This week, Google announced the roll out a new feature that allows you to quickly find businesses, landmarks and other places of interest in the geographic area where you are searching. “But wait,” you say. “Google Maps has always shown me results from Google Places!” And you’re right. But the big change is that now, results from Google Places* are more prominently featured in your normal search results.
What does this mean? Well, for one, it means that search marketers are going to get busy—that is if they haven’t already optimized their search engine listings for local traffic. But what it means to you is that you’ll (hopefully) see results that are more relevant to you when you are searching for a local place or business.
The difference that you’ll notice is going to be on par with the rollout of Google Universal Search, way back in May 2007. If any of you remember when that happened, that was the shift when Google started including images, videos and other multimedia in its organic search results. Now, you can expect the same, but for Google Places listings.
Google is rolling out Google Place search a few regions at a time, so it might not be in your area. It’s in full effect here in Pittsburgh, so I gave it a whirl, and I kind of like it. Basically, you are supposed to search for something like “Pizza in Pittsburgh” and Google will guess that you’re looking for a local pizzeria. But in practice, you really only have to type “Pizza” because Google auto-detects your location.
If there are Google Place search results in your area, you’ll see a map with pins plotted on it, just like if you were to run a Google Maps search. But then, you’ll see two things: top listings for pizza places tailored to your area as well as SOME organic search results for Pizza that would be top hits no matter where you search. The latter is plain vanilla—just a link and description. But the Google Place search results are fleshed out in their full glory, including reviews, star rating, pictures, contact information, etc. You also get a link to the business’s Place page as well as their actual webpage.
If you want to only see results from Google Places, you can click the Places link on the left.
I also threw together a quick video so you can get a feel for the differences between the old way of searching and the new Google Place/Everything search. Check it out:
*It seems like Google is still making up its mind re: whether it wants to call it Google Places or Google Place. The latest blog, and the enhanced links in the Everything results list it as “Google Place,” but the original URL and service is still called google.com/places.