When I search for a business, I often want more information than just the address and phone number: I want to know what people are saying about it and what it looks like. Many results in Google Maps have had this information for some time now, but it's always been a couple of clicks away. Now richer data automatically appears in the left panel.

When I travel from the Google NYC office to visit the Mountain View office, I can get a quick overview of the hotels near Mountain View just by scanning the left-hand panel. I can see a picture of the hotel and read a snippet from a review, and I'm just one click away from voicing my own opinion by clicking the "Write a Review" link.

This improved browsability makes for all sorts of interesting queries. For example, I can browse the real estate market by doing a real estate in Chelsea, NYC search. (When I compare those results to the results for real estate in Mountain View, CA, I think that maybe I should consider moving to the Google Mountain View office instead of just visiting!) Or I can read about the locations that people have dubbed as their "favorite restaurant" by doing a favorite restaurant in NYC search.

So, the next time you find yourself looking for books in Cambridge, MA, paneer near London, tourist attractions in Brazil, schools in Nairobi, or Elvis in Memphis, be sure to Google Map it for an overview of reviews and images. Once you narrow down your choice to one or two options, there's still the "more info" link which takes you to an info-window with more reviews, more images, related webpages, and basic information about the business, including hours, pricing, and the official website. So go ahead and local search your hearts away!

Have a business? Go to the Google Maps Local Business Center to add your business information and photos.