Big announcement today on the official Google Blog about the continuing merger of Maps/Local into Google’s regular SERPs. In a nutshell, Google reports that anytime you do a search that it recognizes as local, you’ll get a new “Onebox” that looks like this, with a map and three business listings:
In its post, Google is trumpeting the fact that this new display now shows rating/reviews to make comparisons easier. That’s nice, but there’s a lot more going on here. Consider:
1. Gone forever is the text-only local Onebox display. The previous Onebox display offered 3 business listings, but only in text format on a gray background. It almost looked like an AdWords display. It took up much less screen real estate than the new display, and was probably somewhat easy to overlook as our eyes have become naturally trained to skip advertisements. Good luck trying to overlook the new display.
2. It looks like the number of ratings and reviews has gone up dramatically. A search like [hotels in seattle, wa] brings back listings with close to 200 reviews, a number I’ve never seen available before on Google Maps. From some quick digging, it looks like Google has expanded its review sources to include the likes of TripAdvisor, CitySearch, Judy’sBook, InsiderPages, Yelp, and AOL.com. And it’s not just the sources; I’m seeing reviews dating as far back as 2002. Thumbs up to the new sources. Thumbs down on including 5-year-old reviews, which have a good chance of being irrelevant by now.
3. Google is very aggressive about using this display for anything closely resembling a local search. Let’s do some non-business searches, shall we? [people in seattle, wa] brings up businesses and organizations with “people” in the name. Even a search like [dogs in seattle, wa] becomes a business search.
4. Finally, very specific searches still bring up a single listing, not three. There’s only one Outback Restaurant in Kennewick, WA, which makes this the correct listing format. This is a display style Google introduced last year on searches when it can specifically match the query to a single location/business.
What’s it all mean? For starters, more familiarity with what Google Maps/Local offers both to searchers and business owners. Will it also mean more adoption of Google Maps as a local search tool? Maybe. But many people will figure they don’t need to search at Google Maps with so much of Google Maps now being integrated into the regular SERPs.
[tags]local search, google, google maps[/tags]