Google has greatly expanded its offerings for businesses on their platform in the list few years. It seems that even the most obscure local businesses have detailed information about them presented in search and Maps. The company is launching new features for those profiles to help connect businesses with customers.

Businesses will now be able to upload their own cover photos and logos to appear on their profiles, and add their own photo galleries with captions explaining the photos, giving them a bit more of a sense of ownership of the profile as their own space online.

They’ll also be able to get a short URL to direct customers to it, and customers will be able to search for them in Maps using it.

Businesses will be able to provide an incentive for customers to follow them, with “welcome offers” being signposted by an additional icon on the “Follow’ button. That said, I’ve not seen any businesses locally using the Follow feature to provide updates.

Google is also making it easier for businesses to offer consistently branded materials like stickers and more to advertise their business profile – short name, URL and more.

Finally, Google’s going to start aggregating businesses into different categories and use them to offer digital and physical incentives and rewards. The example given on the blog is “Local Favourite” which is designated as the top 5% of businesses in particular areas. The company says these awards will be physically distributed to the businesses, which should help Google to put their name on the counter at your local shop alongside all the other profile recommendation and reward services.

Without social profile services from the now-defunct Google+, it looks like Google is putting a lot of effort into making My Business profiles the place where businesses send their customers to connect. They’ve got a lot of competition in the space, but they do have an advantage in that they run the medium by which users will probably find the businesses in the first place, and have a chance to put the business profile in front of the user first.