Google Related – Making Buried Information From Places More Visible

Google has just released a new browser plugin (Chrome & IE) tool, Google Related that provides information that Google thinks is relevant to a given website that you are visiting. The tool, while working across a range of e-commerce, information & local websites, is of particular interest in the local space as it provides direct access to information drawn from your Google Places page.

When Google noted last month that they would be making buried information in Places more visible, they were not kidding. The plug-in presents maps, reviews and related places front and center in a tool bar at the bottom of your website. It may also reference videos and additional web sites but I have yet to see a local example of that in the wild and will show these if 1)the info is available AND 2)the viewing screen is wide enough. The video, unlike the other options, plays in place and offers no click through option. As the screen resolution drops fewer options are displayed.

The new plugin provides a user with two additional links to your Place page, one link to your Google Places review page, links to 3rd party review sites and links to the Places page for businesses that show up in the Related Places section of your Place Page.

The feature set, while of likely use to the searcher, is most likely to benefit Google and their properties, driving page views and ad revenues.

In pushing Google Places information out to the greater web, Google is once again putting review management at the fore of both the searcher and the business’s mind. The use of Related Places is sure to raise the ire of many an SMB, much as it did when the feature was rolled out in early 2010. At the time it was referred to as Places Nearby You Might Like and was the first obvious indication to SMBs that they did not control their Places page but that Google did. It also demonstrated that Google was developing a sophisticated “business graph” that was capable of mapping out a web of similar local businesses across the local market.

It also raises a number of other questions. Will Google provide any analytical information about the information that is attached to your website? How many times folks viewed the review summary? How many visited your Place page or better visited a competitor site? If Google is going to attach this sort of information to a business website, they should have the analytics in place to help the business understand how to improve things.

Here is the same screen shot as above captured on a wider screen. Note how the web pages and videos now show:

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Interestingly if you click on the Map pop up it will take you to a new Map view that by default shows reviews and related places as you scroll down the page:

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If there are no reviews it shows related places in the new map view:

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If you click on one of the last 4 reviews highlighted in the reviews tab it will feature that review in a custom view of your places page, elevating that specific review:

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This display of hours is something that I have only seen on a few of the websites and it is not clear why it shows sometimes and not others.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Related - Making Buried Information From Places More Visible by

20 thoughts on “Google Related – Making Buried Information From Places More Visible”

  1. Thank you Mike, that is a real gem! I wonder how long it will take for them to build this into chrome as a press-to-reveal element in the footer of the browser. It would make total sense and I would welcome it for my own surfing of various locations when shopping and/or vacation hunting.

  2. I wish the web list went past five results, but at least we can see review citation sources. Of course, most of the review sources are not new, one might find random ones that need some NAP TLC.

  3. I love it.
    Why can’t i see the tool bar in all websites?
    Seems like sites that associated with more then 1 listings are not generating a Google Related bar.

    Yam Regev

  4. @Linda
    Thanks. Actually Stever had sent me a screen shot of the early tests so I was on the look out for it.

    @Ross
    Good question. I think most users would agree with you, although I think SMBs and Google competitors might not see it so favorably. :)

    @Lauren
    Good point… it does seem to reference the top citation sources.

    @Puresheer
    I noticed that on local sites which have the wrong URL or no URL in Places it obviously fails. Not sure on why for example my website does not show the result although you could be correct that since I have two locations, Google does know which to show.

  5. @Mike

    I mean if you search something & click on an organic result that its website has this feature, you can see a clear option on the left bar for 1 local listing (which can be a competitor listing obviously) as long as this listing is dominating the 1 pack under this search term.
    I can send you a screenshot…

  6. Not sure I like this.

    Does it mean that even after you get a visitor to click onto your site, google are pulling them away onto other competitiors?

  7. @Mike
    Great. So it’ll depend on industry of course, but I’d have thought that it is only a benefit for big or well known brand names. (looking at the vendor side not user side)

    If someone is on a small independant stores site for example, (think you guys call em mom and pop stores) and the searcher sees a name they know and recognise, the net flow is going to be to the big boy.

    I’d argue that this isn’t a good think. Score +1 for big business Score -1 for “don’t be evil”

  8. @Mike – What would be your best guess for a reasonable percentage of Google search users who would add and enable this plugin say over the course of the next year? Will we see 5%, 20%, 60%? What would be considered successful traction?

  9. @Jim

    That’s a great question, the answer to being limited by a lack of good stats. This chart shows browser plug-in penetration for the top plugins from MS, Apple, Adobe, Java etc… you can see that they typically top out at about 60% maximum penetration with the exception of Flash that comes preinstalled for many. It took Silverlight three years to go from the 20% to 60% range.

    There are a number of reasons that a Google plugin of this ilk can not get to 60% penetration.

    1-many of these installs are motivated by media or hw purchases. IE the iPod & music purchases drives Quicktime adoption and it still is only ~60%
    2- There will be resistance on the part of other vendors, websites and competitors to allow this plug-in distribution
    3- There may be anti-trust considerations as well

    A closer model would likely be the Google browser plug-in. I was unable to find good stats on its penetration.

    Let’s guess and say that the Google search plugin has a 25% penetration rate…It is safe to assume that Google, if they so wanted, could get a penetration similar to that plug-in.

    It would require that
    1-It is available on all browsers
    2-That Google really get behind it on the marketing side.

    If you assume both conditions which are at least 6 mos. off, then you could see a 3-4 year curve similar to Silverlight achieving a similar 25% penetration to the search plugin

    The things that could change this assumption to the upward side would be a wildly successful adoption of Chromebooks, much broader adoption of the Chrome browser AND Google bundling this plugin as a default install or a default feature.

    If that occurs I would expect the anti-competitive screams from the likes of Amazon & Ebay to get much louder.

    So.. that was a lot of hot air to get not much of anywhere. That is the way with predictions of the future. :)

    That being said, this product demonstrates the power of contextual search. It is well implemented and very useful to searchers (and of course Google :) ). As such I think others like Bing, Firefox and Apple will strive for a similar functionality. I suppose if Google paid enough some or all of those 3 would think of promoting this particular plug in but I doubt it particularly for MS. Apple and Firefox would follow the money if it didn’t imapct their users negatively.

  10. Ahh..I see that it IS built into the Google search Plug in for IE . That means that penetration over time will approach 100% penetration of that plug – in. So if we could determine that we would know the answer to your question.

  11. Hey Mike,

    For the hours piece: “This display of hours is something that I have only seen on a few of the websites and it is not clear why it shows sometimes and not others.” Have you checked to see if the hours are listed on the Google Places page? Even if they are listed on the GP page, are they not displaying in the tool?

  12. @Tony
    Hours no longer display on the Places page. But the ones that I checked that did not have hours did have them in their Places dashboard.

  13. Wow, this is just another way for Google to exert its omnipresence. Now it’s trying to direct traffic away from your site and onto one of its affiliate sites (Places, Google News, Videos, etc..) and wants you to think it’s a good thing because you are still the ‘center of attention.’

    I can see the benefits. Google Related showcases your videos, and reviews for local businesses, but isn’t that your website’s homepage’s job in the first place? The home page is supposed to tell the visitor what to know, and this toolbar is only redundancy on a well-thought-out site.

    Also, as a designer, I’m not too thrilled about having ANOTHER toolbar on a browser raise the fold and reduce our design space (since the average screen isn’t an iMac-sized one).

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