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Are search engines in the process of replacing web sites? Chris Crumm on Web Pro News has written a post that raises this issue. The question has been raised following Google’s release of a new Google Maps feature called Place Pages.

The feature enables a user to enter a search of a town, area or business – the results are a reasonably comprehensive overview and includes web pages, directions, reviews, images, street view imagery, business hours and more. Businesses are able to determine which categories they will appear in.

With the release of this feature the argument is that small businesses no longer need web sites. I guess this is a yes and no situation. If you are a restaurant or cinema and don’t do any online trading then perhaps you could get away with not having a website. However, if your competitors do, will it cost you? That is a question that you would need to research.

If, on the other hand, you are trading online then no amount of Place Pages or similar will ever do away with a web site. Can I see small businesses dropping their web sites because they are no longer needed? I doubt it. In fact, many of the businesses that appear in local search don’t have web presences now. All that I see Place Pages doing is reinforcing the fact they don’t need a web presence.

Where the concept of Place Pages may be of concern is when they appear in search results and outrank you. One wonders if this is not another situation where Google’s own properties outrank everyone else. Google will deny it, however, I cannot see Place Pages securing a high number of inbound links – a measure of authority – so you could be justified in wondering how such a page could rank so highly, so quickly.

Place Pages are a feature of Google Maps and Google’s Local business Center. If you do have a brick and mortar business then I suggest you head on over, claim your business with all the details including the best categories and see whether or not Place Pages helps to build your business. Do you need a web presence? Undoubtedly, even if it is a search engine page.

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