Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Google Starts Page Ranking Locations

Yesterday Google began adding businesses to Favorite Places. They have sent out QR codes to over 100,000 businesses in the US that will be displayed in store windows. Customers can scan the QR codes with mobile phones and be taken to the store's Favorite Places page, where they can read reviews, star the business as a favorite and view the location on a map.

The introductory video below shows the decals in action.

Google have now created a nice web page where you can view some of the businesses on Street View, with a scannable QR code of the business given in the corner.

One of the most interesting aspects of this new development in Favorite Places is the news that Google is now PageRanking real world locations. The initial 100,000 odd businesses chosen to launch the scheme were selected by what has been dubbed PlaceRank.

PageRank itself is Google's algorithm that assigns a weighting to websites with the purpose of "measuring" its relative importance. This ranking is then used to determine, for example, how high up the website will appear in search results.

PlaceRank has been introduced by Google to try and rank businesses in a similar way. The higher a business' PlaceRank the more chance it has of being included in Google's Favorite Places.

Google have now begun to explain a little about how a PlaceRank is determined. Here is what the Favorite Places' FAQ page says,

"The list was determined based on the popularity of a business' Local Business Center listing, as determined by how many times Google users looked for more information about a business, requested driving directions to get there, and more. Google users "decided" based on their actions, and we sent the decals."

To be given a PlaceRank businesses therefore need to sign up to Google's Local Business Center. At this stage businesses also have to be in the US. Google say that they "have not yet made a decision about plans for this program beyond the U.S."

Google originally filed a patent for a geospatial ranking system in 2006. Based on the patent application it is likely that Google are also using other criteria other than just a business' popularity in the Local Business Center. These criteria probably include authoritative recommendations and user recommendations, ratings and reviews from a number of trusted websites.

If you want to know which websites come into the 'trusted' category you can probably get a good idea by searching for a business on Google Maps. Open up the map marker of a business and check out which websites appear under the 'Reviews' section when you click on the 'more info' link.


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