Google Overhauls Place Pages, Emphasizes Reviews & Kills Citations

google-places-logo-squareLocal searchers and local businesses will see a fairly substantially different Place Page the next time they’re poking around Google Maps/Places. The company announced a new look Thursday and promises more changes to come.

The new layout of Place Pages puts a heavy emphasis on reviews. More specifically, it emphasizes reviews from Google users and no longer shows review content from third party sites. (Google had issues with both Yelp and TripAdvisor over review snippets last year, you may recall.)

Rather than showing external reviews, the new Place Page only links to third party sites after showing a selection of Google user reviews. The review emphasis is also obvious with not one, but two cherry red “Write a review” buttons. Here’s a look at an example Place Page with Google’s new look-and-feel.

google-place-page-2011

The Place Page will look slightly different depending on the type of business; for example, hotels and motels will have the “Book now” interface above the Photos section from Google’s Hotel Ads program.

Google removed a couple important pieces of the old Place Pages, too:

Citations/references: Place Pages used to show a selection of other web pages that referenced the business. These citations are the local version of links and local SEOs mined the competition’s citations the same way link builders look for competitors’ links. Removing these from the Place Page will have a big impact on local SEO.

Review snippets: Google used to show snippets of those third-party reviews up near the top of the page, but those are gone now. That’s probably a good thing, because the algorithm occasionally chose disastrous snippets.

Google promises more changes, including increased personalization of local search results and additional upgrades to the Places experience on other Google platforms and across different devices.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Google: Maps & Local | Google: Place Pages | Top News

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • https://plus.google.com/115747840685138033365/about N.S.

    Wow, this article is truly overwhelming, I used to work for a local search company, most of local businesses in the U.S are supported by Google maps and many of the tactics to promote these businesses are mentioned briefly in this article, i cant even imagine the impact it will have on the local SEO industry, i know for a fact that many business are obligated under a yearly contract with local directories such as Yelp , YP and more (its not cheap to have a paid campaign with these local directories)… part of the strategy of these businesses is just to gain more web pages, citations and reviews from these directories to their Google places listings…and now it will all be gone? this is shocking.
    on top of everything, Google are planning to do more changes….this is very interesting!
    Thank you Matt for this excellent post!

  • http://www.highrankings.com/hrasubscribe Jill Whalen

    As I just emailed back to the Localeze sales rep who keeps pestering me, it looks like their biz model has been nuked.

    To which I say, nice job Google! I was kind of shocked that they were featuring their info so prominently.

  • http://www.chunkford.com Paul Mumford

    Citations have been removed from the Places page, but it doesn’t mean they’ve stopped using it internally for ranking purposes does it?

  • http://www.orangesoda.com Shawn

    I’m with Paul on this one. If they begin to ignore 3rd party citations and reviews, their ability to verify the validity of business information as well as determine “prominence” becomes severely weakened. My guess is this change is primarily cosmetic and not algorithmic.

  • http://www.screenpilot.com Matt Chantry

    We spotted this early yesterday afternoon and got a quick blog post out to our readers here: http://www.screenpilot.com/blog/2011/07/google-kills-95-of-your-hotel-reviews-what-does-it-mean-for-seo/

    But SEL have done a great job of digging further into this news. I do disagree with Paul though. We looked at page rankings of some of our clients before the change and after and there is a slight difference to the algorithm. Nothing major mind, but certainly a change.

  • http://www.planetc1.com/ Michael Dorausch

    I got my first notification of these changes when my phone started ringing mid yesterday. Several small business owners called, emailed, and tweeted throughout the day asking if I knew why their reviews had “disappeared”.

    I have mixed feelings on the change but all we can do is adapt and continue moving forward. Certainly kills a significant amount of questionable business models, and that I see as a good thing.

  • http://www.internetmarketingsource.net Sam Beamond

    Great stuff here. I encourage my clients to use the reviews piece of their places page to build their reputation and help optimize the places page. Now they will find it easier to direct their customers. looking forward to what more changes are made to Google Places.

  • http://www.screenpilot.com Matt Chantry

    Also think that the influence of Google+ on googles decision for this isn’t being mentioned much. Their long running fight with TripAdvisor might be the main reason but Google+ was probably the straw that broke the camels back so to speak.

  • http://www.mobilemotion.com DK

    Wow what a game changer! I believe they will continue to use the 3rd party reviews for ranking even though they dont feature them so prominently. Many sites in places have very few Google reviews.

    Why is Google not allowing for a “Places Badge” html code that can be cut and pasted to your website in order to direct your customers directly to your Places page? Most customers who use the services of a company would never be able to find their places page in order to write them a review. Peculiar how Google does not make this easy.

    Also, why is it that if you “boost” a places page, your sponsored link has an impactful 5 stars (if you have any 5 star ratings) over on the right side of that ppc ad ***** and then the places page link (this is really great and makes you stand out from the other ppc ads) but if you set up a legit PPC account and link the account to your places page via “Ad Extension” you get no such luck. Strange that you would be rewarded for using the basic product. Google reps have told me- “huh…that is interesting, not sure why it does that. Ill ask about that.”

  • Matt McGee

    Matt – curious to hear more about what you’re thinking there. How would Google+ have anything to do with local Place Page aesthetics?

    Jill – also love to hear why you think Localeze’s biz model is nuked? They offer a valuable service that helps local businesses make sure their listings have consistent NAP data across local sites/directories. The need for consistent NAP data hasn’t changed. What were they trying to sell you — something different? (I may not be familiar with all of their product offerings.)

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com Nick Stamoulis

    Glad to hear that these changes took place. I am curious to see if people will leave many reviews and how this might be integrated with Google+.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/nadimhossain Nadim Hossain

    Google did the right thing by pulling the reviews that Yelp didn’t want borrowed. Customer reviews are highly relevant to consumers, and therefore highly valuable for SEO. For Google to take that content without permission to syndicate seems wrong (reviews that show up in Google Shopping are syndicated with retailers’ permission, for example). That said, for consumers’ benefit, I think such content *should* be syndicated openly as widely as possible. This ensures that users have access to helpful information at the point of decision-making.The underlying story, I believe, is that Google is evolving from Search to Social, and we’re seeing some growth pains in figuring out the rules. I write more about Google’s transformation here: http://blogs.powerreviews.​com/2011/06/01/google-1-la​unch-what-google%E2%80%99s​-social-reinvention-means-​for-facebook/.

  • http://www.screenpilot.com Matt Chantry

    Matt – Well its google accounts that are now making all the “relevant” reviews. Its just my belief that G want everyone on the web to run everything through google and the timing of this so soon after the launch of Google + makes me think it ties in. I wouldn’t be surprised to see +1′s having a large say on review pages soon as well.

  • http://www.screenpilot.com Matt Chantry

    RobertKCole on TNoonz actually does a much better job of phrasing it all than me!

    http://www.tnooz.com/2011/07/22/news/google-kills-web-reviews-for-hotels-on-maps-and-places/

  • http://nightlitemedia.com Adam Steele

    Great update!

    I really don’t see how this changes much re: Citations/references… local SEOs know that this is not a great area to look for citations as Google never posted all of them here to begin with. If not tools, exercising a bit of common sense will land you tons of good citation sources.

    Personally, I am glad they hid it. Although it will make things a bit tougher for SMBs (sadly), it will weed out the less competent SEOs that claim ‘local seo expert’ status to SMBs. Granted, it’s those ‘local seo experts’ that send business running to many of us I am sure.

  • http://www.marybowling.com Mary Bowling

    IMO, the bully on the local playground appears to be flexing its muscles again, Matt!

  • http://www.georillas.com Claudio Schapsis

    The question is if they fixed the opening hours HUGE bug – pending for over a year…

    Check the complains trail here: http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Places/thread?fid=5f673deb5906b7ff0004a785e1336441&hl=en

  • http://www.ossingtonvillage.com/about-2/ Brian

    This is an interesting development. I’m sure one our clients at HomeStars aren’t going to be too happy about. In an niche vertical like ours, home services, our clients build reviews slowly, and our reviews are curated to ensure validity and transactions. With Google reviews, there is much more minimal validity testing and if companies get a fake review, it’s tough, tough tough to get it off. It’s also much easier on Google to post the fake positive reviews and game the system. With an algorithmic system, the solution is algorithmic. With curated content, it’s much tougher to game.
    Either way, I don’t think google wins. They don’t display the broadest, most relevant content, which is, and should be their end game.

  • http://www.turnthepage-onlinemarketing.com/ O.M.

    I really think this change will place an even greater importance on SEO and the quality of the links and ratings associated with each business listing. With greater influence placed in the hands of reviewers, it will be important to link businesses with high quality sites that will thus provide high quality reviewers.

  • Jim Jersild

    The most confusing part about this change is that my description and all my addition details are now gone as well, not just the reviews. I am not sure how that helps the “user experience” since the user is left guessing what my business is about.

  • servoos

    There is a serious flow with Google Places – they verify ownership only by phone which lets the business claim websites that are not theirs. That causes the business place page to show up the serps under the site they hijacked. There are so mant examples and they just ignore it.
    Will someone please HELP!

  • http://i-am-eksi.tumblr.com/ Marina Romero (eksi)

    Google places still show links to reviews from other local sites (including reviews count), does this mean that citations would work still though?

  • http://www.trulia.com/profile/Puniwai Lucy A. Puniwai

    I just want to brand myself on the Internet as a Buyers agent in the North Fort Worth area. I blog on Trulia, Active Rain and my business Facebook page. Someone please tell me the very basics that need to be part of regular branding routine. I am very dedicated to branding myself. I look forward to professional advise from my colleagues. Thank you so much! Lucy A. Puniwai

  • http://www.highrankings.com/hrasubscribe Jill Whalen

    Just noticed all the additional comments here. @MattMcGee, Localeze had just sent me a powerpoint claiming that their extra information was showing up directly on Places Pages. And they in fact, did have examples of it. They were using this to try to sell their services, showing how you would get the extra edge.

    It was interesting because I had been planning on seeing if someone at Google who would comment on the fact that they were featuring Localeze so prominently. It just didn’t seem right that a company could basically sell you this extra stuff for your Google Places Page. I figured Google must have been in cahoots with them.

    But within days of them sending me that powerpoint, their example sites no longer have that extra information nor do they mention Localeze.

    Honestly, I haven’t done a lot in the local space, and am not up on all the other things that Localeze (or similar companies) may offer.

  • http://www.beyondthesite.org Rachel Ankersen

    It’s an interesting development in my opinion. I know there are many in the Dental industry who are wondering how this update may impact how their local listings appear in the search results, especially the folks who’ve been using DemandForce to accumulate patient reviews.

  • http://www.localtag.org Pete

    Delighted to see this morning that in some cases the name of a reviewer leads you to their Google+ public profile. This development could help reduce the practice of negative bogus reviews. See examples which hopefully will be cleared up shortly https://www.localtag.org/2011/07/is-google-the-answer-to-cleaning-up-bogus-online-reviews/

  • http://www.optimizedlocalsearch.com L.S.

    A brief overview of about 50 various Google Places listings that we have managed for over a year appear to show virtually no impact in ranking from these changes. It appears that the changes may be strictly to reduce Google’s legal liability from third-parties where they have no control over content. Don’t discount the social media implications either…it has always been smarter to NOT send visitors away from your site where possible.

  • http://www.architechsw.com david pavlicko

    Of course I’d have to go on vacation right as all this happened.

    I had been pressuring one of my dental clients to sign up with DemandForce – fortunately he hadn’t yet, so I can’t say that I’m not happy that Google did this, but I really think it’s more about the bad press Google’s local search has received in the press lately (I’m sure legal liability is part of it as well, as JD mentioned…).

    Google’s also been pretty quiet regarding their own social recommendation service, hotpot – something tells me we’ll be hearing quite a bit more about it now.

  • http://www.valnelson.com Val Nelson

    Thanks for this update. I also notice a big change in the Place Page in that the description I added about my business is gone. Is that permanent? If they don’t show it, do you think they still consider it when deciding how to categorize or rank my page?
    Thanks.

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