Google has added a new feature that lets local business owners respond to reviews in their Places accounts.  This feature-add continues a trend with Google Places matching / competing with Yelp  as a major player in the user-generated business review sector.

For both Yelp and Google Places, the ability for a local business owner to respond to a good or bad review is a very powerful tool.   In a world where many potential customers look to other people’s reviews before purchasing goods or services, it is important the local businesses have some control of their brand identity.

Although the age old advice of simply providing good service to bring in the good reviews holds some water, there is always the case of the disgruntled ex-employee who posts a bad review just for the hell of it.   This would be a case where the business owner could take time to respond and let the rest of the community know the reasoning behind such a review.

It’s a sure thing that the local business owners in San Francisco, who are attuned to the ongoings of the large internet companies around them, will be the first to take advantage of this feature.   Google – we’re looking forward to seeing more improvements with Google Places (i.e. a version of Adwords MCC for Places to manage multiple client accounts).