Google Local underwent a few modifications in the last week. There are some notable changes that impact SEO and internationalization.
Tracking URL -
Business listing have a primary URL that is shown and linked from the business profile page. The website link used to directly refer to the URL, which produces a link value. A change was done such that the link is now points to a tracking URL and then redirected to the destination website. So instead of going directly to http://relevantads.com, the users browser will first hit Googles tracking URL and then be redirected to the RelevantAds site.
Google's motivation is probably not to stifle SEO link value; but to track user activity. When a user clicks on the tracked link, it provides Google a lot of information such as the search query, business listing, coordinates, type of link that was clicked and other encoding facets.
USA Joins Google Maps Globally
Business listings now are added with a county code prefix. For US listings this means that a "1" is prefix to the added to listing if it doesn't already exist. This is apparent from within the GLBC.
While this seems like a trivial change, it allows Google Maps to be consolidated to a single global index rather than several country segments. And a consolidated index is a faster, more stable and more rapidly updated all of which we've seen in Google Maps over the past few months.
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