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My Big Question About Google's Favorite Places

There’s been buzz the last couple of weeks about Google’s Favorite Places campaign in which they are sending posters to just 100,000 US businesses with the suggestion that the business owner display their poster in a prominent place. The purpose? People can stand in front of the poster and use their cell phone to scan a bar code on it that takes the user to the business’ Google Place Page. You can see the language of the letter being sent out here at Mike Blumenthal’s blog.
So, here’s my big question: if you’re already at the place of business, why would you need to look at their Place Page?
-To ask for directions? No, you’re already there.
-To look at the place on a map? No, you’re already there.
-To look at a StreetView shot of the map? Why would you need to? You’re already there.
-To get the phone number or address? Presumably not, since you’re already in direct contact with the business by being there.
– To see hours of operation? By standing in front of the business, you can see if they are open or closed, right?
– To see which buses go there? Well..maybe, if you’re trying to direct a friend who has no car to come at once and meet you at the business.
– To see photos or video of the business? Likely not, as you are already looking at ‘the real thing’ just by standing there.
– To look for a coupon? I doubt it, really, because if you are like most people, you’ve never heard of Google Coupons.
– To see AdWords ads, what category the business is in, or perhaps, what citations it has? Come on. I don’t think so.
So…what are we left with? If standing in front of a business and scanning the Favorite Places poster is yielding you information that will already be obvious to you just by dint of standing there…what does a Google Place Page offer that would make you engage in this scanning behavior?
I can think of just one thing and that is reviews. In fact, the Google Favorite Places letter indicates that this is one of the reasons someone would put up the poster. I almost always find it necessary to envision real-life scenarios in order to understand the application of local-oriented products. I want to understand how you and I would use them. So, here is the only scenario I can think of in which someone would bother scanning a poster hung, perhaps, in the front window of a shop. Let’s say you are looking for a place to eat on a big city street with many restaurants. You could walk up and down the whole street scanning each poster to look at the user reviews that have been left in order to pick your place to dine.
Will this happen? Not with Google only sending out 100,000 posters nationwide. Chances are, you’d be lucky if even one of the restaurants on a busy city street has been awarded this poster of obscure merit. Now, if Google had sent out posters to every business in the country, maybe adoption of this activity would be widespread enough that walking past store fronts and scanning posters in order to access user reviews would become habit-forming. I don’t know.
Help me out here. The more I think about this poster idea, the more confused I become about both the scenario of usage and the value of implementation. And then I start thinking about how Google has this huge glitch that’s been ongoing for years now in which they often don’t count reviews left through their own Google Reviews portion of Maps. You’ll see the total number of reviews added up in the A-J column of Maps, comprised of user reviews from TripAdvisor, Frommers, Dine.com, JudysBook, etc., but the reviews left directly through Maps aren’t taken account of. Sometimes they are. Why? I don’t know.
All I can think is that it’s really kind of weird that a company (Google) is making a big effort to drive traffic to pages that really only offer one type of content you can’t get just by standing in front of the business and that this content is the portion of Maps that is perhaps the most neglected and poorly understood: user reviews. What is the point? Can anybody tell me?