Even More Changes to Google Places

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If you don’t follow BrightLocal’s Blog, you absolutely should. Lots of great do it yourself information on there, especially as it relates to the all-important area of Local Search. This week, Google rolled out a BUNCH of new changes to their Search Engine Results Pages (or SERP for the rest of this blog). Myles Anderson does a great job of delineating what he’s noticed in the following points.

Lots of stuff for us marketers to capitalize on here!

Google Places SERP Changes

There are some significant changes to the now ‘defunct’ Google Places search. These are both design changes & functionality changes. Below is a screen shot of new Google Places search page. These pages are not accessible from main Google SERPs anymore but you can click here to view these new results.

 

Google Places Update - new designs & functionality

 

 

So what’s changed?

The style, layout & content of the search results has changed –

  • Google has added back in star ratings with promenant red stars and standard 5 star rating (no google score showing on these pages)
  • Image display is also updated and shows count of available photos on a Google+ Local profile
  • Hovering over each listing in the results moves the map pin to relevant location on the map
  • Map design is updated and has new color scheme
  • The 3 organic search results at the bottom of the page have been removed (zero organic results on the page)

These changes appear to bring old places search closer to new Maps design. These places results now sit under the ‘Maps’ tab in the main navigation but they do not replace Maps results.

This is pretty confusing – 2 separate interfaces with different results style, both under maps???

Google Places & Google Maps aligning

Design update to Google+ Local pages

We also noticed that Google has tweaked the designs for Google+ Local Pages. These changes are purely cosmetic and revolve around the display of review count & star rating. These changes are only shown if you come to Google+ via the old google places search and not through Maps or Main search (google adds parameter to search string to alter display – &rfmt=s)

See example Google+ listing with design changes

Google+ Local page design updates being tested

The big question about this changes is WHY?

  • Why is Google made these updates to the defunct Google Places SERPs which users can no longer access?
  • Why are they testing star ratings again and not using Google Score?
  • Is this a genuine test or just Google messing around with designs on pages that don’t matter because users can’t easily access them?
  • Is Google going to re-release Places SERP pages or is this part of a more complete merge between Google Places & Google Maps?

 

Another oddity…missing review data in new Google Places results

Another odd thing we noticed in the new Places SERP results is that some data is missing. Check out the following results for the same business – Downtown Dental Center in Boston

1. Google Main search (blended): Shows 5 reviews & link through to Google+ Local page.

Google Main Search - shows reviews

 

2. Google Places search: There are no reviews and no link through to the Google+ Local page.

Google Places Results - missing review count & link to profile

 

3. Google Maps results: Listing shows 5 reviews and link to Google+ Local page.

Google Maps results

 

We’ll add more to this post as we notice it and make head & tail of just what is going on!

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