Google Changes Places Again

What is Google Places?

Google Places allows local business owners to update their physical business location on Google.

Effectively, it allows businesses to be found.

And as more and more people turn to the internet, and Google, to search for services and products, it is increasingly important for companies to be listed on this free tool.

Third party websites such as TripAdvisor and Yell had long complained that Google Places was built on their content with the aim of ultimately replacing them.  It seems their prediction was somewhat true.

On July 21, 2011, Google announced changes to the look of Google Places.  This article outlines the ‘what’ and ‘why’ behind these changes as well as discussing the impact it may have on businesses.

How has Google Places changed?

Apart from making the tool more user friendly, there are a few key changes to note.  These basically come down to the way in which Google sources and shows reviews.

  • Google has removed third party reviews: Until now, third party reviews were Google’s main source of content.  Unlike the old system, the review tally will now be made up of Google reviews only.
  • Where have the third party reviews gone? Reviews from the likes of your CustomerLink site are still there but are not counted in the review totals.  They are now neatly stashed away under the text from Google-generated reviews.  It’s a clear stand from Google to “own” the review market and step away from third party websites.
  • How are Google creating reviews? Google have added two large, “write review” buttons to encourage Google user contributions whilst also making it easier and faster to provide content.

How do the changes affect businesses?

There are many outlying reasons and pressures behind Google’s changes including their legal responsibilities to third party content providers.  By minimising the focus on external links, Google also minimises the opportunities for users to migrate and use third party resources.

Ultimately, the impact on businesses and users alike should be minimal.  While on the face of it, third party reviews have been removed, this should not affect ranking for businesses, nor the SEO and citations behind the scenes.

In terms of maintaining your business profile, it should be easier to upload photos, videos and purchase offers.

And for users, it should be simpler to add a review.  However, review seekers should not be put off by the review tally.  Remember that third party reviews are stripped out of this number but are available to view at the bottom of the page.

Should businesses still sign up to Google Places?

Google Places is a free and simple tool to set up.

  • Just fill in your business information, add pictures and contact details  The better the content, the easier it is for your customers to navigate
  • Verify the listing (must be done over the phone or post)
  • Your listing will appear

So, should you sign up to Google Places? Without a doubt, yes.  Of course, it is most effective when run alongside campaigns and SEO efforts to ensure it is ranked in the coveted “top 7” listings.  But overall, Google Places is a great, free way to get your business seen.

How have you found the changes to Google Places? Do you think they’re a step in the right direction or a step too far?