The PlusBox is now once again being seen more widely in the search results. When Google strated manipulating local search results by reducing their footprint and removing the description several weeks ago, the PlusBox feature appeared with increasing frequency. I have received a number of emails alerting me to the “new feature” so I assume that many of you are not familiar with it.
The PlusBox is a local interface convention first introduced into the main search results in December of 2006. It really was the first “blended result” and it essentially added geo information and an optional map to an organic search result. Even though Matt Cutts indicated at the time that its data could come from the Places Dashboard (then known as the Local Business Center), it was typically algo generated and frequently showed erroneous information that was difficult to fix.
Bill Slawski first covered the PlusBox patent application in 2007 (and again in 2011) and it was a fairly common feature at the time. As Google pushed more 7-packs and then the Blended Places results into the main search results, the PlusBox was rarely seen over the past 2 years.
In many ways, the “new” PlusBox display is preferable to the new “no description” local display and begs the question whether a business owner can “do something” to cause its appearance instead of the currently sparse local result. The answer: I don’t know.
The PlusBox has always gotten its geo clues from a range of sources but it often appeared to be most influenced by website associated with a geo location rather than the Places Dashboard. It makes sense, if you want it to show, to be sure that your site gives the Google bots as many geo signals (kml files, rich snippet address formatting, location specific pages, geo rich contact us and about us pages, claimed listing) as possible. If I were a betting man, I would put my money on a KML file and geositemap as a very trusted signal but there are likely multiple signals that Google can use to generate the result.
As you can see from this screen capture, it has benefit of showing a longer title tag, a robust meta description and an address. Its reappearance highlights the importance of a well crafted description tag that possibly includes the phone number.
Obviously Google Local universal results are in a great deal of flux. Changes have been occurring on a regular basis of late and the only normal seems to be change. The reappearance of the PlusBox is just one change amongst many and who knows if it will last. The integration of search and social has just begun and this may end up just being a way station rather than a destination. That being said, it always makes sense to have a website that uses best local practices and clearly signals the Google machine where you are located.