You may have noticed the Google Places app on your new Android phone. If you don’t have an individual “Places” app in your app drawer you can also access it from within the Google Maps application by selecting the places icon on the top of the app.
Google Places is Google’s very own local business directory. Local search is a big part of the online advertising space and Google Places is their answer to the other yellow pages directories online. Google has a “slight” advantage since they can integrate their directory with Google Maps and Google search and thus it has quickly become the most effective way to find local businesses from your phone and the most effective way for local advertisers to be found by consumers.
The App is relatively straight forward. You open the app and by default you can select from Restaurants, Coffee places, Bars, Attractions, ATMs, and Gas Stations. You can add additional custom searches as well. Searches do a great job of listing results in order of proximity and showing the relative distance and direction to each search result from your current location. Selecting an local business opens their Google Places page and allows you to read and leave reviews, check in, navigate, call, search nearby, buzz, add as contact, view street view, or share.
The seamless way that places integrates with Google Maps both on your desktop and on your Android phone make it extremely useful and effective.
If you are a local business you need to learn how to create/populate your own Google Places listing to ensure high visibilty and traffic. For local advertisers I have written an article on my marketing blog that outlines the need and the process of advertising with Google Places.