Sunday, November 7, 2010

Google does Madison Park

Tina Brown of Tina’s on Madison put us onto this story by mentioning that Google had recently spent an hour and a half or so in her shop taking photos and videos of the place. A quick check of other neighborhood merchants revealed a pattern: Google has been systematically working the Village in recent weeks. So what’s it all about?

The answer is Google Places, an “overarching initiative” currently underway by the dominant internet search engine to provide higher-quality information about businesses in communities located in the U.S., Japan, New Zealand and Australia. Madison Park just happens to be one of the places where Google is making an early investment in one aspect of the initiative, a pilot program called Business Photos from Google. The ultimate goal is to have a new Madison Park “Place Page” on Google that is much more comprehensive and in-depth than what currently exists. For the fact is that if you Google “Madison Park Seattle” today, you get a pretty anemic representation of our neighborhood:

What Google envisions is a robust search conclusion that would provide a detailed Place Page of Madison Park businesses, where each listed business can be clicked on to reveal a business Place Page with updated information, high-resolution interior pictures, reviews, and points of interest nearby. To reach that ideal, Google first needs to get updated, high-quality pictures of each business. In Madison Park, that process is now well underway, although it may be some time before we see the results of Google’s efforts.

When called by Google to set up a photo date, the first question asked by several Madison Park shop owners was “What’s it going to cost me?” The answer was nothing--at least for now. The idea, apparently, is to get businesses hooked on the program by doing the initial photos for free. Google, of course, could always decide later to charge for updates to the photos and for other information that may be uploaded to Google about a particular business. Right now, however, Google is presenting the program simply as an altruistic attempt to provide information that people searching Google seem to want. Google is also appealing to the self-interest of business owners. “By enhancing your Place Page,” says Google in its pitch, “business photos will help your business stand out above the competition and get discovered.” Google, by the way, will own the photos.

Here’s what a Place Page for an individual business looks like, using Bing’s as an example:

The photos on Bing’s Place Page are certainly not high-resolution shots, but we’ve confirmed that the restaurant was contacted by Google to get that corrected. Interestingly, Google officially cites 21 U.S. cities in which the Business Photos from Google pilot project is underway. Although Portland, Los Angeles, and San Diego are on the list, Seattle isn’t.

[Businesses that have not been contacted by Google for a photo shoot can apply to have their businesses included. More information is available here. Aerial photo of Madison Park from GoogleEarth.]

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.