Last week, Google publicised some new changes to Google Places, their local search / listing pages which allow businesses to be displayed on the Google maps, and in local search results.
The changes are fairly minor on the surface, but their implications are interesting.
The most noticeable change is the sudden emphasis on reviews. Google have made the “Write a Review” button bright and obvious, and included a second button which encourages you to log in in order to write a review, as shown in the image below. (If you’re logged in, you see a second “review” button instead).
Writing on their official Maps blog, LatLong, Google explained that the changes have come about as a result of user feed-back, and that as always, their intention is to provide only the most useful information, and best possible experience, for their users.
Long-Term Local Search Goals
Another thing that Google discussed on the blog was their log-term vision for local search, which includes:
* Bringing more personalised results on the basis that people you know provide more meaningful information.
* Integrating local search information across Google platforms.
* Making it easier to rate, review and share online information.
Google Users Only
Another significant change is that only people who are logged in to their Google account will be able to rate or review pages. Again, this is leaning toward more personalised results, and incorporating that social aspect as well.
Finally, it looks like the old citations have been replaced with links to other local listings that are similar to the one you’re on.
Not sure how businesses like being displayed on a page which also lists their potential competitors, but we’ll see how that pans out, and what they do with the “Similar Places” section.