Google Places – Like it or Not?

Google Places in Search Results – Why No Choice?

Last October Google instigated a major change in the way it presented its search results, with Google Places listings given greater prominence for “local” searches, for instance looking for a plumber, dentist, hotel, restaurant etc in a given location.  Here is what results have tended to look like since that date, taking “B&B near Rouen” as an example:

b&b NEAR rouen

This was hailed by Google as a great step forward, improving relevance of search results.  The focus for SEO gurus/experts since then has been to encourage business owners to optimise their “Google Places” listing.

However, in the case above I was looking for a place to stay NEAR Rouen – not in the MIDDLE of Rouen – yet these results are useless as all the places are in the CENTRE of Rouen, which if you know it is a nightmare to get in and out of!

That may be a minor quibble, but there are two bigger snags with the current Google Places set up that do not seem to get much of an airing.

  1. From the point of view of a business, what about the PC repair man whose physical address is in Bromley, but who also services Orpington, Greenwich and Sevenoaks? His website previously got him listed for those local searches organically, but now he doesn’t have a shot at getting found near the top of Google results for any locations outside the town where he’s physically registered. Frequently, relevant organic results are now pushed out of sight, either at the foot of or right off the page.
  2. From the point of view of a Google user, what if I want to be able to turn off the Places results? Sometimes – many times – I don’t want them. Before the user had an option to search Google Maps to get local Places results, but now there is no corresponding option to exclude Places when they are not relevant – the choice has actually been restricted.  Does this really improve the search experience?

Come on Google, at least give us a choice!

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4 responses to “Google Places – Like it or Not?

  1. Totally agreed!! Trades like movers, plumbers, gardeners and so on services outside their registered addresses and this is common sense!
    As a user I don’t want the map appearing on my search results, too. What’s worse is that the map sort of ‘follows’ as I scroll down!
    Google Places can be useful, but it does not apply to all trades/searches. Maybe it can be arrange in a way that the map appears only when a user requests for it, like typing ‘gardener+address’ in search box?

  2. Phil,

    I thought you might be interest in a post that I published last September on, “Trip Advisor Blackmail and Bribery.” http://www.vacationtimeisprecious.com/2010/09/trip-advisor-blackmail-and-bribery/ Feel free to publish it if you like.

  3. Certainly the fact that Google could not guess exactly what you mean or intend is a legitimate criticism but they do provide alternative search mechanisms. Intention is always difficult for a search engine to ascertain as they are machines. And the fact that they need to average it over many users means it may never be right for you.

    The alternative search mechanisms are a little more work as sometimes giving the machine more indication of intention is a bit more work but they do provide reasonable results.

    1 -Add a Rouen suburb to your search ie B & B canteleu

    or

    2 – Drill into the specific area of the Map where you would like your answer from and perform the search

    • True, Mike. And this particular failing is only a minor gripe, really.

      The REALLY BIG FAULT is not being able to turn Places off in searches – Google is deliberately limiting personal choice in the search process . God knows there are plenty of other options that Google is happy for the user to exploit or ignore, so why not this one?

      Perhaps – probably – there are commercial reasons behind this.

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