Sometime over this past weekend Google stopped showing any review snippet with either Blended or the Branded One Box Results in the main search results view for many results. It appears that snippets are still visible in restaurants, hotels and possibly other heavily reviewed areas
New view (from 6/27):
View from last week (taken 6/23)
Review snippets have also been removed from most typical blended results (again with the exception of restaurants/hotels). This change seems consistent with the recent change to remove the images from the Blended results that occurred earlier in the month and effectively moves more information above the fold. Review snippets were first seen in the Google Blended results tests that ran last summer and were a regular part of the results since the Blended results were formally released in late October of last year. For me, they were a salient feature that dramatically changed the role of reviews in reputation management bringing a “typical review” front and center for all to see. The review snippets were derived via algo and were intended to provide a representative flavor of the review corpus. As in my example above, the snippets were not always accurate. While I don’t think that was a reason in their demise, I am sure some businesses will be grateful they are gone.
Anytime a blogger uses the word vague “above the fold” on their blog, you pretty much can be assured they don’t know anything about anything . Greg Sterling sat down with someone close to Nokia and says:
However my lunch companion argued unequivocally that Nokia Maps would effectively replace almost everything that Microsoft had developed over the past several years in terms of the Bing Maps infrastructure. This was shocking because Microsoft has invested hundreds of millions of dollars (if not billions) in creating a viable competitor to Google Maps. Most recently the company has been promoting its roll out of new hi-resolution aerial imagery on a global basis.
So what does this mean? Well first Microsoft already uses Nokia/Navteq for most of their mapping, no big change there. Microsoft has already what might be the best aerial photography in the business, so why would you replace something that is awesome with something that isn’t? What about their API? Could be, I’ve never been a fan of the Bing Maps APIs, so maybe this is Microsoft taking their aerials and Bird’s Eye to the Nokia Maps API and branding it as Bing Maps. That would be a good mix because Nokia Maps is actually a good API, just one that doesn’t get used by anyone. Problem solved!
But wait right?!?!?! Nokia Maps? Wasn’t that called Ovi? Not anymore, the marketing team at Nokia has gotten their sanity back and killed the Ovi name. This means that Nokia has decided their name actually has value and they’ll use it in their products. Now if Microsoft would just realize that Bing means zip and brand their stuff as Microsoft, everything will be back to normal. Or better yet, they could just rename the product “Not Google Maps” which is really how most people know it anyway.
Bottom line is that Microsoft loves drama, feeds on drama and wouldn’t know what to do unless there was drama. Thus Bing Maps powered by Nokia is just something to get us through the next 3 months until the marketing dorks in Redmond get crazy again and start thinking of new ideas to waste time and money on.
Google continues to make upgrades to Places and Maps having recently announced a wider rollout of Google Business Photos. As noted last week there have been a number of changes/additions to Places pages themselves.
Adam Dorfman of SimPartners pointed out this additional visual upgrade to the Hotel booking feature. The new emphasis makes the feature more obvious by adding its own subheading, emphasizing the dates and bolding the price on a contrasting color.
Another change that occurred last week was that the photos, which had been much lower on the page, also are now appearing above the fold.
Google has often indicated that they will continue to change and move the content of the Places Page based on their perception of end user utility. If that is the decision criteria of how they reached the current layout the implications are not quite believable.
By that logic the review totals being duplicated above the fold implies that Google’s own reviews and fully formed review content are somehow less valuable than 3 party review totals. Google would also have to argue that users really want to do little more in Places than book a hotel.
It would seem that politics, business relations and income considerations more likely explanations for the new layout.