Google Place Search is No Yelp Killer

Google Places is getting a kick in the pants with more information delivered automatically in search results.

The newly-announced Place Search will be part of standard Google search. When the engine thinks you're looking for local information, it returns mostly local businesses as results. Google already does this to some extent, but only in a small bubble of listings next to a local map. The new results have longer descriptions and review snippets, and when you scroll down the page, the little map follows along in your browser window. (Place Search is rolling out over the next few days, but you can see a preview here.)

Google is also adding a "Places" link in the left sidebar, should you want to see only local results. This comes in handy when searching for a specific menu item or attraction, like "foosball," which might not trigger Place Search on its own.

As it stands, Yelp is still my go-to resource for finding local stuff. The site is simply too good at being granular. When you want food, there are check boxes for category, price range and neighborhood. You can sort by rating and search within user reviews for specific terms (useful when 99 percent of reviewers are discussing the dinner menu, but you want to know about brunch). You can even filter out places with specific features, like reservations or delivery.

Until Google adds some granularity to its Places results, it won't be nearly as useful as Yelp, but the very idea of automatically getting local results in your general searches is still a big step. It moves Google closer to delivering more information directly, instead of referring you to a link containing that information.

Place Search also ensures that you'll see Google results before you see anything from Yelp, CitySearch or other local directories. I'm not sure how useful that'll be for users - I like that Yelp has really good Google juice right now - but it's definitely a big benefit for Google.

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