Google Places is coming into its own with the just-introduced Place Search functionality that finally adds local search to Google’s growing database of places — more than 50 million locations, to be exact.
Place Search is built into the standard Google() search experience, so a search for something like “Chicago museums” or “vegan restaurants” will return local Place Page listings that match those queries.
Listings now group all relevant links, and also include informational text snippets and highlight the number of reviews — on Google, Yelp and elsewhere — for each Place.
The technology is capable of predicting when your searches are for local, place-based information, but you can also manually start a Places search via the left-hand sidebar.
“We’ve made results like this possible by developing technology to better understand places. With Place Search, we’re dynamically connecting hundreds of millions of websites with more than 50 million real-world locations,” explains Product Manager Jackie Bavaro. “We automatically identify when sites are talking about physical places and cluster links even when they don’t provide addresses and use different names (’stubb’s bbq’ is the same as ’stubbs bar-b-que’).”
Place Search is interesting for a number of reasons, but most significantly, Google searches are now more efficiently serving up local business listings. This makes Google’s Places database more visible than ever and more on par with Yelp().
Place databases are increasingly important as more mobile applications attempt to offer localized information. Yelp, Google and Foursquare() all have their own database of places — each valuable in their own right. Then there’s the crop of services such as SimpleGeo and Twitter-owned GeoAPI, which outsource their own place databases to developers looking to build features on top of them.
Google will be rolling out Place Search in more than 40 languages over the course of the next few days.