Major disturbance in The Force as professional Google Watchers recently spotted the search giant experimenting with a new display format for local business on search-return pages that could portend a radical change to the entire model for local search. Or not.

Dubbed Google Local Business Cards by some of the Watchers, you can see what the stir is about in this search return for “jewelers Williamsville NY”. Lucky Andrews Jewelers gets an eye-catching treatment with Twitter- or Facebook-like posts. These posts or cards are shareable on major social networks. Click on a post and you arrive at a page that lives on Google itself at “” not another site.

Google Local Business CardsThe cards clearly run on a “podium” platform Google launched early in the year for celebrities and political candidates, an invitation-only tool to publish directly to Google. You can see how the cards display issues stands for Sen. Ted Cruz in this example.

Google Watchers speculate that Google may see the local business cards as an answer to Facebook and a replacement for Google Plus, the social network that’s never quite caught on. Some also speculate that Google is experimenting with ranking sites not based on links but signs of a local business’ popularity.

Let’s remember that Google has trotted out high visibility experiments only to trot them back, like the Local Carousel for hotels and restaurants, a strip of images across the top of search pages that came in 2013 and went in 2014.

If Local Business Cards/Posts are a keeper, however, consider this a wake-up call that Google will favor businesses that regularly publish original, fresh content—and start thinking about how you’ll meet that new standard.

Read coverage of this development from Google Watchers Andrew Shotland and Mike Blumenthal.

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