Google promotes Place Pages in shop windows

Mobile-phone users will be able to "scan" a QR code to find more information about businesses

Google is introducing a mobile marketing campaign for Place Pages, a service for businesses that faced some early criticism when it launched in September.

Place Pages are Web sites that Google creates for businesses that appear on Google Maps. The pages include basic information like an address, maps and nearby transit options, as well as customer reviews posted to sites like Tripadvisor and Urbanspoon.

Google planned to announce Monday that it has begun sending out decals -- basically stickers -- that businesses with Place Pages can post in their shop windows. The decals display a type of bar code, called a QR code, that mobile phones can "scan" to find related information online.

People with iPhones, Android phones and BlackBerry devices will be able to use an application on the phone to take a photograph of the QR code in the window. The application will recognize the QR code in the photograph and launch the business’ Place Page in the phone’s browser.

IPhone users will be able to use the QuickMark application, which usually costs US$0.99 but will be free to the first 40,000 people who download it starting on Monday, Google said. On Android devices, consumers can use the free Barcode Scanner application.

Businesses can update and correct information on their own Place Pages. Google said it is sending the decals to the 100,000 most-searched-for businesses that have updated their Place Pages through Google's Local Business Center.

More than a million businesses have already “claimed” a Places Page, said Michaela Prescott, head of geomarketing for Google. It chose the most popular of those businesses by checking how many people are searching for them on Google or looking for driving directions to the business, she said.

Google plans to take the decal program international, and expects to hand out more decals to popular businesses early next year, she said.

Google introduced Place Pages in late September. When it launched, industry observers noticed that Place Pages were being ranked in Google results, leading to concern that Google was driving traffic to its own pages -- which feature advertising -- rather than to the source of information online.

Google said it had taken steps to prevent the Place Pages from appearing in its search results, although some continue to appear.

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