Google Places Adds Nearby Places You Might (not) Like

Will Scott of Search Influence has pointed out a new “feature” on a business’s Places Page that is sure to infuriate more than one SMB. Right below the review section of the Places Page, Google has added a new section titled (with no little irony): Nearby Places You Might Like. This screen shot of the Places Page for a jeweler in Buffalo, Barbar Oliver & Co. Jewelry:

Since it was introduced, Google has promoted their Places Page as an alternative landing page for a business and it was highlighted as such during their Local Listing Ad test last year. There isn’t an SMB in the universe that has invested in maintaining and highlighting their Places Page that wants nearby competitors listed on that very same page.

It is an interesting choice of upgrades to the Places page for Google to make. Clearly, from their point of view, they need to make the Places Page a beginning point to a users experience with Google not an ending point. As they have directeded more traffic internally to the Places Page instead of the list view in Maps, I am sure that they have found that users have no obvious place to go from there. The user interface to view more pages within Maps is not very noticable and most of the links on the page lead off site. Obviously, not a great strategy if selling more ads is the goal.

Google could have chosen, in the past, to highlight a business’s Places Page in the main index but choose not to. Now, when a user does arrive at the page for a business there is a choice to visit competitors Place’s Pages as well as other nearby businesses. In a strange interface convention, the link to a Nearby Places You Might (not) Like is selected it opens a new window in a very un-google like fashion.

Clearly, moving forward, Google is hoping to make the Places Page and elements on it more visible. They are also hoping to monetize this by enticing owners of the pages to either advertise or enhance their local listing. It seems to be an incredible bone head move if that is their plan to wave a red flag in these very same owners faces prior to that move.

This move will be perceived as “evil” regardless of their motivations and goals. One can only hope that it is a test of very limited duration and not a new, permanent part of the Places Page

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Google Places Adds Nearby Places You Might (not) Like by

30 thoughts on “Google Places Adds Nearby Places You Might (not) Like”

  1. Very weird development. Why is google working so hard to get smb’s to claim listings and then hit them with this feature? Seems sort of “Yelpish” IMHO.

    Couple of things:

    1. Lets face it. Few visitors go to the places page…though that number is increasing and radically increases when you consider mobile web.

    2. Its buried on the page. Of the few people who go to places page, how many are going to scroll down to look for DIRECT COMPETITORS!!!!!

    3. Who owns the Places Page? SMB’s aren’t paying for it. Google is encouraging them to claim listings. With or without claimed listings, Google creates them. Google is now experimenting with a mechanism to monetize listings in Maps via photos videos, coupons, etc.

    4. Places pages already show good and bad information. Various citations or reviews might already promote negative commentary about a business along with all the positives that a claimed listing might provide.

    5. Its a blatent smack across the face to the businesses who have a places page.

    Bam…here is all this stuff about your business…mostly good…possibly some negative reviews…..and then BAM BAM….google gives the viewer your direct nearby competitors’ places pages. What gives

    6. Could this be a roundabout way to make some money off of SMB’s.
    (pay google….and your competitors don’t show….or some other crappy maneuver).

    Like I said….seems “Yelpish” to me.

    Lends itself to trying to force someone to advertise via fear. Very crappy way to do business.

    So much for “Do No Evil”

  2. From a purely-user centric point, I have to say, I don’t have a problem with this. If I’m looking for something (Chinese food, a used car, a camera shop) I might like to know of other local options.

    From a business owner’s standpoint, blech! Just as I’ve started to think of a Place Page as ‘my’ page, I see all of those fellas who I’m trying to outdistance taking up space on my own page.

    But, as Dave so wisely points out, above, a Place Page is not my page. It’s Google’s page and just as MC can make sense out of using a businesses’ name for their own totally bizarre purposes, I can definitely see how Google can make sense out of using a Place Page to draw users deeper into the Maps experience.

    Yup, some bad feelings will surely arise out of this.

  3. Sorry for the slow response…wrote this just prior to departing the GetListing Local University in Spokane….

    @Andrew when you add this to the “enhanced listing” experiment the only thing keeping them from being more like the YPs of old would be the high pressure salesmen. :)

    @Taylor
    I doubt that Google will get into the extortion game ala Yelp just yet they are subtler than that (at least not until the next recession :) )

    @David
    They do “own” it and while the page does not get seen very often at this point, one assumes that is a providing Google their “platform” of the future.

    @Miriam

    The user experience might be improved particularly if searching for a museum, zoo or a nearby lake. Given that “Places” are many things, not just businesses, there is plenty of logic to its inclusion but the logic that was used was not either well thought out or sophisticated enough..

    It also might makes sense from a readers POV to show “complimentary services rather competitive ones. than but ….

    From an interface point of view:
    1)The whole page is a mess …way to much stuff, way too long
    2)Does it really need one more element that far down the page?
    3)Could they not come up with an interface element (and a neater page) that provided access to the information WITHOUT putting competitors on the very same page?

    Google at the latlong blog noted (again with no little irony):
    You’ll notice that we do not limit these suggestions to places sharing any specific characteristic; instead, we use a broad set of signals to come up with what are hopefully the most interesting suggestions. We’re still working on refining these signals, so bear with us if your serendipitous discovery of a new place is even more unexpected than you’d anticipated.

    Perhaps they will tweak the algo to not show so many direct competitors, & perhaps not show any. In the meantime, they have demonstrated to me once again that they are tone deaf as to SMB’s and their perceived needs.

  4. Mike,

    I love the idea that they might become complimentary services. That makes it much more acceptable.

    It would then become Google’s best algorithmic approximation of a My Map, e.g.: Trustworthy Home Service Providers in Buffalo.

    At this point though, whether malicious or not, I think it is a feature release without full consideration of the impact on small businesses who — at Google’s strong urging and specific direction — are starting to utilize this system in their marketing (a la “Favorite Places”).

    I know you can’t change behavior of a behemoth like Google but I sure wish they’d think about the negatives of some of this junk before they put it into the ecosystem. (I know, I know – might as well wish for world peace and clean oceans)

    Will

  5. OK, one more thing. I just read the post on the Lat/Long blog. Posted after we scooped ‘em here.

    http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2010/02/nearby-places-you-might-like.html

    And notice how Tammy Stern, so generously links with the “title rel=”nofollow”” attribute as the business name. Where is she linking to? Wait for it. No, it’s not the actual businesses it’s the motherf#*!ing places page!

    So much for the Google toadies claiming they’re not indexing them. We all know that a preponderance of links can overwhelm a noindex.

    I was nice in my last comment but damn these people piss me off with their total ignorance (or negligence) in the application of their own systems.

    Geez!

    !– rant ends –>

  6. In too many cases Google search, and the impact of Maps holds undue enormous power over businesses. Its an extraordinary phenomena.

    It acts in ways completely oblivious of this impact and power. Other powers, larger than google need to start bearing down on this monsterous entity.

    This particular phenomena is not the place where that “make or break” power and impact are felt the most. Nevertheless its one more example of how Google marches forward oblivious to how its actions dramatically effect businesses like no other advertising/marketing/visibility entity before it.

  7. Seems kind of similar to Amazon.com’s “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…”, but it cuts both ways competitors show up on your page and you show up on their page.

  8. It will be interesting to see how google determines which competitors listings show up in this new ‘nearby places you might like’.

    At first glance it appears as though there is a category link, like in the example you give – which makes sense. However, after a bit of digging I came across a listing where there doesn’t seem to be any connection between the business itself (plumbing supplies) and the ‘nearby places you may like’ that google displays (Jeweler, Music Instructor, Closet Accessories, Pet Groomer Golf Instructor…).

    This is the link to the particular listing:
    http://maps.google.ca/places/us/buffalo/new-york/clinton-st/146/-schaefer-plumbing-supply-co?gl=ca

    The geographical connection also seems to be quite lose ‘nearby’ can be up to 30 miles away – in a different city – that doesn’t really strike me as near by – especially in the local world.

  9. @Will
    If the algo were just “related businesses” that would be cool but as you noted the early algo seems very crude…sometimes bringing up only direct competitors, sometimes bringing up nearby places of interest, sometimes bringing up related businesses and sometimes bringing up businesses (as Alie points out) 30 miles away…

    @Andrew
    I developed a certain “flight/fright response” from years of dealing with YP salesmen…They used FUD with such success to inevitably either extract 2x what I should have spent or induce such doubt that I was continually questioning my decision. In the early 80′s at least, their sales staff were superbly trained and very good.

    @Earl
    I think that they are not oblivious….

    @Doug
    In conversations with Google, “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…” was the example that they used to describe the product….it does cut both ways… That being said the product pages were never positioned any differently than that… In this case, Google has on a number of occasions positioned this page as a landing page, perhaps creating expectations that they never intended to fulfill.

    @Alie
    As I noted above to Will, there seems to be a range of what “Places Nearby” represent, some more logical than others and some more inappropriate than others…. certainly 30 miles seems wildly irrelevant.

  10. It would be interesting if in the future Google allows you to edit these types of lists. It could become some sort of partnerships list, businesses with similar relationship ethics, etc. Doubt it would ever happen, but an interesting thought nonetheless. Kind of like a links page on your Google place page.

  11. It isn’t even useful for a user.

    Try a search for a plumber in your US town on a Google Maps page. (I picked Delray Beach, FL). You will see a few on the left and the map on the right. View one of them. Then check out the Nearby Places You Might Like list — these are not plumbers “nearby” in Delray Beach but from places two or more towns away e.g. Ft Lauderdale, Pompano Beach etc.

    Why would I want to ignore all the other businesses in the same locality?

  12. @Ash
    It is still a very imperfect algo that’s for sure. The usefulness ranges from useful to totally bogus…

    @Taylor
    If you look at the interview I did with Carter Maslan, you will see that Google perceives this page as a search results page to which you can add “some” content, not a page over which you can execute much control.

  13. If you have a good product, you will be willing to share the space. The easier you make it for your customers to see what else is out there makes them quicker to use you – again if you have a good product. The same is why would a website put up links away from their site. Because if you have a good resource, people will still come back. Only those who have a mediocre product should worry about this development.

  14. I think most SMBs would contend that a link that they put on their site is by their choice and not the choice of an algo. The SMB is going to create the network and participate in it and thus the network of links from their website is natural and real. The algo, that recommends a Chiropractor 10 miles away for the drive-in diner or the 10 immediate competitors is a Google engineers idea of what constitutes that local network.

    In fact your comment brings up an excellent idea…engage the SMB in identifying those nearby and related businesses that their customers might be interested in. The results would be significantly more meaningful that those generated by this algo and would engage them in the process.

  15. Google seems to be emulating the success of other portals like Yelp and iPhone apps. There is never a lack of things to do for keeping your local business listing as a top search.

  16. It will be interesting to see how google determines which competitors listings show up in this new ‘nearby places you might like’.

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