Changes to Places Search & Google SERPs Display

Eric Rohrback

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I'm searching through a variety of different industries and taking a look through Google local results and I'm seeing a couple of changes - one that SEW brought up, and another that I haven't really noticed till now.

The first change is that little green arrow next to the url (Google got rid of the preview pane, so the new way to see cached pages is to click the little green arrow). The second change is there is no longer a link to see other Places listings in the area underneath the 7 pack. Usually with the blended I saw a blue link to see more places listings... now that's gone. The only way to see more listings than just the initial 7 is by actually clicking into the "Places" tab.

Is this new? Did I miss something?
 
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Linda Buquet

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Thanks Eric, that's new to me and I just noticed something else that I think is new, but remember I've kinda been out of the loop, due to Dad's issues.

The other new thing I just noticed is pack listings changed.

See: https://www.google.com/search?q=alpharetta+pediatric+dentist&ie=UTF-8

It's a pack listing because link on top says: "pediatric dentist near Alpharetta, GA"

Click the link. It used to take you to Place search. Now it takes you to Maps.
 

Eric Rohrback

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Weird... well I guess I feel a little better knowing i'm not the only one seeing this crazy change, but this is kinda rough if a client isn't in the top 7 for local they won't be found. I mean how many people actually click on "maps" or "places" when searching for small businesses? It seems like Google made it a little tougher to find businesses outside of the top 7.

Rough changes...
 

Linda Buquet

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Great point Eric. Now they need people like you guys even more or they will be pretty much hidden from the average consumer's view.

Then again, maybe it's only a test?
 

Colan Nielsen

Administrator
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Administrator
Yes, Google updated the way they display search results sometime yesterday it seems.

Interesting that they have added a "share" button in the green arrow drop down menu next to each result...
 

Eric Rohrback

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Colan I noticed that as well. Could that be a subtle nudge from the Google Gods that Google+ (well I suppose social media signals in general, but more so G+) is going to become a much stronger ranking factor?

With so much talk about the importance of authorship and Google+ posts.... hmmm...
 

Linda Buquet

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Moderator
Just got this email from BrightLocal so looks like this or some other change affected ranking reports.

Update: Google changes affecting reports

We want to update you on some issues we've had with reports today (Thurs 25th April)

Late last night Google made an update to the way it displays search results. This is a subtle change and exists in the code rather than on what you see on your screen.

However, this change means our tools were not able to correctly detect rankings in Google results. So results in reports from late last night & earlier today are incorrect, and some reports failed to run.

We noticed this change first thing this morning and have been rapidly updating our tools to work with this Google change. We relaunched the Rank Checker at 10am EST and are now re-running all of today's scheduled rank checker reports. On Monday we plan to remove the incorrect reports from today, but they will show in your report history until then.

We are now working on updates for CitationTracker & Google+ Local Wizard and plan to release fixes for these tools later today.
 

Marie Ysais

Local Search Expert
AHH HA! so, good catch here! My tools have been broken and I thought it was a fluke....
Also, nice catch Colan on the Share button. Yet another social signal built right in. I had not noticed the changes until you pointed it out. I was just wondering why all of my tools were down.. very interesting.
 

Linda Buquet

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Google UI changes are so subtle - it's easy to miss the changes.

I once again nominate "Google Local Detective" as the new title for what we do. :p

The other thing that's funny about Google - so many updates and changes go unannounced by the company. Other big companies can't wait to do PR on every single new feature. Often it seems Google leaves the public or marketers to find and tout the changes and word of mouth to spread the news. I guess when you are as big and visible as Google you don't need PR, everyone talks about you no matter what!
 

JoyHawkins

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the Google Gods that Google+ (well I suppose social media signals in general, but more so G+) is going to become a much stronger ranking factor?

With so much talk about the importance of authorship and Google+ posts.... hmmm...
Yeah, Google is REALLY pushing G+ (no surprise there). They made a pretty big move (in my opinion) this week with Adwords and are now showing G+ annotations automatically without you even asking for it in your campaign:

"Starting today, enhanced campaigns will include social annotations when they can improve ad performance, without additional edits to campaign settings"
http://adwords.blogspot.ca/2013/04/enhanced-campaigns-improvements-for.html
 

Linda Buquet

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Staff member
Moderator
Oh crap, new change. Places Search option is GONE NOW!

Remember I said with the "more link" gone you can't get to page 2 of local results except with the Places Search option at the top of the page? (But I doubt many consumers were even aware of that option.)

Mike just blogged - Places Search just disappeared from the menu now too.

But now that Places search is gone - how do surfers and potential customers get to the other results?

The answer I guess is that you need to pay to be on page one or customers won't be able to find you???


Places Link Removed From Google More Menu | Understanding Google Places & Local Search
 

Linda Buquet

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As I just said over at Mike's: "If I remember right the ranking order in Places Search was sometimes different than Maps search, so I used Places Search a lot for competitive research.

I bet this is going to put a wrench in some of the local rank tracking software too."
 

Phil Rozek

Top Contributor
Oh, it's always fun when Google rocks the boat, but I just don't get the sense people really used the "Places" button. I'm inclined to think it's more representative of Google's tendency to get rid of stuff that's useful (e.g. Google Sets) than of Google's not-so-subtle AdWords pushes.
 

Colan Nielsen

Administrator
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Administrator
Agree with Phil and I'm still seeing the "Place" button here in Canada....Toronto to be exact.

However, what will the user do now if they aren't happy with the first page of local results and they want to see more?
 

Linda Buquet

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Moderator
Colan someone at Mike's was still seeing it too. So could be a bug but my guess is it's just starting to roll out and his not hit your server yet.

So I guess then with new clients you can't just look at Places search and tell them they are #6 on page 3 - so that you can show them how much progress you made when you get them to page 1. Because there is no page 3 or 2 or 4. You can only tell them where they rank on Maps now, which again I don't think is the same as the Places search ranking order was.

I've been trying to find the parameter or a link to a page 2 SERP so I can still see the old Places search results to compare with Maps search. But so far have not found it.
 

Phil Rozek

Top Contributor
However, what will the user do now if they aren't happy with the first page of local results and they want to see more?
I'll have to meditate on that one.

But one thing that might happen is that people will just type in other search terms and either (1) find a smorgasbord of local businesses or (2) click on an AdWords ad.
 
I still have the Places link here on my end...i live in Pittsburgh so my Google requests go through one of Google's data centers on the east coast.

However, i did VPN into a server located in LA, and did verify that the Places link was gone. So its either a bug on their west coast data center or they are doing some testing out there.

Really hoping this is a Google bug, as Places Scout relies on gathering local results from the Places section of the SERPs...so this could spell trouble if its deployed nationwide. I guess we would have to fallback on getting the map results in place of the Places results if this is indeed rolled out everywhere.

I can't see why Google would remove the Places results though, it just doesn't make sense. Unless they are trying to move everyone towards using the map. But the fact that they did remove the link under the 7-pack that took you to the Places results may be a sign of things to come.

FYI - You can still access the Places results even if the link is gone in your browser. To do so, copy and paste the following special link into your browser:

Code:
https://www.google.com/search?q=dentists+los+angeles&hl=en&prmd=imvnsu&source=lnms&tbm=plcs&sa=X&oi=mode_link&ct=mode&cd=8&prmdo=1
This will take you to the Places results. Once here, you can enter in any keyword in the search box, and the search will stay in the Places results.

Should be an interesting next couple of days, that's for sure. ::crossing fingers::
 

Linda Buquet

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Yea for the link Mark! I knew you would know how to get it. If I couldn't figure it out was going to ask you, cuz I need my Places search. It's kinda like the old Google toolbar and Reader. I'm a creature of habit and need certain tools.

Fingers crossed for you it's just a test, but I have a feeling it's an intended change that just has not rolled out everywhere yet. :(
 
UPDATE: Looks like the change has been rolled out to all data centers as of 11PM EST on 04/30/13, including international servers.

Places Link is now gone everywhere =(. Looks like you can still access the Places results using the special link i provided in my last post, but for how long, who knows.

So assuming Places SERPs are gone for good, i guess moving forward the next discussion will have to be about what will replace it and how will users find local results outside the blended organic / 7-pack results.

Right now, i can't see anything other than the maps results as a suitable alternative. Its the next logical step on the SERPs for people to click the map image, so its looking like Google is steering users to use the map for local results from now on. If this is the case then all current 'Places' rankings will have to replaced with Maps rankings.

You could speculate that Google may try to force people to use the Local results inside G+, but that would require all users to have a G+ account and be logged in, which doesn't make sense either.

Why Google why lol. Next few days aren't going to be fun for me and Places Scout, that's for sure. Probably won't touch any code until the dust settles on this for a little longer.
 

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