Software

Why Google's Place Pages had to change and what that means for your business

Google recently removed the text of reviews from sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Urbanspoon, among others, from its Place Pages. Kevin Purdy tells us what that means for your business.

If you owned a business that ended up on the wrong side of some Yelp reviewers, your search results might be a bit friendlier today than they were last week.

That's because Google recently removed the text of reviews from sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Urbanspoon, among others, from its Place Pages. Avni Shah, director of product development at Google, writes of an "ongoing evolution" in a company blog post, one "based on careful thought about the future direction of Place Pages, and feedback we've heard over the past few months." The post notes that while the external reviews have been removed, links to those reviews remain on each business' Place Page.

Some of that feedback certainly must have included not-so-rosy responses from Yelp and TripAdvisor. Neither service appreciated having their voice of local authority subsumed into one section of the first stop for most Place searchers, and have in the past toyed with blocking Google's access to their service. If Google wanted to keep the door open to incorporating Yelp, TripAdvisor, and similar services into its many search and location-based services, it was a smart move to scale back the review samplings into simple links.

Screenshot by Kevin Purdy for TechRepublic

Then again, there might be a longer view in play than simple content relationships. A recurring theme in Google's history with antitrust-type litigation, and likely the focus of the current Federal Trade Commission investigation, is the question of how much the firm favors its own products in its search results. Search on nearly anything on Google, and results from YouTube, Google News, Google Images, Google's Shopping comparison engine, and other services from Mountain View get prominent placement.

That might simply be because Google's peripheral search services are also very popular and relevant, but Google would do well to avoid the appearance of promoting its own products at the expense of others. In this case, this means showing only reviews made by logged-in Google users on a Place Page, while still linking to other content.

What else changed for businesses and institutions listed in Google's Place directory? At first, it seems, glitches involving disappearing business descriptions, though Google employees have said in support forums that it's likely a side effect of an index change-over. And with the extended external reviews gone from the page, so, too, are the snippets from around the web - which, in some cases, could cause some pretty terrible cognitive dissonance. Place Pages also used to show web sites around the location in question, and in its general business category, that referenced the business, but those were a bit too attractive to search engine optimizers and referral link builders.

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In general, new Place Pages are cleaner, and encourage visitors to do more than just read. Buttons for writing a review and uploading a photo are much more prominent. In some ways, that gives businesses a clean break from their standing on Yelp and similar review sites, which, like much web commentary, tended toward the love/hate, 5-star/1-star extremes. If a business felt unfairly ruled by one or two harsh takes, it now has a second chance.

So, a tip to the wise: if you haven't claimed your Google Place Page and provided a good bit of useful information about your spot, visitors from the Google ecosystem will click to find it elsewhere - Urbanspoon, for example, or perhaps a quick TripAdvisor visit.

About

Kevin Purdy is a freelance writer, a former editor at Lifehacker.com, and the author of The Complete Android Guide.

11 comments
leonelavery922
leonelavery922

AGM Batteries Hi there. Google have done great things so far as for me. It helped me a lot with my businesses.

manylath715
manylath715

SEO Services Hello Kevin,The post is written in very a good manner and it entails many useful information for me. I am happy to find your distinguished way of writing the post. Now you make it easy for me to understand and implement the concept. Thank you for the post.

leonelavery922
leonelavery922

gas connection sydney It's really important for google to change or improve its sites so as they can serve us better,

daniswalker
daniswalker

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Nyagoslav Zhekov
Nyagoslav Zhekov

This is a truly impressive recap of the possibilities for the change. However, it is obvious that such a change was needed, and while the ones that you mention in the article are only speculative reasons, the one that is objective is that on the Place page there was way too much useless content, which shouldn't had been there. In this sense, the "More about this place" section was not actually showing "web sites around the location in question", but rather websites that are mentioning the most important details of the business data, the so called NAP. However, this section was rather useless for the regular visitor, and was making one wonder why Google would stuff so many ugly unstructured links at public online real estate.

robw2205
robw2205

I'm curious as to the actual changes in the SERPs after Google made this change - considering the links are still present. Does anyone have any data to back this? Good report, though -- not knocking it one bit! Thanks for linking to the Google blog post - very helpful!

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Have you established a presence for your business in Place Pages? What results to you see when you search your business? Are you satisfied with those results?

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