Last 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.
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.
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 cafÃ©. 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?
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