Monday, April 8, 2013

Google Places, as We Now Know It, Is Undergoing Slow but Steady Death March

Let the Guessing Begin on What Google Places, Google Maps, Google Local, and Google Plus Will End up Looking Like. 
Sort of...not exactly...what about Google Maps?

I have a plaque to prove that I am the Optimist of the Decade.  Yes, the award came from many years of dedicated service to the Sunrise Optimist Club in Santa Monica, CA.  However, those who know me would not disagree with the description.  Having said that:

I have never seen anything as screwed up as Google Places, Google Plus Local, and related.  You can quote me, Randy Kirk.  Tweet the above by clicking

15 of my 18 clients who care about Google Places rankings are doing just fine.  The other three have good reasons for being where they are, and are close to being good rankings.  So this is not a rant about the inconsistencies of the Google algo.  My clients are making very nice money from their rankings.

Which Brand?  Please Choose One!

The rant starts with branding.  Here are the brands that have existed in the last four years.  Google Local Business Pages, Google Maps, Google Places, Google Places for Business, Google Plus Pages, Google Plus Local.  The only one that is completely gone is Google Local Business Pages.  All the others exist today and have an effect on how businesses get found.  I am on record from the first days of this blog which was launched simultaneously with Google Places launch, that Google Places is the most complicated internet product or app or feature or medium or whatever you want to call it.

Now, the Google approach to local business listings is many times more complicated, and business owners and their customers have no idea what to call what they are looking at.  I'm not the best guy to ask, but I have created 100's of brands in my business life.  I think Google Places was the best brand name.  If they eliminate that name in favor of Google Local I think it hurts the roll out of this critical service.  Google Maps is a strong name and has a lot of built in consumer cache.  However, it is much broader than a modern Yellow Pages and thus would be like naming a Chevy a Car.

The big issue is the confusion.  We all know that most folks looking up the local eatery or bike shop use the blended search only.  That currently gets you something like a Google Places result and still shows little gray (not red which was better) icons to identify the results as Google Places.

For those who are prone to leave the blended results, they might be most likely to try maps.  This option is still listed at the top of the page and the results from that search will provide much more information about each listing.  Interestingly, these are shown as Places listings and still have the red icon.

No One Searches Under the Category Options in "More"

Much less likely is that the searcher will go to the "more" options for search to specifically choose Places.  If they do choose this search option, they will get more detail about the listed places.  There is currently no option to go directly to Google Plus Local.  A question one could ask would be:  Will Google Places go away as a brand, replaced by Local, and will this page still be an option.

Finally, we can see Google+ Local options on our Google+ pages.  These are not nearly as intuitive or useful at this time as any of the other options.  Clearly Google likes this approach best and has designed with with the idea of making it very responsive to your specific needs.

If you are a follower of this entire issue and I've made any mistakes above, please straighten me out.  I admit that the whole thing is confusing.  And, by the way, Mike Blumenthal's blog and Linda Buquet's Forum both have tons of breaking news right now.  So if you want all the details, go there. 
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