I’m scratching my head over this one: Google has added a new content block on place pages that, quite often, gives free advertising to a local business’s competition. It’s called “Nearby places you might like” and it appears below reviews on the place page; the content block will show up to ten recommended businesses — but sometimes less. At the moment, the place page for Seattle’s Fairmont Olympic Hotel shows only two nearby suggestions, but one of them is the bar at the W Hotel.
Worse, consider the recommended businesses on this place page for Il Bistro, a restaurant in downtown Seattle:
Six of the suggestions are restaurants, and two others are specialty food stores. Il Bistro went to the trouble of claiming its listing, adding extra business details, photos, and coupons, and Google “rewards” it by recommending six other restaurants. That’s surely not the kind of content Il Bistro wants on its place page. And I can’t imagine the Fairmont Hotel will be happy to discover that Google is recommending the W Hotel’s bar.
Google says it’s using “a broad set of signals” to determine what businesses to recommend, and the suggestions may or may not share any specific characteristics; i.e., restaurant place pages won’t necessarily show nearby restaurants … but Mike Blumenthal shows a jeweler’s place page that recommends a full 10 other jewelers.
Google pitches these nearby suggestions as a very user-friendly feature, but it’s certainly not business-friendly. Perhaps a compromise is in order, like showing nearby suggestions only on place pages that haven’t been claimed? If the business owner claims his/her Google local business listing, then no recommendations get added. How about it, Google?
Postscript From Danny Sullivan: Also see Is Google is Stealing Your Content and Hijacking Your Traffic on our Sphinn social news site. There’s a debate going over how much is too much in terms of what Google puts on these pages, from a business owner’s perspective.