It’s Finally Here: Chronicling the Plus-Places Merge

MIHMORANDUM NO. 1491 | May 30th, 2012Reader Comments (14)

Not that it is any surprise to anyone, but Google just announced the end of Place Pages.

I’ll be posting my thoughts as I poke around on the new interfaces throughout the day.  “Check back frequently,” as they say.

Management, at least for now, will still be at Google Places for Business

From Google’s official announcement: “If you are a business owner, you should continue to manage your information in Google Places for Business. You’ll still be able to verify your basic listing data, make updates, and respond to reviews.”

Primarily a User-Oriented Interface Update (not a Ranking Update…yet?)

Remember all the fuss last summer when Google updated its Place Page interface & demoted third-party review sites (among other things)?  What REALLY changed algorithmically as a result of that update?  Other than perhaps a minor shift towards the weight of native Google Places reviews, I’d argue not much.

Well, don’t get carried away in all the PR hyperbole today that this is all that different.

Read the message that Google is now displaying in the Places Dashboard carefully:

Read that again.  “We hope to make it easier for our users to discover your business and share it…”  NOT “we hope to make it easier for you, the business owner, to interact with your customers” or anything along those lines.

And what happens when you, the business owner, click that link to “Read More About the Changes” in the support forum?  You’re taken to this screen–which repeats the same line from Google’s announcement above about continuing to use Google Places to manage your listing.

The rest of the help content talks all about reviews from a USER’S perspective:

Heck, just the fact that Marissa Mayer made the announcement on CBS This Morning rather than at a BIA / Kelsey Group or Third Door Media show speaks volumes.

And apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so.  From Mike’s post today: “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.”

***UPDATE*** Google Maps Is xxxStillxxx NO LONGER Showing Traditional Place Pages

I tweeted this to Greg Sterling earlier, but even from Google’s “Poster Children” (the businesses listed at the bottom of their announcement whom they’ve given special attention for these new Local+ Pages) there are still clickthroughs available to traditional Place Pages (just click the map prominently displayed in Mio’s righthand sidebar)

This xxxmight just bexxx WAS temporary, though, because via Greg, according to Marissa Mayer:

“Users will be able to discover the new Google+ Local pages in several ways: through a search on Google.com or Google Maps, in mobile apps or through a search on Google+”

Hmm. Looking forward to seeing that, if and when it happens.

HAT TIP TO MATT: HERE’S A SCREENSHOT OF THE NEW MAP PUSHPIN LOCKUP WITH A LINK ON “more info” RATHER THAN CARI’s BUSINESS TITLE and Cari’s Plus Page as the destination of that link.:

The +Local Review Ecosystem (aka Another Finger in Yelp’s Eye)

As I suggested in my column a couple weeks ago, I really think Google is going to use businesses as a way to get more users on Google Plus, rather than the other way around.  As Mike pointed out earlier today:

“Thus old reviews apparently will NOT migrate to the new Google+Local Business page and the business owner must either ask previous reviewers to migrate or start afresh. (I need to confirm this.)”

You’re going to start to see the active (former) Places users (for whom I think the Venn diagram with active Plus users is reasonably divergent) all migrating over to Plus now, and Google’s clearly hoping that they’ll start to treat it as a second Facebook and actually “hang out” as they become more familiar with its features.

Also, take a look at how much further down the page the links to reviews from additional third-party sites (like UrbanSpoon, OpenTable, etc) are than they used to be on the old Place Pages.

Frankly, a better review mechanism than Yelp.

Check out the new review boxes (via SearchEngineLand and the help forums).  +Local is going to allow reviews to get much more granular with their reviews as they’re now integrated into Zagat’s. (Greg also pointed this out earlier).

New Review Box (credit:SearchEngineLand)

 

Top Reviewers

Google has already been featuring these types of people for years on the Places blog, but now it looks like the program has been institutionalized.

Hmmm…sounds an awful lot like the Yelp Elite program, eh?

Built-in Review Spam Mechanism

The flip side of this Top Reviewer program is a the built-in review spam mechanism that is baked into Plus, which will probably function like a supercharged–but more democratic–version of Yelp’s reviled filter.  Google will now be able to pick out shill reviewers awfully easily–those who have no followers or who are not following anyone themselves–since all reviews will now have to be left through the Plus interface.  By tying reviews to a vast network where the whole point is to be connected to other people–rather than the act of leaving reviews itself–Google is going to open up the rating process to about as broad a segment of society as exists on the interent.  Not saying it’ll happen immediately, but eventually…

Branding ClusterF+

+Local? Local Plus? Local+? Plus Local? Places Plus? LBC? GPLP? LGBT?

Google hasn’t made things any easier for itself with business owners here.  Why not just stick with Places or +Places?  There’s a good infographic here somewhere for an enterprising young graphic artist, not to mention a Harvard Business School case study… :)

The Ownership Question

The new Local+ Pages definitely give business owners more control–and opportunity for creativity–than they had previously. And I haven’t seen any adverts on the pages just yet.

Additionally, they ARE going to be indexed, so unlike Place Pages, they’ll probably be worth throwing at least a little bit of link juice to.

However, there’s still a much-too-easy-for-my-taste ability for users to edit information on these pages just by mousing over the NAP information, let alone post inappropriate photos, and more.  One wonders if/hopes Google will get better about notifying business owners of these changes if they start to be abused by the much wider network that will now have access to these pages.

Whither Mobile?

Related to the branding question above, what will happen to the Places app?  So far, the interface on it is exactly the same on my iPhone, and I haven’t been asked to download a new +Local app yet…

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OK, I’m done for now.  Looking forward to your comments.

14 Responses to “It’s Finally Here: Chronicling the Plus-Places Merge”

  1. Yousaf says at

    The most informative post on Google+ Local so far!

    What scares me the most is the fact that they did a really bad job with Google Places, I wonder what kind havoc this will create for business owners! Which means, what is the support like?

  2. Frank Motola says at

    Congrats on having the first comprehensive post on the changes we all discovered today. After all the effort to get businesses on board with Google Places now they are changing it all. Obviously they are closing the “circle” around us all as they corral everyone into using Plus. Too many changes in too short a time. I just got through helping several businesses with their Places pages. Seems as though you can still put the information out there that will result in a Local result through search, but to review your customers will be using the Plus interface. For now. Is that about the size of it David?

  3. Ian Smith says at

    “I really think Google is going to use businesses as a way to get more users on Google Plus, rather than the other way around.”
    This is one of the key statements for me.
    When tied into AuthorRank, the Google+ proposition begins to look very attractive to business owners.

  4. Michael Dorausch says at

    Glad you guys are doing all the work and I just get to read the notes. I won’t hold my breath waiting for a new client to mention +Local as source of referral. :)

  5. Juliemarg says at

    Thanks for all your work on this. I’ve been jumping between you and Greg and Mike today, and finding the answers to most of my questions. Sad to say I guess I’ll have to become a plusser. It’s like going to a party with a bunch of overly intellectual guys who want to talk about the wine rather than drink it. As for me, I love Pinterest. ;^D

  6. Andy W says at

    Excellent article on what is going to be a huge trending subject over the next couple of months so far as local search.

    I have just checked my own niche and my places page no longer ranks (previous had a blended pos 1 for several major keywords in my sector.)
    All my reviews have disappeared – they were legitimate as well, only had 11 of them….

    Another headache on top of Penguin which dropped me off page 1, pos 1 for main KW and on top of a stupid dupe content issue caused by a blog syndicating snippets of my posts and ranking for them – relegating my unique orig content to googles “similar content bin”!

    3 hits in the last 5 weeks have reduced my once great authority site full of unique content to a smoldering wreck – Good ole G! I´m really not digging Matt Cutts “write great content” mantra right now!

    Back to the drawing board then, starting with maps/places/G+ or whatever the hell it is!

    I cant find a subscribe anywhere on this – can anyone point me in the right direction? Seems like a very worthwhile site to subscribe to.

  7. Yousaf says at

    Andy,

    Here is the RSS you can subscribe to http://feeds.feedburner.com/mihmorandum

  8. Jason Diller says at

    This was probably the most complete post on the google places transition Ive seen. Found this via inbound.org. Good stuff.

  9. Adam says at

    Thanks for detailing the changes Google is making. It’s nice to have some sort of reasoning when these changes occur. Just like Andy, we dropped major keywords in the past week.

    I am wondering if it is because of the updates Google is making or something else? We haven’t made any changes to our site so it must be Google’s meddling.

  10. Ella Rose says at

    When Google Plus rolled out, I already suspected Google would throw Places into the mix, but I didn’t expect this kind of integration exactly. My main concern is about how to encourage people to have a G+ account so they can view those Local pages, because I’m still convinced that this is another of Google’s ways to increase activity in their social network.

  11. Jim Froling says at

    Like Ella, I suspected that Google would integrate Places into + when it was first released to the mainstream last year. I would only been surprised if they hadn’t.

    So, here we are. And where exactly is “here”? Nowhere, that’s where. This “transition” is going to take some time to come together. We can all gripe about what reality looked like yesterday, what today’s vision looks like. But I don’t think any of us really know what it will all look like tomorrow, or next week/month/year…

    Just wrapping my head around this now wondering if I’m looking at light at the end of the tunnel or that of an oncoming train.

  12. Andrew Huskinson says at

    I am still seeing reviews on one of my Places Google+ Local pages and for a client.

    Linda Buquet posted this in the Help Forum:
    For now until it all totally switches over go to https://plus.google.com/u/0/local and search from there.
    OR log into Google+ if you have it set up and click the new local button on the left.

    I was only getting the Google+ Local result by clicking on ‘more info’ in a Maps bubble.

  13. Kevin Getch says at

    It looks like most of the reviews are now in Google+ Local at least for my clients and my own place… I mean Google+ Local page. That’s too long! GLP? No… ok let’s stay with Place page. It’s been decided.

    Great write up David! I’m hoping for some similar functionality of adding managers and transferring ownership to place pages like you can for Google+ pages. That would be sweeet!

  14. Ray Cassidy says at

    That’s a really useful and insightful update David. I have found several comments to be useful also- esp. Andy W and Andrew H – many thanks for your extra input. I’m curious as to whethewr the great annual round up of ranking factors will be taking place this year?

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