If you happen to see a sticker with a strange-looking black-and-white bar code in the window of a business in your town, it's a badge of honor of sorts from Google.
Actually, it's a fully functional bar code, called a QR code, that's scannable by mobile phones - including the iPhone and Android devices - to give window shoppers some key information about that business, including reviews, hours and more. But not just anyone can get one of these stickers - at least initially. Companies with this sticker are among the 100,000 most searched-for companies on Google.com and Google Maps, considered to be one of the "Favorite Places on Google."
The launch is part of Google's larger effort both offline and online to enhance local business results when you search. To beef up the local business listings,. Google is encouraging businesses of all sizes to provide listing information to Google's Local Business Center for free, a move that will help the Google to verify the business' information and allow the business owner to beef up the listing with things like video and photos.
Whether you love Google or hate Google, the search engine - as well as the Google maps app on some of the most popular smartphones - has become the "Yellow Pages" of this generation. I know it's how I find businesses and more when I'm out and about. Beefing up a Google listing is a quick, cheap and easy way for local businesses to make themselves more available and accessible to a larger mobile audience.
Last time I checked, that was a good thing for small businesses.