Google Places and Google Listings
By Jan-Willem Bobbink on
Google Places has its positives and negatives but it is a free service so who can complain. Lately there have been some strange results appearing in the SERPS (Search Engine Results Page), no longer does Google just use a 7 pack, 3 pack or a hybrid/blended search (images below) there are now all sorts of different views for the Google Listings.
Example of a 7 Pack:
Example of a 3 Pack:
Example of hybrid/blended results:
So what’s new? Well it seems that Google is allowing authority sites to appear higher in the SERP by making divisions throughout the results. In the following screenshot you can see that there are Google Listings for just one company (which makes it appear the most important and could be used as a method of enticing people to click on that link before even looking at the rest of the results). There are then 2 average results which are then followed by the remainder of the Google Listings as you can see in the image below:
There is also another layout that looks like a 3 Pack mixed in between normal results:
And finally, there is a 2 pack making it really competitive for companies to rank their listings in the Google places results.
Other people have notice these changes in the way that listings are appearing in the results page. In this thread of Google places Support Forum you can see a discussion of why this might be happening. It’s true that Google places listings are always appearing and disappearing for the same query, but with the change in format to less listings, let’s hope that Google is testing the click through rates to determine the best possible results. Mike Blumenthal suggests that “Google presents results they have determined that the users want to see. Thus if users are clicking on organic results and not local results, the results will shift. That gives the SMB with a good website an opportunity to display in those results so it would be hard to argue that it is somehow anticompetitive.”
Hopefully, users are noticing the huge amount of problems that Google Places has with listings, such as duplication or spam and are clicking on organic results rather than results displayed on the 7-pack. Google places intention of providing local results is a great idea but until it does not work properly, the results that are displayed won’t really provide the answer to what people are searching. I think it is great that Google is testing all of the time and hopefully with this new formats they can provide the best possible results in the SERP.
Article written in collaboration with Kate Frewin Clarke, intern at Internet Advantage.