Much has been written about what Google left out in the Places upgrade and much speculation has been offered as to the reasons for the change. The specualtion have often made the assumption that the new design was a reactive response on the part of Google.
After looking at a large number of pages, I would suggest that the changes were primarily proactive in a nature and design driven (did I just say design and Google in the same sentence?). To get a sense of Google’s intentions I looked at a number Places pages in a range of industries and states and captured a screen shot of the information above the fold on a typical size screen 1280 x 1024 screen to see exactly which objects and activities had been prioritized. I captured the same Places page on my iPhone for comparison.
We all know of the call to action for additional reviews and uploaded photos those were very obvious. However Google made a number of other decisions in terms of how to prioritize the information. Here is the slide show and I think you will find the choices made interesting and design driven. Click to start the slide show:
While Google may have left some things off in response to complaints about their use of 3rd party reviews, for the most part the changes are a conscious design effort to make Places more interactive, more current and more social and more transactional.
They include a strong call to action (review, upload photos) and clear sense of priorities as to what is important going forward – even coupons now have a higher visibility – more user generated content, more understanding of your social circles intent and a greater desire, at least in the hotel industry, to use Places to “close” the sale.
This morning I spoke of the Google Hotel experiment that made search results into interactive local content. It is not clear if this is the new normal or a test but on this search for bed and breakfast St. Augustine and every hotel search, Adwords with Location Extensions and Adwords Express are now showing as interactive local content on hotel searches. No non local ads need apply.
By changing the dates of the visit, a hotel searcher remains on the search results page and sees a changing display display of local hotels that one presumes are available during those dates. The local ads, dominating the page, either point to the Places page with the booking tool as opposed to the hotel website or provide an instant choice to book via Google’s Hotel booking ad via on the online travel agencies.
The highest blended result is now below the fold and with it, the first link to TripAdvisor or any 3rd party review site.
Whoah dude! Must be that Google doesn’t think organic results can be as useful to searchers as ads.
(Click to view larger)
The results are similar with the 7-pack showing, although obviously more local results:
Today is a new day and brings an apparently new display to the Branded Onebox display in the main search results. As Daniel Sheehan noted several weeks ago in the post about the change away from photos in the display, “When it comes to Google Places it seems that there is no normal. There are just short lived tests and longer tests.”
Slightly after midday yesterday (when the second screen shot was taken) Google changed the branded Onebox display to now include the image from the Places page and placing the map to the far right. Here is a screen shot from this morning and yesterday afternoon: