When you search for a local business on Google Maps, Google displays general information like address and opening hours about this business. Since December 2009, Google Place Pages also present a sentiment analysis based on comments on sites like CitySearch, Zagat, OpenTable and TripAdvisor. Now, Google has started to display reviews from hyperlocal blogs and news sites as well.

As Mike Blumenthal, whose excellent blog focuses on analyzing developments related to Google Maps and local search, points out, it isn't quite clear how Google defines 'hyperlocal' blog and how the company decides which blogs and news sources to include on Place Pages. Blumenthal was able to get confirmation from Google Maps product manager Carter Maslan that this is indeed a new capability of Google Maps.

For users, this means that Google's meta-analysis of customer reviews is now able to look at a broader base of reviews. For businesses, however, this means that they now have to pay more attention to reviews on blogs. For local bloggers, as Blumenthal rightly points out, this means that their reach and influence could increase exponentially once Google includes their blogs on these pages.

Should Review Sites be Afraid?

When Google launched the sentiment analysis section on Place Pages last year, we wondered if Yelp and other review sites should be afraid of Google. After all, Google's meta-reviews and scores are more detailed than similar reviews on Yelp and based on a wider variety of sources. It's worth noting that Yelp doesn't allow Google to index reviews from its users.

For the time being, though, review sites form the backbone of Google's analysis. Given that it's a lot easier for most users to post a review on CitySearch than to set up a blog, chances are that hyper-local blogs will become an important part of the review ecosystem on Place Pages but won't replace CitySearch and UrbanSpoon anytime soon.

Just last week, Google launched a small but interesting update to Place Pages in Google Maps that gives local business owners the ability to quickly post updates to their Place Pages.