Google is in the process of shutting down its collection of city pages — a change that follows the shift from Google Places to Google+ Local, and a change that may be reflective of a larger shift in direction for Google’s local efforts.
Mike Blumenthal noticed yesterday that the Portland city page had gone missing. The page used to be accessible at www.google.com/portland/ (which redirected to www.google.com/city/portland/), but that URL now produces a 404 error. The same thing happens with some other city page URLs, like google.com/sandiego and google.com/madison.
Those pages were launched in the summer of 2011 and served as a hub for the Google Places community efforts — which involved “feet on the street” outreach to local business owners and consumers. Here’s what the Portland city page looked like when we first covered the city page launch.
The pages were a central spot for Google’s “recommended places,” upcoming events, current Google Offers and the latest tweets from Google’s staff in each city.
But at least one of the old URLs — google.com/city/austin — now redirects to a corresponding page on Google+ Local: plus.google.com/u/1/+GoogleLocalAustin/posts. And that seems to be the plan for all of the old city pages. We got this statement from Google when we asked about the old city pages being shut down:
Earlier this year we announced Google+ Local – a local search experience that makes it easier to discover and share your favorite places – like a great restaurant or museum. With Google+ Local, information for hundreds of cities around the world including Portland, Austin, San Diego and Madison is streamlined in one place.
Google is essentially saying that the old pages have been made redundant thanks to Google+ Local. But the new Google+ pages don’t have the same feature set as the old city pages. There are no local businesses getting the “recommended places” label, for example, and there’s no page that lists Google Offers. So it’s not an exact replacement that Google’s making, at least not at this point.
What’s unclear is the impact — if any — that the change is having on Google’s physical presence in each city. A Google spokesperson told Mike Blumenthal yesterday that “Community Managers are still working with local businesses in a variety of cities around the world,” but there are signs that not all cities are still active in this aspect of Google’s local efforts. For example, the Google+ Local team in Portland is still very active on Twitter and on its new Google+ Local Page, but the original San Diego community manager is now a former Google Places Community Manager. The Google San Diego Twitter account hasn’t posted in more than a year, and there’s no San Diego page that I can find in Google+ Local.
That may not be related at all to the shift to Google+ Local, but it does seem to show that Google’s approach to how and where it maintains a physical presence is also changing.