Bing Business Portal Challenges Google Places in Local

Microsoft Bing challenges the Google Places local business offering with the new Bing Business Portal. Merchants can build an online business listing complete with deals and promotions for Bing.

Microsoft followed Google in showing the world it cares about the type of local businesses that Groupon is enjoying so much success targeting by launching the Bing Business Portal.

Free for businesses and in beta now, the portal lets business owners build an online business listing complete with deals and promotions on the desktop and mobile versions of Bing.

The Bing Business Portal replaces the existing Bing Local Listing Center (LLC), just as Google's competing Places offering supplanted the Google Local Business Center last April.

Like Google Places, the Bing Business Portal lets local businesses claim, verify and modify business listings. However, Andy Chu, director of product management for Bing for Mobile, said the service includes unique features its rival lacks.

For example, Bing Business Portal lets merchants create a discount coupon, promotion or rebate and promote the offer on not only their business listing page, but also their Facebook page, Bing desktop search results, as well as the deal tab from the Bing for Mobile browse home page.

Merchants can also create a mobile Website with custom mobile menus, and verified listing owners can invite additional people from within the app, such as a supervisor or direct report, to manage listings.

Finally, QR codes are automatically generated for each listing, so users can easily access local listings on their mobile devices. Google has recently decided to shutter QR codes as it moves to offer near field communications solutions.

Here's how Bing Business Portal works (also see the screenshots). A business can use a link on its local listing page or from the Bing portal to claim its business link via phone or a PIN through snail mail.

Once a merchant has confirmed itself as the owner of the business listing, it can add photos, logo and other details, including links to its Website, Facebook page and Twitter URL.

Restaurants and bars can include menus by creating one in the Bing Business Portal or by providing a direct link to an existing menu or PDF file. Mobile menus are also possible for the mobile app.

Businesses can also enter up to six additional categories and keywords, to paint a more accurate picture of the business for prospective customers and enhance the relevance of their Bing listing.

Using the Deal Editor, merchants can specify an offer category, the dollar amount, dollars off and percentage off, as well as add information describing the offer and promote the offer on Bing search, the business listing page and Facebook page.

Bing and Google are both going after the burgeoning market for local business search and deal-making, which has blossomed thanks to social commerce sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial.

These companies are making hundreds of millions of dollars by hosting coupons and other discounts from local businesses to entice consumers. Google, which tried to buy Groupon last year, has created a rival deals product called Google Offers, but the service is in test mode.

So far, Bing appears content to relegate deals to its Business Portal listings, but that could change if Google Offers proves a success.