for Australia

Google had launched its new Street View option for Google Maps in Australia this week, giving users the opportunity to view locations around the country as images - including extensive coverage of the main urban areas. The new tool can be accessed here or from a new button when searching on Google Maps, so that users can now view maps, aerial images from Google Earth and also street level pictures from the new option.

The images have been gathered by cars touring streets with roof-top cameras since last November, capturing continuous images so that users can 'travel' along streets, rotate the image view and zoom in and out. The quality of these new street images has generated a lot of concern about privacy since they were first launched in the US and Google has taken steps to blur the faces of people caught on camera or car number plates.

Nevertheless, for most people, this will be another useful tool from Google, both for the initial novelty value but also to identify and view locations prior to visiting, or when planning a journey. More countries are in the process of being photographed by Google, who are intending to eventually create a 'ground-level' record of much of the world.