Thursday, November 18, 2010

Two new developments in Google Places, should you claim your library's?

Earlier in January I wrote Location based services/pages your library should claim or monitor , where I suggested libraries should register, claim or otherwise own various place pages on Yelp, LibraryThing local and Google places. But back then it was still early days...

Since then, location based services is exploding (e.g. I discovered NUS central library is the most popular venue in NUS for FourSquare checkins) . Among other new developments, FourSquare now allows claiming of venues local and of course the launch of  FaceBook places(still not available worldwide).

Google places has being around a while but due to to two recent developments I believe they now become quite important to claim.

Firstly Google Places now appear in Google searches!

When I search for NUS central library , this is what I see


The very first hit!

This is a normal Google search, but it mixes normal results with Google Place results. I'm getting this even if signed out and disabling customizations based on search history , though I'm not sure if you might get different results.


It's possible, registering the place promotes it to the very first hit.


Clicking on the Place Page will bring you to the full place page. Do note that the place page might still exist even though you didn't explicitly create it!


I'm not going to go through what you can do after you claim the place as it 's already detailed in my old blog post.

As you might with the place page appearing on the search results you do get a moderate number of hits.
@digicmb mentions that in 1 month,  there were 5421 impressions & 216 extra hits to library website, per month to his library.

These statistics  are available only if you claim the place.

The second development is the newly launched Google HotPot (official announcement). It's basically a Yelp like service so you know the drill, you can rate Google Places, share with friends, and get recommendations etc.

When you first login, you have to pick a name to associate with your Google Account. The idea here is for privacy reasons you might want to use an alias. I didn't , but you can change it at anytime.



After that you can search for Google Places to rate, or allow it to use your Google Web History to guess what places you would like to rate.


It's quite interesting to look at the places it's suggests you might like to rate based on web history, it got NUS Central library (obviously) and another place (both are not shown above) - which brings back bad memories!  You can also of course search for places to rate.

Rating is from 1 star to 5 stars and you can also leave feedback/tips like in FourSquare. You can also give a "best-ever" tag ?? All these ratings (averaged) and feedback/tips are public I believe.

If you rate enough places, you get recommendations and it shows why


You can also add friends, but at this stage not many of my friends have rated places so it is not so interesting in terms of recommendations. I'm so not quite sure how easy or hard it is to add friends, I just selected people from a list given (from prior contacts in gmail??)



Why does Google HotPot make claiming your place page important? This is because ratings as well as comments/tips placed using Google HotPot will appear on your place page, and as you might expect, after claiming you can respond to it.


This isn't new, but reviews also include data drawn from other sources under "Reviews from around the web". For example in Singapore, I see reviews drawn from a service yebber.com.

Below is one example from the Cheng San Community Library in Singapore



You can tell from the date, this isn't a new review. I'm not sure if registering to own the google place allows you to respond to this, or only to comments made by Google Hotpot users.

I suppose this is quite standard Yelp fare, but the fact that these results are shown on Google makes it quite prominent. It's too early to tell, but I have a sense this "social" offering might actually succeed since it seems quite light-weight and easy to use.

It's also available on Android phones of course.

Given that Google Places nows appear in regular Google searches and users are now encouraged to leave comments via Google Hotpot, registering your libraries' place page takes on importance, since you can respond to comments and control the information that appears.

That said  it is so early in the "location-wars" and it's unknown who will triumph though logic suggests it is one of the three (FourSquare, Google, FaceBook), or perhaps they might co-exist, so this is definitely going to get interesting..
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