Google Places Testing New Layout

Update: This appears to be a rollout not a test.

With all of the system wide quirks of late in Google Places, there has been speculation that the under the hood snafus were a reflection of bigger and more visible changes to come. This screen shot could be one of those changes. Sent to me by Nora and Yam Regev of Coinso.com, it shows some striking differences with the current Places Page.

It is too early to know if this is what the final product will look like or if it is just a test. It is missing owner description (an oft noted complaint recently in the forums), 3rd party review sentiment snippets (also recently removed from many search results), and even the highlighted 3rd party review that was associated with each review site. The links to 3rd party reviews have move down the page while the call to action in writing reviews and signing in are dramatically more obvious.  The lack of 3rd party summary reviews on the Place page display could explain the recent change of not showing the 3rd party review counts in the main search results.

As Linda noted below, the business description is appearing in most examples and is probably missing due to the recent bug. The big change, as noted in the comments, is the missing citations.

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73 thoughts on “Google Places Testing New Layout”

  1. Also showing for me when logged out (in Safari.)

    A MAJOR difference you didn’t mention…

    Citations are not displayed!

  2. 2508 reviews to 4 reviews. Every 3rd party review is gone, and only the four Google reviews remain. Get ready for Google user review spam.

  3. Now available in the UK as well (that was fast!)

    As we said in another article of yours: Google must take off all 3rd party’s reviews till they’ll control their on spam.

    1 more thing (sorry for the long link), see here the future of moving companies reviews spam. Google is pulling those “Scam Company” images from their Yahoo Local listings.
    Link

  4. Yeah, I’ve seen this popping in and out the last couple of days, and I think it’s much more elegant. It also will keep competitors from poaching citation sources.

  5. It’s not very hard to research competition’s citations sources (search by company name + phone will do) and sometimes the citations in G Places are misleading – some random stuff from korean blogs attached by chance to your listing.
    IMO the missing reviews from around the web are bigger problem cuz the directories will get less love and will stop giving information to google (like tripadvisor). The big names like Yelp will live and prosper but smaller directories will suffer huge traffic drop.

  6. Definitely a striking visual difference. The thing is this is a page that google controls, not under the control of the smb business. Its far less of a landing page IMHO, in google’s care…now its a description of the business featuring interactive googleness.

    Off the top of my head I fear spammers throwing in terrible or problematic pictures.

  7. Citations were worthless on the page anyways. I bet the CTR’s were extremely low, much like related maps. Only used by local seo’s 😉

    Will they still have effect…yes.
    Did they ever show the real amount…no
    Is is a good move to get them off the page….probably.

  8. I like the big red “Write a Review” button. That’s an improvement. THANK YOU for making it more clear!!!

    Is anyone else baffled by the big red “Sign in to Rate” button at the bottom? That’s just plain stupid. Too much ping pong happening in Mountain View. Back to your desks!

  9. Mike said in original post: “It is missing owner description”

    Yes that screen shot is, but some of my listings still have descriptions so I think that screen shot is suffering from the bug you and I have been working on in the GP forum.

    But now I’m thinking that bug could be related to this update. Who knows if descriptions are going to show or not now? Maybe they are going away.

  10. I’m with you on that Mike R. No need for them to be on the page and G was not showing all of them anyways for quite some time now.

  11. What is the difference between Google Places, Google Maps and a Google Profile?

    I just checked on my Google Places account, only to learn that I have to request a postcard by mail in order to verify my business.

    So what exactly is the difference between the three?

  12. Mike: Sent you a screen shot of how search now looks when you are signed in to google. OMG. Now local search has become very social!!!!

    Meanwhile, being the snarky one that I am….I had to make comments on the social signals that google was making.

    to the point: Google assumed some things via algo. When it comes to reccommendations I’d rather trust whom I know rather than who google assumes are “like me”. At least that is my first impression.

  13. Jeez – Can’t these guys knock it off with the changes already? I spent the better half of last year educating clients in hotel and hospitality verticals to not put all their eggs in Google reviews. Instead, we decided to run Yelp, Tripadvisor, and Hotels.com programs to incent reviews.

  14. I agree that any site wanting to rank still needs to be well reviewed around the Web. Google will see these other reviews, and they’ll contribute to a site’s/business’ authority and ranking, regardless of how Google displays them.

  15. @Dev
    Thanks for the link.
    Reading Google’s blog I got the idea that Google is really on top of things. Unfortunately major problems still exist with many Google reviews gone missing. As far as reviews having an effect on rankings – will they be counting 3rd party reviews that we can’t see? Will they be counting lost reviews that are stranded in purgatory? Oh look it’s time for a beer already.

  16. Mike: Also referencing the announcement at the google blog: http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2011/07/ongoing-evolution-of-place-pages.html

    One thing strikes me though. Google is under preliminary investigation now for a variety of anti trust issues. Plenty of fairly large sites with reviews scraped by Google had tremendous problems with what google had been doing in that regard.

    Removing that content and those reviews from other sites immediately removes that issue. BINGO….one potential anti trust problem solved.

    and…in doing that they redesign the Places Page to REALLY emphasize Google reviews.

    I see what they wrote….I’m just reading between the lines. 😉

  17. Note all: There is a separate thread here at Mike’s too, devoted to the discussion of 3rd party reviews. See comments over there as well.

    http://blumenthals.com/blog/2011/07/21/google-places-search-no-longer-showing-3rd-party-review-counts/

    Also, I started a thread in the GP forum about all the changes. Then Vanessa just posted one as well so 2 other places to read and try to keep up with what’s going on.

    Could be in for a rocky ride folks.

    Fasten. Seat. Belts.

  18. Great post, Mike. Very “quick to the draw,” too, given that I think this change only took effect mid-afternoon today.

    It just seems a shame that the maximum # of review excerpts on a Places page is 2, rather than the former 8. Kind of goes against the idea of creating a good “user experience” by giving people more information about a business rather than less (IMHO).

  19. @Earlpearl
    I am not too sure about the idea that anti trust is playing a role in this… although it must play into their decision at some level… to me the issue has to be and will be “how do we generate the most income”… and as
    @stever points out that is likely by aligning Places with Plus…

    Plus can be an uber honey pot, a jack of all trades , a one place for everything kind of place for a business to go and to be found… that = $$$$$

    I see the color scheme and the sparseness as Stever does… in preparation for that day.

    @Phil
    I had been watching the changes throughout the day (see my earlier post) and had originally thought I would publish this in the AM but it was rolling out faster than I expected…thanks

    As to the loss of reviews, its Google sand box and while we can bemoan the past, the path of most benefit is to mine the present. I think this change offers yet again more of that.

  20. This is obviously a gigantic push of Google Places reviews and Google getting more reviews on its own platform, rather than on third-parties. A few things that are worth mentioning:

    – now 5 Google Users reviews are showing on the main Place page (previously these were 2)

    – the third-party reviews are NOT gone, they are just suppressed, and their exposure is now close to 0 (you can see them under the Google Users reviews as snippets)

    – the third-party reviews still appear in both the organic SERP and on the Place page itself, so I wouldn’t be worried (at least for now) for them not being important

    As I said, this all seems like a big push of the Google Places reviews, not a change in algorithm.

  21. And a couple more interesting changes:

    – descriptive terms showing on the Place page itself

    – The “What people are saying” section is also gone

  22. @Lee
    They will count for sure, just won’t have any appearance on the main page. See it like back links for SEO (or something similar).

  23. The citations are not suspended. They are just not being displayed. This section was basically worthless and was showing a lot of inaccurate, outdated, irrelevant information. However, in very few cases it was helpful when determining which business exactly has yours been confused with, by the algorithm.

    As I mentioned above, I don’t believe this is an algorithmic change at all. Although I have the opportunity to follow the ranking of just limited amount of Place pages, I haven’t noticed any changes.

  24. Have to agree with Nyagoslav: this is a change in presentation, not an algorithmic change.

    I’ve been looking and looking at Chinese food restaurants in SF tonight.

    I am seeing that some are still showing descriptions (as Linda says).

    I am also seeing that the restaurant ranked #2 has only 4 google-based reviews, while other below it have 40, 50, 100. That’s kind of curious.

    And, surprise surprise, I am seeing a numbers discrepancy within a given Place Page for one of the restaurants. Top of the page, it says 48 reviews. Down below, it says 43. Where are the missing 5 reviews coming from?

    Google, google, google…if you really want to compete with Yelp, and this is your en garde, the time has come to fix this numbers issue which has been plaguing your review base since the dawn of time.

    What an exciting evening in the localsphere.

  25. Just wanted to add, I’m also looking at a 7 pack result for what I’d consider to be an uncompetitive vertical (bakeries davenport iowa) and in no way does review count (meaning with this new system in place) appear to be affecting rankings. The only bakery with more than 1 Google review (it has 9) is in the F position, while everything above it has only 1 review. I haven’t looked at all the other signals, but like everyone here, I’m wondering how this will affect rankings, and so far, nothing is jumping out at me.

    Mike, I bet you’re asleep right now dreaming of disappearing reviews.

  26. Good call, Susan. What’s odd is that I’m logged into the “Edit” area of one of my client’s listings right now, and the “Details” fields are still showing up.

    As you said, they’re missing from the public view, but if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say the “Details” are either (1) somehow dormant or (2) are going to be wiped even from the “Edit” area pretty soon.

    Does anyone else see the Details in the “Edit” area but NOT on the Place page itself?

  27. Hi Phil, the missing details is part of the bug Mike and I have been trying to get Google’s attention on in the forum, prior to this roll out. It was missing for lots of users.

    But in spot checking I don’t see any Places that have details now. So it appears that section is gone.

    However if it’s still in dash, I wonder if that means it’s like citations. In other words Google still reads and makes note of those extra details internally, just does not show them on the place page.

    Darn, even tho that section didn’t do a whole lot as far as direct ranking I had some really cool tricks I’d use that section for that helped overall. PLUS I would really add a lot of relevant data that not only would appeal to Google but also help the client see all the extra work I did. If it’s hidden and possibly meaningless now, then what’s the point?

  28. Hi Linda, thanks for the intel. I actually didn’t notice any missing Details until yesterday, but I think you and Mike have much better radar on your side 🙂

    Your “citations” theory sounds like the Google we all know (and love). Those Details were a nice way to inject a little personality into your GP listing: I know what you mean.

    So it sounds like you and Mike noticed some cases of missing details *before* any of these changes rolled out–like perhaps on Wednesday?

  29. @Phil

    I started trying to bring the missing descriptions bug (which often included the more details section going missing too) to Google’s attention in the forum a couple weeks ago. My thread title was something like “Bugs in the Database” Then as Mike saw more and more complaints he got involved too and escalated it up the flag pole.

    Still not sure if that bug was related to the update or not. Clients that had missing descriptions still have none and clients that weren’t affected still have theirs. Have not checked any of Mike and I’s forum thread today yet to see if anything has changed or if Google has made any more posts. G did make 1 comment saying they were aware of the problem and working on it.

  30. @Phil & Linda

    A new Googler, MrEvan, appeared that consolidated all of the conversations into the one post that I had created.
    And then a little bit ago Vanessa responded that:

    Hey guys —

    Just to be clear: descriptions have not disappeared with the new Place page changes. We’ve just pushed a new listings index — please give it a couple days for the info to reappear. But keep us posted if you see they don’t come back so we can take a deeper look.

    Thanks!

    Vanessa

  31. I think it’s great that they’ve made it easier to find the ‘write a review’ instruction but it’s clearly part of a plan to ensure total relevance.

    Now more people have a gmail account and are automatically logged in -through their use of Google+ – as well as being able to access Places through the Mobile app, Google have the means to promote their own reviews over those of the citations. It also allows them to show reviews right in front of the viewer’s nose, rather than seeing them click away to other sites.

    I would suspect that they will still use those 3rd party citations to provide a sort of cross reference confirmation.

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