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Google Places launch boosts local search services

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Mountain View, Calif.—Google this week launched Google Places, a renaming and augmentation of its Local Business Center service for Google Maps, to support and encourage local search advertising.

Google is charging $25 a month for local businesses to use special tags to “make their listings stand out” in searches and Google maps,according to Google. The service will be rolled out first in Atlanta; Austin, Texas; and Washington, D.C., and to other cities in coming weeks.

Other new services include a free photo shoot by Google to augment a company's existing photos on Google's Place Pages and free downloadable quick-response (QR) barcodes unique to a business, to enable mobile phone users to go straight to a Place Page.

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