get in touch
No. 1322
January 10th, 2012

Check Out My New Company
You Know You Want To


[Infographic] A Brief History of Google Places

Google Places History Infographic

SEOs tend to work themselves into a frenzy over every minor news announcement that comes out of Mountain View–and one could probably say Local SEOs lie on the extreme end of the spectrum. In some respects, it’s understandable. Our space is constantly evolving, and to ignore these announcements can put us at a significant disadvantage relative to peers who are paying closer attention.

At the same time, this frenetic pace can lead to a bit of information overload, and an inability to see the bigger picture–both in terms of Google’s algorithm itself, and more broadly in terms of where the company is headed as it tries to stay ahead of its many competitors.

I focus exclusively these days on a very small niche of SEO–Google Places– and even in this tiny little sliver of the online marketing world, I’ve found myself struggling to keep up over the past several months. It seemed to me that Google’s pace of major announcements, initiatives, interface updates, and (possibly) algorithmic changes had really kicked up several notches since about April of this year & I wanted to see whether I was just starting to lose my mind, or if that was really the case.

With the help of the amazing blog archives of Mike BlumenthalGreg SterlingMatt McGee, all three of those guys at Search Engine Land, and many, many others, I set out to review all of the major announcements and changes at Google Places since the inception of its ancestor, Google Local, back in 2004. After compiling what I felt were all significant announcements I attempted to categorize both the type of announcement, and the magnitude of their significance, in some cases with the benefit of hindsight.

It’s hard to take in all of this data at once, so I’ve made these infographics available for download in multiple formats, and included an interactive version as well, which also serves as my “bibliography.”

Check ’em out here.

What do you think? Did I miss any updates that you feel should be included? What insights, if any, does this visualization suggest? What do you think about the direction Google is headed? Let me know in the comments.

  • Great resource to use as a reference to Google local/maps/places events. If nothing else, this shows how the local space has grown online in the past 7 years, and specifically the last 3. It would be interesting to look back on the industries that got overspammed at certain points in time. I saw Locksmiths listed in one of the news articles, but know that florists, anything cash for gold/payday loans, and computer repair all got spammed pretty extensively at points in time on top of the locksmith era.

    You could also probably track daily or weekly changes with the interface and service offerings for the past year for Google alone. All of the nuances in display happen far too often to probably keep track of and it’s interesting to look back on how many times Google tried to monetize on local before going with Boost for the time being….sorry I mean AdWords Express.

  • Ummm….David! Spot-on lad! Now this is the kind of thing that will take all my extra hours in the next few days to pour over, cogitate on, reflect about and yes, struggle to understand how I could’a “missed” this one or thought that “that” one wasn’t important! And to think that us “local” search types have to know ALL of this just to be able to compete is just as mind boggling as the whole study itself!

    Thanks David…muchly appreciated….if only I could just send it along to new clients with the note that “this is why we do so well and yup, it’s a moving target too as you can see!!!”

    Big #Kudos here!


  • Blimey David that’s a bit of a headache job. A lot of those changes completely passed me by. Do you think your top 10 LSRFs are out of date already? Any opinion on how applicable that mainly US view is to the state of play over here in the UK? I’ve noticed a recent upsurge in US results when searching for stuff over here. Not only is it coming up with map results; it’s bringing up normal listings for searches that I’ve set my location for Carlisle, UK. Methinks the latest algo tweaks have got some problems. This occurs on occasions when I’m logged into or out of a Google account. Curious!

  • David, what an incredible job! Thanks for pulling this together.

    Ray, I’m in Canada and I used to occasionally see US results returned for Canadian cities. For example, Hamilton Ohio instead of Hamilton Ontario. But I haven’t seen that in at least a year, perhaps longer.

  • David, I can’t even imagine how much time it took to pull all this data together AND make it all look so good! Excellent resource that will help many local pros, I’m sure.

    Thanks for all you do for the industry!


  • David, all I can say is “Whoa!” I’ve been trying to think of a good infographic for a while as link bait for our site. Wish I would have thought of this myself! Thanks for your hard work! I’m just curious… Would it be okay if I can host you for a GetListed session out here in AZ? I’m quite confident that we can get a pretty big turn out with the connections I have in our communities….

  • Thanks for all the comments everyone.

    @Taylor if you isolate just the Green circles, you can (I think?) see all of Google’s efforts at monetization pretty easily.

    @Eric, Just emailed you to talk about hosting a Phoenix Local U. We’re definitely interested in speaking with any and all prospective partners for those events.

  • Hi Dave, great compilation. I think we can all expect a lot more of this in the future as Google tries to direct more and more traffic internally into their own products and less to external sites. What do you think the chances are of a migration of all business place pages into Google+ pages – my bet is sooner rather than later.

    cheers, Karl

  • David, brilliant resource! I’m sure that many light bulbs will turn on over the next week as I digest all this info. I would love to peek behind the curtain and watch the inbound links, social shares etc. that will hit your blog over the coming weeks. Thanks for the research you and others have dedicated to local search and thanks for passing your insight downstream via your blog and Get Listed University.

  • Great post David. I’m just getting into the local SEO scene and found this post about google places particularly interesting. The overload factor is definitely a problem I’ve ran into. Thanks for the info about Search Engine Land, I’d never visited and love to find new resources, though they all seem to add to the overload factor to some point.

  • Wow David, you are now my go to reference point for my Google Places Listing set up … just doing some research!

  • Awesome info on Google Places listings. I have not seen much data for the impact of the use of microdata and schemas in regards to local seo. Sorry for being a little off topic but I didn’t see a post or thread addressing this on this site.

    I have been optimizing Google Places listings for a while now, and I have just started to implement schemas on our clients’ websites, especially just the BusinessLocation one. I would appreciate anyone’s perspective or thoughts on this.

    Thanks for great post and great summary of info; easy to understand.