Google Places Pages Are No More – But What has Changed?

Today Google announced the integration of business pages with Google + and the demise of their Google Place page. This is a change that has long been anticipated and one that simultaneously gives a business more control over their page AND dramatically enhances the review environment. Greg Sterling has a good overview of how specific details will change.

Effectively Google + has become a destination for local search and a shared local experience. And tasks that were accomplished on the Place Page like reviews will happen on Plus instead. This explains the missing review buttons on mobile and the desktop.

According to Greg Sterling “Not unlike some similar functionality offered in Foursquare, users will be able to sort and filter search results by several criteria, including “your circles,” which will reveal places “touched” by friends. Currently this means reviews and posts, but could extend to check-ins later.”

But while the display of the page has changed, many other parts of the local ecosystem at Google have remained the same. Google Places is composed of three parts; the business listing display, a backend management tool and a ranking system.

This change essentially moves the location of the business listing display, gives a business more control over the visuals and allows for more segmented social activity around reviews. However the current backend, the Places Dashboard will remain the primary location for input.

Here is what I posted at David Mihm’s recent article about the coming Place – Plus merger:

There is no doubt that Google is integrating (slowly) Places with the social backbone and the single login logic of their update. There has also been a trend away from highlighting the stand alone Place page… For example Google has pushed the Places result out the front page with the rollover option and made the Places page difficult to get to from Maps…

So when thinking about what is coming I segment Places into three components
1)The display (search result or otherwise)
2)The SMB management interface
3)The back end architecture that assembles Places listings, dedupes the list, attaches reviews to a listing (or not 🙂 )

Lets look at #3 first. This might be upgraded but it appears that the technology to automatically generate a business directory world wide will continue to persist and will survive any changes. Google is actively investing in the architecture with recent changes and tools & staff to fix the artifacts of its workings.

#1 – Certainly Google is interested in displaying search results where ever and when ever they make sense and can generate ad revenue. While Place Pages are perhaps being directly displayed less on the desktop they might still make sense in mobile. They most certainly would make sense in the context of Plus in the many ways that you point out.

#2 the Dashboard – It is likely that an SMB dashboard will continue to exist in some form or another. It will likely undergo a radical redesign so as to be able to provide a simple self service interface to Adwords, Analytics, Offers, Punchd etc. It makes all kinds of sense to add Plus to that mix for all the reasons that you point out. There certainly needs to be more reasons for SMBS to return to it but it seems unlikely that the primary interface for SMBS with Google will go away.

Essentially this has transpired. The Dashboard is still awaiting an update but Google has confirmed that it will remain the point of contact for creating a business listing.

The algo, while it will evolve to include more social signals, is still the algo and it will still rank businesses. It has been evolving right along but Google rarely throws away ranking algos rather they add and change the important elements.

As for the backend that assembles the listings, dedupes the list, merges similar businesses that too will stay. It is being improved and enhanced but over the past year signficant investments in this technology has been made and it will not disappear.

Google is still rolling out the change so the details of how all this will work are not yet clear. But they note “If you don’t yet have a Google+ Page for your business, we encourage you to create one now. And if you do already have one, hold tight for news on how to get it linked to your local listing.”

So while some has changed, and the change is important, it is incremental change and not revolutionary change. It is a change that will hopefully engage more businesses in claiming and keeping their “place” current and one that will hopefully engage more customers with the business.

But it is not a change that will fundamentally change (at least initially) how a business is ranked in the main search results nor how listings are created and assembled.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
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89 thoughts on “Google Places Pages Are No More – But What has Changed?”

  1. I must be the only person who dislikes Google’s recent push to integrate everything into Google+. Where I used to be able to use Picasa as a spot to upload family photos for family to see, and not to share them amongst any or all of my G+ friends (mostly work friends), Google forces my hand, and even posts my photos without exactly asking so I’m looking for another photo service.

    Same story here with Google places. Sure, it’s probably great for a business to be able to see what my real name is and for all my friends to know what businesses I frequent, but for me, the consumer, it doesn’t help me at all, and is yet more advertising. Google places used to be my, well, place, to review a business anonymously and honestly, with it being shared on G+, I’m reluctant to speak my mind.

    On droid, Google even caches my family photos (from Picasa) again, without asking. This behavior would be fine for a personal phone, but it’s on my work tablet computer.

    On Facebook, I’ve seen several friends who aren’t aware that their Facebook pages spew ads all day long because they “liked” that business. Apparently this is the business model Google is going for. Unified, ubiquitous. Scary.

  2. Mike,

    I used to have four or five different categories show up on my business Google Plus page. Now, it only shows one. When I go to the edit page, all my categories still exist though. I also noticed my competitors don’t have this problem. Is there a way I can fix this?

  3. Wondering if you can clarify something for me… Do I need to create a new page on Google Plus/Local if my info seems to have been transferred over from my Google Places page already? I had claimed my page in Google places a while back. Do I need to claim it again in Google Plus? While my photos and reviews do appear to have been transferred over, the “at a glance” description does not show for my listing when I do a search for “dog boarding” in Granada Hills. Also, even though I uploaded 5 videos to my Places Page, none of them show up on the new Google Plus page. I also tried changing the url listed through my dashboard and though I saved it, the old url still shows up on my Google Plus page. Totally lost here. Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks!

    1. @Denise
      Google Place pages were automatically transferred over to Google Plus and are now called Google+ Local pages. However that was just the first part of the process of integrating them into Google Plus. You will (at some point) need to create a personal profile at Google Plus AND a Google Plus Page (for local) that is associated with that profile. Currently you can merge your Google+ Local page and your Google Plus Page by verifying them.

  4. Really useful feedback Mike, on what is a confusing part of maintaining your web presence.
    My places listing seems to have re-appeared after a 4 month hiatus and my reviews (or some of them at least) have returned.
    What are your thought on citation gathering in order to help maximise your Places visibility? I see a few companies offering citation services to US clients and a few other countries.
    Do you think Google are relying heavily on citations when ranking Places pages?

  5. @Andy
    Citations in all of their forms is an integral part of building out your local brand and making your business more visible on Google. It isn’t the only thing and perhaps isn’t the most important thing but it is a critical part of the plan.

  6. I’m not sure this problem has anything to do with the changeover to Google Plus or not. On my iphone 4s, under Safari I cannot get the Places tab to open and instead I just get a places-oriented searchbar for that is like regular google search but with the word Places underneath it. Search results are not the formatted list of places where you set your location and the formatted listings appear.

    This has happened in the past when I switched from the places tab to a regular google web search. But I could hit the back button until I hit my last Places Tab search and could resume searfching again. Today, that stopped working. When I got back to the Places tab everything looked normal until I ran a search and no search results would come up at all. I then deleted all history, etc. and now cannot get the tab to open at all. I am freaking because this aspect of Google Places/Plus as it appears on the iphone search is an important part of my business here in the resort town of Cabo San Lucas.

    Any ideas please? I’ve searched all over with no answers. BTW, when I click on the News or the Images tabs, they open just fine. It is only places that doesn’t go to the tab and instead just goes to the Places-oriented regular websearch.

  7. On my claimed Google business page 2 tabs are missing, which I see in other places, and they are Videos and Posts. How do I fix this issue?

  8. Follow up to my comment 62.

    In fact what I am getting is just regular “web” google search and not the google places. It worked fine yesterday as I was about to demonstrate a search result for “Pizza” to a client where our town, San Jose del Cabo, was already set as my location. I then accidentally hit another app on my iphone that uses google web search and also prompts for login.

    Normally, I can just back button out of this situation and get back to the places tab. But when I did it this time a blank would appear for the search resuts and I also kept getting prompted with that same login from the other app.

    Now, what I see is that when I hit places tab, places does not load up in the URL and in fact Web is what is loading up and Web is the tab that is activated. Images and News as I mentioned above also activate; Places does not. That is such a nice feature for a mobie phone to display only the easily scrollable list of formatted places listings instead of myriad search results. Plus, down here only about 10 categories of businesses or so aggregate on regular Google searches into a map with places, so that you can’t guarantee all clients that they wil appear in any way on Google other than via the Google Plus Page on Google Maps on the PC or via the unadorned results on Google Maps mobile. Or of course the not so wonderful Google Local App

    Any help or even a source for getting help for this weird problem would be very appreciated.

  9. Greg,

    I’m no expert but that happened to me as well so I wanted to share what worked for me. I started off with just having my old business page that I had claimed with Google Places about a year ago. It wasn’t showing the videos and posts tabs either. Then about a month ago, as per Mike Blumenthal’s instructions in post #59, I created a personal profile at Google Plus and a Google + business Page for local tied to that profile. I then verified the Google + business page (they sent me a code by mail and I entered it in to complete the verification). Soon after, everything seemed to magically merge together. My new Google + business page had the video and posts tabs along with the about and photos tabs. And all but one of my reviews were transferred over as well. Hope that helps.

    P.S. Mike, thanks for the great advice. Any idea why they got rid of one of my reviews? It actually showed for a while but then disappeared later. That was pretty irritating given I now have 9 reviews and my zagat score doesn’t show anymore. Could it be that it was too short of a review (it was maybe 4-5 sentences. Also, the client had copied and pasted it from a post she had made on my Facebook page. Duplicate content issue maybe?

    1. @greg
      What Denise said. You can search my site for a step by step to the process as well as a guide to merge or not to merge. The merge is not quite ready for prime time and a business should look before leaping.

      (Sorry for brief reply but am airport on my iPhone)

  10. Greg,

    On your original page (the first link you posted), I think if you click where it says, “is this your business/manage this page,” they might ask you to go through the verification process which would eventually cause the pages to merge. Not sure though.

  11. I found it, there is a verification for Google + business. I did not notice at first. The question is the reviews will they all transfer? Google should have done it automatically.

  12. Greg this sounds similar to a problem Matt Gregory reported at my forum yesterday and 2 users at the G forum also had the problem.

    We escalated to Google but no word yet.

    Posting links to both threads so you can see if same problem and follow for updates. 1st post from Matt includes screenshots.

    Possible Bug: Verification Feature Disappears

    “verify now” button on + business page has disappeared! Can’t verify now… – Google Groups

  13. Greg,

    Yikes! You probably should wait for someone else to answer because I’m only speculating here…

    In regards to your post #71, I think the reviews will automatically transfer after you’ve entered the code on the postcard that you’ll be receiving shortly-assuming you re-claimed your business page on Google Plus.

    As for why your verification button disappeared, the only thing I can think of is that you’ve already put in for the verification so it doesn’t give you the option to do it again. When you receive your code in the mail, I think the postcard should give you the url that you are supposed to go to to enter the code.

    But like I said, better off waiting for someone who knows what they are talking about to answer.

  14. It amazes me that Google, a billion $$$ company would have so many issues with Google pages, reviews, etc. 3 Months since the Google + took over the old business pages system, I still did not find any solution and so are my clients.

  15. This one is incredible. I had a client with 49 reviews on the old business page.
    This client in addition to our services hired Reach Local. They created a new page Google + page, no reviews on this page. in a week 30 reviews vanished with only 19 left. Took years to collect them from clients, and they all gone with a snap.

    How do I return them back? This is absolute disaster. Are they all missing because of creating Google + page?


  16. If they are marked for spam, that means that Google algorithm system is only 50% accurate, because each and every review was left by actual clients and they are 100% genuine! We collected each reviewer names and we have a back up of their review. To ask them re-post the reviews again will be a disaster. I had Yelp’s inaccurate filtering system on the top of my list, and they just moved to a second place.

    1. @greg

      Re: that Google algorithm system is only 50% accurate

      Given you multiple listings anything could have happened to your reviews.

      You are assuming that your definition of accuracy is the same as theirs. They have noted that soliciting reviews is contrary to their desires. We still don’t know what that really means but clearly if at the end of 6 weeks your reviews don’t show back up the odds are that they have been identified as spam.

      I am curious of the reviews that are not showing, how many have new G+ accounts with very little history?

      PS sorry for errors or typos but I am responding in flight on my iPhone.

  17. One of my clients, who is a photographer gets his 75% reviews deleted from Google, either Google Plus or or not plus. In 2 years he collected 27 reviews, only 7 are remained and some of them from 2 years ago. All the google plus, but one was removed.

    1. @greg

      Right, likely it is something he is doing is triggering the filter. Is he helping create user accounts? Encouraging newbie Google users? Using a review station? Something in the way he is acting might be the cause. UNLESS it is from having duplicate listings or because of some name confusion. You won’t know till 6 weeks has passed the disappearance.

  18. Thanks Mike for all your support. You are great!

    One of my friends, ceo of appliance repair company is sending emails asking leaving just a simple feedback on Google about their services, without even asking positive or negative or whatever reviews. The results were 49% gets removed, the rest were deleted. He contacted his clients, who’s reviews were filtered, to try one more time, and change the content into a shorter one. Some of them did and about 10% were not filtered. Which makes 39% genuine reviews filtered. It shows that not only IP’s or Google plus, or whatever are the factors. Until we will have the verification system, like Amazon, the review system is nothing but frustration.

    I must have contacted Google dozen of times, but there were only employees with no answers. They said that they are working on solving the problem some bugs. I have been hearing this for over 2 years. I even contacted Sergey Brin, CEO of Google, no answer what so ever. I wonder why… :0)

  19. I misprinted, and could not edit it. Here is the corrected post.

    One of my friends, ceo of appliance repair company is sending emails asking leaving just a simple feedback on Google about their services, without even asking positive or negative or whatever reviews. The results were 49% got removed. He contacted his clients, who’s reviews were filtered, to try one more time, and change the content into a shorter one. Some of them did and about 10% were not filtered. Which makes 39% genuine reviews filtered. It shows that not only IP’s or Google plus, or whatever are the factors. Until we will have the verification system, like Amazon, the review system is nothing but frustration.

    I must have contacted Google dozen of times, but there were only employees with no answers. They said that they are working on solving the problem some bugs. I have been hearing this for over 2 years. I even contacted Sergey Brin, CEO of Google, no answer what so ever. I wonder why… :0)

    1. @greg

      1)there are thousands of businesses in the same boat
      2)there is no answer other than what they have already noted: it’s either temporary or permanent. If its permanent its likely the spam filter.
      3)if it is spam they will not say.

      I would suggest that he read this post and come up with Plan B.

      I can’t emphasize enough that he should NOT be encouraging clients to use Google if they are not already active there.

  20. In my opinion all the filtering systems will do worse for the consumer. It will create more fake reviews out there. Why…? Because if the genuine reviews will be deleted, companies will pay programmers who would find a way to by pass the filters or writers, write the reviews that would stick. Sad…

  21. While I can’t speak to the issues people have experienced regarding reviews, I’ve helped numerous clients set up Google+ Local pages and Google+ Business pages and I can’t believe that months after this transition I’m still forced to have people verify they are the owner of the business twice over (one verification for the Google+ Local, formerly Google Places page, and once to merge the Google+ Local page with the Google+ Business page). Am I missing something?!? If not, I sure hope Google finds a way to streamline this process…

    In addition to this complication, I feel like we’re all still beta testing their new system given my client’s issues adding people to circles, missing reviews, et. al.

    I’d be more than willing to use Google+ more heavily myself, as I like the “slower” more in-depth social netwkring it and Facebook provide over the likes of Twitter and Pinterest, but if it wasn’t for the search engine positioning offered by Google+ pages, I’d be full back in the arms of Facebook by now!

    1. @sean

      You can choose to just verify via G+ or Places for Business, you do not need to do both. If you just use the dashboard Google will auto migrate you at some point.

  22. I absolutely agree with @sean! Love your post BTW.

    I have about 50 clients, that had old Google pages with still missing video tabs and posts. I read about claiming Google + , and asked some of the SEO companies for advice how to turn the old pages to a new Google +, and some of my clients did that with the verification again, and guess what? All of them have now 2 Google pages, one with no reviews and one with lost 80% of their reviews. A Nightmare…

    I told the rest of my clients not to open the can of worms, stay as is and do anything. It looks like Google is not doing anything as of yet.

  23. Hi Mike,
    Our issue seems to be the reverse. We have a Google Places listing at the top on page 1 via a search of ‘building and pest inspection sydney’. The listing also is ‘richer’ than other listsings, with ‘About Us – FAQ’s’ etc listed underneath it.
    The issue is however, we service the whole of Sydney. We used to have (until a couple of weeks ago) a normal organic listing in position number 1, 2 and then 3. It then all of a sudden turned into a Places listing only. Subsequently a noticeable drop in business with the Places listing. Prior to the change, periodically we would notice the listing would change one week from places to organic, but for a few months it remained the organic, normal listing.
    We hadn’t done anything to effect this change. Our blog posts did stop however, so perhaps we need more fresh content on our resources/blog page??
    I had some helpful info from Linda Buquet (see post below). We have implemented the change suggested, (and details of what ensue in the post).!mydiscussions/business/DAtqrTmvPa8
    Any ideas on how we can replace our Places listing back to organic/normal listing?
    We do not service customers at our location. It is a serviced office. Should we be ‘hiding address’? If so, the preview of our listing then shows the suburb ‘Glebe’ where our office is, and this looks worse, as it’s less information.
    Hope you can help point in the right direction.
    Many thanks, Cath J

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