What Does Google Place Pages Mean For SMBs?

google place pagesLast week, Google announced Google Place Pages – a new way of organizing and displaying information for local businesses and attractions. Google used to show local business information via info bubbles associated with Google Maps. Now, however, Google has taken the extra step and broken out business information into full-fledged profile pages. The pages are filled with a mix of provided and aggregated content.

Place Pages are actually quite similar to the Google Profiles that Google recently started encouraging individuals to create. Only this time, it is Google creating the profile pages for businesses, points of interest, cities, neighborhoods and even transit stops. And not everyone is happy about it.

The Positive

From a user perspective, the Place pages are pretty worthwhile. They’re attractive, informative, easy to use, and encourage small business owners to claim their listing and make it as accurate as possible. From one page, a user can get a store address, directions to the storefront, find out what’s nearby, read reviews, see images, get a map to the location, etc. In essence, any piece of information someone may need about your business is accessible from that page. If you’re a searcher, that means far less clicking around for you and a higher chance of finding trustworthy information. Very cool.

The Negative

Of course, if you happen to be that small business site, you probably don’t want customers interacting with your Google Place Page. You want them on your Web site – a place that you control and have total authority over. And that’s where the controversy comes in.

When Google initially launched its Pages, they assured business owners and SEOs that though each profile page would have a unique, structured URL, they would not be indexed (ie they would not rank and therefore compete with your site). We were told that the Place pages would only be found within the Maps silo.

However, a search for [Burdick Chocolate Cake] clearly shows an indexed Google Place page for the Boston café. Over at Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan notes in the postscript that he thinks the SEOs at Google simply got confused in how to prevent these pages from showing up and used the wrong tag. As a result, the listing appears because it received links to the page causing Google to index it. Danny bets that Google will soon be changing this.

Of course, others are suggesting that Google is set to create business landing pages that they’ll be able to use to hoard searchers and place ads on. There’s also the danger that if your Google Place Page has more info than your real Web site, that people will link their instead – taking links, rankings and traffic away from your real site.

Personally, I’m not too worried about the Google Place Pages, even if they do start ranking for local businesses (though I don’t like the competitor PPC ads). And as a small business owner, I don’t think you should be either. These pages are helping users find you. You may lose some traffic to your site, but in most cases, they’re simply helping someone find information about your business. What you should be focused on is making sure that the information on your page is as accurate as you can make it and to monitor the page should questionable content arise. Until we know what Google is going to do with Google Place Pages, there’s not much more we can do.

What’s your take on Google Place Pages?

More in: 15 Comments ▼

Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

15 Reactions
  1. Lisa,
    Thanks for the breaking news. As you know, I’m usually a big G fan, but I’m reading your review and noticing more negative than positive. I’ll leave it at that for now and get in there to study it a bit more. Appreciate the extra links. Much of the help that people ask us for revolves around Google and how to solve SEO or PPC problems, challenges. I definitely see the positive and think there’s immediate value for the small companies we help.

  2. Come to think of it, Lisa. Even though Google dominates in this space, what other services/tools even come close? When I study PPC or SEO results, Bing and Yahoo are a pretty distant second. Do you see any up and coming players taking a bite at Google’s game?

  3. It does appear like there’s more negative here than positive, but honestly, I’m not too worried about Place pages. I know everyone wants me to call it brandjacking and play up what happened with Seth Godin last week, but to me, they’re very different cases.

    http://outspokenmedia.com/reputation-management/seth-godin-brandjacking/ [context on the brandjacking argument]

    In terms of anyone coming up and stealing Google’s share? Not at the moment. I think Bing looks pretty good and I’m starting to head to them for some searches, but they’re not a true replacement for me, atm. I think they could be in time if they keep doing what they’re doing.

  4. The reality of what happened is that Google’s Maps folks misspoke when they described how Google was going to handle these pages. There is a subtle but critical difference between crawling and indexing a page. Certainly language is important but I do believe that it was an inadvertent mistake on their part.

    That being said having one more authoritative source for you business that shows on the main search results page is a good thing and can allow a small business represent themselves properly in the search.

    The reality is that for many Places & Businesses, Google Places pages may offer the best content on the web and THEY SHOULD be crawled and indexed. If a few IYP’s that are not offering good content suffer, that really is the problem of the IYP having a directory with less than useful information. If the Places pages has good content and is linked from across the web, it should show in the search results.

    I would rather a business be found in Pages than on a site that is nothing more than an adsense revenue generator.

    In this case, fear of Google’s market dominance is driving a discussion about hypotheticals and not realities.

  5. We build tools for small businesses and I wrote a related post here – http://bit.ly/BJ4JY titled “Is Google becoming Yahoo?”. I think the Google Places pages have the potential to be a good value add for consumers, and the critical issue in their evolution is whether Google does anything that could undermine user trust.

    We already see a fairly significant from traditional search (e.g. on Google) to social discovery (via Facebook, Twitter, etc.). If Google treats Places pages on even grounds with other external assets in terms of search ranking, then I don’t see this as much more than a logical extension of what they were already doing with the 10-pack and Google Local. However, if they do treat their own content more favorably, then I think it could undermine user trust and accelerate the trends around social media discovery.

  6. As long as businesses are taking the time to claim their Places Page and ensure the information is correct this won’t be a big deal. People who want to find your hours or address are planning on coming to your location, is it really a big deal that they didn’t see your website? They read some reviews, which should be positive because you have great customer service right? Don’t worry about things you can’t control and take responsibility for the things you can control.

  7. I don’t get what the problem is? The only real negative is that competitors can have PPC ads on your place page, but the place page just looks like the expanded view of LBC profile. What’s the difference?

    One more place for your business to be found on the web – that’s called web presence – embrace it!

  8. @Alex

    At the present they are treating Places pages on less than even grounds in terms of search ranking. Since they are not crawling them there will be no title tags or meta desc info.

  9. Mike is right. Fear over Google’s market dominance is shaping the negative views, mine included, about Place Pages. But those fears are somewhat justified, I think.

    On the other hand, these place pages do look good and could certainly be a great tool for small businesses.

  10. This is only a Google attempt to control those companies trademarks and intellectual property rights. By having them agree to subordinate thier rights inorder to be featured on Google’s page. Google will receive 100% advertising revenue from sponsored links featured on the business page and will also benefit from the goodwill established by said compaines.

    Google will be the only company that can benefit from this clever format that will increase Google’s brand awareness while diluting others.

  11. These pages just seem like overkill. Or an academic idea that doesn’t need merged with SB. They would be neat to describe remote portions of wilderness, or historical landmarks. I think LBC already is enough for local business owners.

    Do we know if the traffic from these pages can be tracked once they are claimed?

    Chill Google.

  12. Nick @ Brick Marketing

    I think for the smaller local businesses that don’t do a great deal of online marketing for whatever reason this will help out greatly.

  13. Place Pages – A new google maps product…what you say about it ?

  14. This is absolutely a good thing for businesses who’s service area is limited to a specific area. The idea that the page may have Google ads on them is certainly an opportunity to get exposure. The page is also delivering what the customer wants to know about local businesses easily and local businesses can target their customers by location and attract more business. It may take some time to adjust but I think it is a big positive.

  15. What amazes me is that over a year later, many people still don’t know about place pages.