Google Places will be the battle ground for both business and SEO consultants and agencies in 2011 with an increasing preference for showing and sometimes total dominance of the organic results. It seems that every week there is a new expansion of Google Places into universal results but it seems that the expansion of their Local business product is not truly consistent, which makes it nearly impossible for business to understand the trust the quality of the results. A few of these changes I thought I would comment on in this post to signal to you how Google Places is evolving and how you might have to reconsider your local SEO campaigns in 2011.
Google Places showing URLS
You can see in the screenshot below that Google Places is starting to show individual pages that match to the search query. It’s interesting that the Google places first result “A” shows an individual page that is an exact match to the search query and the third result “C” shows a URL that is a match to the geographic location. This was the first time that I have seen this showing as Google typically has taken preference to show just the domain in the Google places results but it seems to be now electing to pick a URL that it feels is a better match as it does in organic results.
Google Places showing Breadcrumbs
Google Places is also continuing to mirror Google Organic with its Places results with “B” showing breadcrumbs in the expanded Google Places result for Rydges SouthBank. You can see that Google is slowing messing up the previously clean and clear Google Places results be starting to treat them like organic results and showing deep URLs like you can see for the Clarion Collection Rendezvous Hotel.
Google Places Super Results
Google Places is a very visually attractive and their new super result for #1 listings really dominate the competition with almost a double listing but includes a bonus attention grabbing image. The result for Magistic Cruises includes the standard title link and meta description but also features 4 sitelinks, a link to its Place page, links to 4 reviews about the company and company contact details. While the 2nd result also features 4 sitelinks you will see later in this article that is not enough to attract the visitor’s attention span before it moves to focus on the 4th result Sydney Princess Cruises.
Places gaining too much attention?
You can see below the older Google results that are not showing the additional results for #1 are much less appealing and eye-catching to consumers. You can assume that the first result will receive slightly less attention when it is not showing the enhanced Google Places results but what is the actual impact in terms of visitor attention/analysis?
Google SERPS Attention & Attraction Analysis
The following test was done using Feng-GUI analysis products, that allow you to realise where the consumers eyes are looking when viewing a webpage, advertisement or photograph, it is simulated eye tracking. You can see the impact of the visitor’s attention span when Google Places results are shown in the first image, but it also shows that the amount of attention the Google AdWords results receive is also significantly reduced when Google Places are shown.
So while it seems that you risk violation of Google Places guidelines by using landing pages or trying to game their algorithm by listing unique URLs, Google can and will alter the mix to suit its own results. So do you think that Google Places has morphed and evolved beyond being just Local Business listings into the new and possibly improved Google Organic results?