Google will take another swing at the Yellow Pages today, integrating local business listings directly into search results.
The company is set to launch Google Place Search as a standalone search option, much the same way Google users can search for images, news, or products. It will bring the Google Places listings that business owners can claim into the main search results pages, rather than confining them to searches done within Google Maps as was the case prior to today.
Google has been encouraging local restaurants, hardware stores, and dry cleaners to "claim" their business within Google by adding their Web site, telephone number, hours, and other relevant information to a form. That generates a listing for the place within Google Maps, and allows searchers and patrons of that business to leave reviews.
Now for regular Google searches like "sushi restaurants san francisco" (I know I use this example every time, but there are some really good ones) users will start to see a new search result that is sort of a combination of a traditional Google search result and a Google Maps search result, with a link to that location on Google Maps, reviews aggregated from around the Web, and a 1- to 5-star rating of that business. In addition, Google will put a direct link to that business' "Place page," which could be previously found by clicking "more information" on a Google Maps search.
The move highlights the Place pages much more prominently, which Google hopes will encourage more and more businesses to list their wares on Google before the company's massive search audience. The special search results will appear when Google thinks it can predict your search query has local intent, but searchers can also force a results pages of just Places listings by selecting "Places" from the left-hand navigation panel on a Google search results page.
The change should start rolling out over the course of the next few days around the world.