Google has added a new set of features to its Local Business Center. This is the place you can go to enter information about your business that is then indexed in Google Local. Any business with a physical address, in other words, can plant itself on Google Maps.
New features include:
Ability to upload photos that appear next to a business listing.
Ability to select business category and to accordingly specify “custom attributes” of that category (think “check-out time” or “happy hour”).
Ability to edit incorrect or outdated location information.
Ability to view clicks generated from Google Local search results.
These features all have SEO benefits because they deepen the content in Google Local business listings (this can also be seen as one of the drivers for Citysearch’s acquisition of Insider Pages last week). And it falls in line with many of the social media and user-generated content trends that are getting a lot of attention and investment in the local search space lately (although here it is businesses themselves contributing content, rather than user reviews).
The last bullet point above is also interesting because it is a feature traditionally reserved for AdWords advertisers. This could be meant to hook in more search marketers that become intrigued by performance tracking and want the broader set of analytics features offered in AdWords.
Overall this is a metaphor for what many of the free Web site and landing page development and hosting products on the market are meant to do: hook in more SMBs. After getting in the door with a set of free features, they are hoped to evolve to more sophisticated online advertisers. This can be search marketing in the case of Google‘s and Yahoo!‘s free Web site development and hosting products, or upsells to premium display ad features for microsite providers such as vFlyer and Smalltown.
Either way, the name of the game for many companies looking to expand the addressable market of SMB online advertisers is to first give them training wheels.