This morning Google announced that their Local Business Center is becoming Google Places. Essentially, it’s just the name catching up with the practice as the ‘place pages’ have been around for quite some time. The reasoning behind the change is sound:

Why? Millions of people use Google every day to find places in the real world, and we want to better connect Place Pages — the way that businesses are being found today — with the tool that enables business owners to manage their presence on Google.

They are also introducing some news features including the ability to specify service areas, a new way to advertise outside of the usual AdWords, free business photo shoots and real time update abilities.

One of the more interesting features is customized QR codes. Once a business creates their ‘place’ they can download a unique QR code. These codes can be placed on business cards, coupons and other marketing materials. When customers scan them with certain smartphones they are taken directly to the mobile version of that business’s Place Page. With the ability to customize your business’s Place Page with the latest news and offers this could be an extremely effective tool.

Of course, they offer the stellar tracking that Google programs have become known for. Data includes the usual, but useful, visitor and keyword tracking; along with what areas people traveled from to visit your business.