Last Friday, Google released the “Search Nearby Me” function in its search options panel. This new search function helps people find relevant search results based on their real-time geographic location instead of solely searching based on key words. I vaguely remember at sometime point last week, when I was Googling something, a toolbar box popped up asking me if I wanted to disclose my location to Google. Sure, I clicked. Now when I try to use this new function to find Chinese restaurants, a bunch of restaurants near my default location (you can set custom locations too) pop up, along with local Chinese restaurant information from popular review sites like Yelp and 10Best.com.
What I found most handy from this function is that it also pulls in the combined information of local Chinese restaurants that have registered with Google’s Local Business Center, with their locations showing up in the Google Map. The scary part of this is that once you click into any of these restaurants, not only are their location, hours, price and other useful basic information displayed, but like an octopus, Google has also compiled a list of ratings and reviews of that restaurant from other review sites. And if you sign in with your Google account, you can write a review of it right away on the spot. So far I have seen reviews pulled from couple websites like 10best, Trip Advisor, Yahoo Local and Urbanspoon, but I have not seen any reviews directly pulled from Yelp. Does Yelp not allow Google to aggregate their reviews? What is the deal here?
With this Google Nearby search function, the pace of local businesses building their presence online may only accelerate. Having a profile registered with Google’s Local Business Center will soon become a must for any business that wants to be searchable and survive the intertwining offline and online world.
The Google Nearby location-based search function shows how aggressively Google is in approaching the local business review sector pioneered by Yelp. Google has encroached upon the property of traditional media’s online content and news, then pulled in social media feeds (via Google’s recent incorporation of the social media feeds into its search results), and now they are reaching into the reputation-review systems that was mainly supported by online review sites. Right now, I think the biggest weapons that review sites like Yelp can use to fight back against Google are the communities inhabiting their sites, whose users passionately contribute their reviews there instead of on a broader Google review platform. Google’s services are almost too ubiquitous. Users with Google accounts hardly view themselves as valued members of a “Google community”, thus Google can hardly enjoy the stickiness brought by the social side of a community. But in the long run, with Google’s efforts to build a giant system that covers every aspect of people’s online activities, it is likely that Google may still win in these aspects of web services due to its overwhelming scale.