Last week when Google Map’s new Place’s pages were introduced it was noted that they were not going to be indexed (there is a great discussion going on at Greg’s blog now) leaving the impression amongst many that they would sit, isolated, in the Maps siloh. They would, it was thought, only be seen to users deep inside of Maps.
Google’s plans seem more ambitious and grand than that. Places pages will, over the next 6 months or so, not only appear across all of Google’s mapping platforms (Google Earth, Mobile and perhaps the iPhone) but they are likely to start appearing in the main search engine results. There they will perhaps push less worthy geo & business brand pages off to the second and third pages of the results, affecting traffic results and business plans for a number of players.
Peter Wypanski, an SEO in Philadelphia, noted that the Google robots.txt shows a nofollow for Places: Disallow: /places/. Technologist Chris Silver Smith though pointed out on Twitter that a no follow in the “robots.txt doesnt mean Google wont index a page- only that they wont crawl it. Link 2 profile = it’s indexed”.*
And indexed these pages are. If you search on the Burdick Chocolate Cafe Boston, an example that Google disseminated widely during their pre announcement briefings, you will find it on page one of the search results.
Chris Silver added that
“The keyword optimized URLs** appear to be key towards showing the intent: they intend those URLs to be highly friendly, easy for people to send to friends, and they intend the URLs to live for a long while. Very different from URLs we’ve seen heretofore in Google”.
“I think that this is to local what Wikipedia has become for factual information. If you can generate a central page collecting information about every single place in the world, then the world won’t beat a path to your door — you’ll already own the path.”
What are the implications?
With Places Google has managed to scale up an alogrythmically based view of Maps centric data across a multitude of businesses, geographies, monuments etc (and soon real estate listings) in a single sweeping product/technology. Places pages will soon be showing everywhere regardless of platform or software. It may affect IYPs, long tail search plays, affiliate directories and local aggregators. Depending on how Google implements Places in the mobile world, it could have a significant impact there as well.
On a typical geo search on City + State, Google has done a decent job of finding and displaying relevant resources on the first few results oon the page. If you search on a rural town you will often find the Chamber of Commerce, a government page, a Wikipedia page perhaps a local data aggregators like Americantowns.com or City-data.com. Beyond that the results for city, state searches are pretty thin often showing a hotel aggregator, weather or a Mapquest result. I don’t think for the time being Wikipedia or chamber/government sites will loose their standing but data aggregators on down could stand to loose position and significant traffic.
Remember though, Google has created a platform than can compete not only on these fairly broad geo searches but on the much longer tail of transit stops, monuments and single real estate listings. The value of this type of easily displayed deep content content in the mobile world is incalculable.
In the business results world of long tail brand results those IYPs and directories that have been pure search plays and offer little original content will likely be affected as well. It seems, as in the case of Burdick Chocolate Cafe, that the Places pages for many businesses will rise to the front page of the results on the brand search.
In both situations the quality of the main search results will probably improve AND Google will capture and retain that much more traffic to the interior spaces of Maps.
From Chris Silver Smith‘s email to me:
“For a very, very long time, I’ve suspected one possible future for local search results pages could be Google creating a custom page for local directory results. This looks like a step in that direction, to me. Imagine a future where you type in a local place name, and a standardized info page appears, displaying photos about the place, maps, videos, webpages associated with it, business directory listings, the geocodes, address, and more. We don’t have to imagine that now that Places has arrived, but imagine if at some point these Places pages replace the first page of local search results in regular Google web search. I think that’s a definite possibility of where things could head.”
*In a subsequent email, Chris noted that for a more thorough understanding of how a no follow page can attain page rank you should read Eric Enge’s interview with Matt Cutts where Matt said: “Now, robots.txt says you are not allowed to crawl a page, and Google therefore does not crawl pages that are forbidden in robots.txt. However, they can accrue PageRank, and they can be returned in our search results.”
** Here is an example of the easily formed Google Places keyword optimized URL for Barbara Oliver & Co Jewelry in Buffalo NY:
Note the standarized format: