Update 1:00 pm EST: Googler Jade has just confirmed that some changes of some sort are on the way. Here is their statement:
We’ve seen some questions about the small update to local search user interface on Google (removal of “More results near…” link) –
Where Has Places Search Gone? What’s Next?
1)Last week Nyagoslav Zhekov did a nice write up on the Google’s proposal as to what Local search results will look like in Europe in an effort to comply with the EU anti trust settlement.
2)Recently Google removed the links for “More Places near by” and and references to Places search in the main search results.
3)Google has been attempting to rebrand G+ Local as Google+ Pages. This was clear with their communications around the release of the Places for Business Dashboard.
4)Google designs the front page results for scale and wants a single display world wide.
EHG, a top contributor from Germany in the Google for Business & Maps Forums, has asked me the interesting question what I made of these changes and whether they are related. He seems to think so and I agree.
When you combine these facts with the current lack of branding (or rather the effort to rebrand Local as Plus) and Google’s desire to have a single universal display for the whole world it becomes plausible to speculate that changes to the display of the 7-Pack that comply with an anti-trust settlement in Europe and solve these other issues are in the wind.
As a part of that settlement Google will include links in the Pack display to their product as well as to competitors. Where will these new internal Google links in the main search results take users? There are two choices: Maps or Plus.
Currently the local search inside Plus is a 2 search box affair that doesn’t offer a map view of the search area specified by the user which makes it a less than an ideal search experience. Thus the current version of Maps with a single search box and Map view port is a more obvious choice.
That being said it would be very like previous efforts of Google to use local listings to boost traffic of a secondary property. In the era when Google was competing against Mapquest, Yahoo AND the IYPS for market dominance in local, they used their business listing to boost their Maps traffic and their Map traffic to boost their listing traffic by combining the two products.
Adding 50 million+ visitors a month to Plus would go a good way to boosting the apparent usage levels of Plus. What local search in Plus will exactly look like I have no idea but my money is that the links take users to the Plus local search results. Whether that means an upgrade to the search capability in Plus or not I can’t say.
Here is the screen shot (from Nyagoslav’s blog) of the changes that Google is proposing in the EU:
Whither Places Search? Is Plus Search Next? by Mike Blumenthal