Facebook, Foursquare Update Pages to Improve Local Search

Changes could make each brand's mobile apps more purpose-driven for local search

Google and Yelp may currently dominate local search, but Facebook and Foursquare announced changes to their mobile and desktop business pages, respectively, on Tuesday that should raise those platforms’ capabilities and profiles when people are trying to find a new burger joint or sushi spot.

The changes are fairly cosmetic. Foursquare described the new layout for desktop venue pages as a facelift, but it’s a touch-up facelift a la Jane Fonda, not along the lines of whatever happened to Bruce Jenner’s grill. Foursquare’s revamped desktop venue pages arrange photos and store hours higher up, append the map adjacent to that new information module and add the ability to search through tips posted about a place.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s new mobile pages are also more facelift than Face-Off. They prioritize the like, check-in and click-to-call buttons higher up on the screen with an expanded map above a new starred ratings box.

However minor the immediate changes, they could have a major effect on how people think of using Facebook on the go and Foursquare on the Web to find restaurants or brick-and-mortar shops. By making their respective pages more purpose-driven, Facebook and Foursquare are angling to get more people to think of them when hunting for advice on where to eat instead of, say, Yelp.

Foursquare co-founder and CEO Dennis Crowley spelled out his company’s ambitions to be a local search platform last month at South by Southwest. "When you put search front-and-center, people start to think of it more for local search. That’s what we’re trying to do," he said at the time. Adding the ability to search tips for specific menu items or other keywords should catalyze that evolution by signaling to Foursquare what people are interested relative to a given location or type of location and cycling that data back into how it recommends places.

Similarly, Facebook’s changes should improve the signals it can glean from how people interact with a place and encourage that interactivity such as by boosting the profile of place ratings. That in turn should lead to more structured location information, improving Graph Search’s place-ranking algorithm—especially once the social search engine hits Facebook’s mobile site and apps.