Google has begun rolling out city pages in metro areas around the U.S. It looks like an attempt to combine Google Places pages, and the new Google version of Groupon, Google Offers. So far they have pages for Portland, San Francisco, San Diego, Austin, Madison, and Charlotte.
There is a brand new landing page for all available cities at google.com/city. From there each city has a page with recommended local businesses, a list of upcoming events, a place to subscribe to Google Offers for that city, and several videos featuring local businesses.
A Personal Touch to Google Places
It reminds me a lot of the Yelp homepage for each city, but its actually a great tool for discovery. Each recommended business is unique to that city. If you’ve been following the Google Places blog, Google has employees in each city hosting events and checking out local cuisine. I imagine these recommended businesses come from these Google employees rather than the typical Google algorithm since there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the list.
Google seems to be putting a lot of effort in building communities in these cities. The added personal touch is going to mean it will take a while for these pages to come to smaller cities.
Reviews are still highly important, but I get the feeling this could be like the Panda update for Google Places. Getting on these city pages will be less about Google Places Optimization and more about quality content. If you run a small local business it is going to be a lot easier to compete with big franchises if you are good at what you do and can attract the attention of the Google team and get your customers to write you reviews.