Part of the adrenaline of being tuned into what Google is doing is that they change your game overnight. You go to bed on Wednesday feeling you've got a fine grasp on how it all works and you wake up Thursday morning to a surprising new landscape. This startling habit of Google's certainly keeps you on your toes. Remember the last time you searched for something in Google Maps, and when you clicked on the more info link next to a business name, you got a popup that looked like this and that it clicked to a tabbed presentation of all of the data available about that business?
Well, it's all different now and if you've not visited Maps in the last couple of days, you are in for a surprise! Google has just rolled out a whole new user interface which they've dubbed Place Pages. Clicking the more info link brings you to a full screen presentation with all of the old tabbed data laid out like this:
Apart from the wide and long new layout, I've noticed a couple of interesting things about Place Pages. The first is that major prominence is now being given to a link titled edit this place::
In my opinion, this draws a new level of attention to the fact that Google views Maps as an editable, wiki-like entity. And, if you're one of those individuals who don't like change, clicking the edit this place link will take you back to the familiar pre-Place-Pages popup you've always known and loved.
Secondly, the category in which each business is listed is now being clearly stated in the main data summary at the top of each Place Page, right below the contact information.
Google's plans for Place Pages sound pretty grand. They intend to create one not just for every indexed local business, but also for things like transit stations, landmarks, neighborhoods and cities.
Word has it that, while each Place Page will be given a unique URL, Google does not plan to index these to be presented in their Universal SERPs. I wonder at that decision. The new layout reminds me of those old Squidoo lenses (remember those?) in many ways and arguably has an equal or better claim to ranking well for a given place. With both Google-generated and user-generated Maps, reviews, citations, photos, videos and more, Place Pages have the ability to present a lot of data all in one place for the user.
Who's Talking About Place Pages?
Understandably, this brand new UI is causing a bit of buzz in circles where Local is King, and both Mike Blumenthal and Greg Sterling are weighing in and offering their own valuable takes on the potentials of this change in the Maps interface. So far, the general feeling is positive, though few Local veterans can help remarking that they would love to see Google putting this kind of creative energy into developing a customer service department rather than simply making their product look nicer. I'd have to agree with that.
Local SEM Tip Of The Day
As I played around with Place Pages last night, I noticed quite a few photos being pulled from CityVoter.com. Never heard of them? CityVoter is a Social-Local site (we need a good term for that: Socal, Locial?) that enables users to vote up businesses they like and I've been hearing such good things about this website that I've added them to my must-create-profile list I use when doing Local SEM for clients. If you've not added your business to CityVoter, today would be a great day to do so. I like their UI and Google is trusting them enough as a source for photos in Place Pages.
Overall, I'm feeling good about Google's new product layout. I think it has the potential to be really useful if backed with accurate business data. Why not have some fun this weekend checking it out?
Miriam Ellis is the co-owner of Solas Web Design and CopyLocal, providing SEO-based website design, Local SEO and professional copywriting for small-to-medium North American businesses. She is the Local SEO Associate in the Q&A Forum at SEOmoz, a moderator at Cre8asite Forums and an annual participant in David Mihm's Local Search Ranking Factors report. When she and her husband are not working on the web, they're farming organically and working on increased sustainability or roaming about in nature having the time of their lives.
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