Google Places Isn’t Testing New Layouts … Get Used to Variety

Filed in Featured, Google, Local Search by Matt McGee on December 10, 2010 13 Comments

I bet you’ve seen a lot of different ways that Google is displaying local search results as part of the new Google Places search product, right? And if you’re like me, you’ve thought, Wow, they’re still testing some pretty odd layouts for local search results…, right? Well, no. We’re both wrong. I sent the following six screenshots to Google and asked if they’re still testing different SERP displays, and the answer is no.

Before I post the images, here’s what a Google spokesperson said in response to seeing them:

The layout for local search results will vary depending on how confident our algorithm is in determining if you’re looking for local information. So in some instances you might see a full Place Search page, and in others, you’ll see a more condensed view. Of course, you can always click on the “Places” icon on the left to get the full Place Search view.

I followed up to confirm my feeling that there’s a lot more variety and a lot of new display options in Google Places now than before. Google confirmed that, yes, there’s “more variety with Place Search.”

Here are some that I’ve seen recently, and there are many more layouts beyond what you see below.

Common Place Search Display

This is what I’d call the most common of the new Place Search displays. It has regular blue links for some results, while others have a blue link combined with the place marker and data and a photo from their Google Places listing. The local results (with markers) show up randomly throughout the search results page.

Google Places SERP Displays #2

New 7-Pack Style

This one shows seven local listings up at the top of the page, but they’re new-style local listings that combine the blue links and snippets with the red marker and local business data. Below the seven local listings are another seven “regular” results.

Google Places SERP Displays #6

Old 7-Pack Style

Sometimes the “old” 7-pack is still showing up with a list of local businesses and their basic contact information — no photos, no title and snippet from their web site. This is just like the old 7-pack, except the map is off in the right column.

Google Places SERP Displays #1

2-Pack, Old Style

Here’s the same thing, but instead of seven business listings, it’s just two. Again, no title and snippet from the web site, no photo — just the regular “old style” display that we’ve seen for a while, not the new Places display.

Google Places SERP Displays #3

3-Pack, Old Style, Not at Top

This is the old-style 3-pack with the business listings showing a little further down the page. What’s old is new. This was a fairly common layout before the new Google Places, and it continues to show at times today.

Google Places SERP Displays #4

Old-Style Authority Listing

The old-style, dominant “authority” layout is still alive in the new Google Places search, too.

Google Places SERP Displays #5

Final Thoughts

Chances are good that you’ve been seeing these same displays quite often in your local searching, so I don’t expect that I’m sharing anything new in terms of images. The main point here is that Google is not still testing local search layouts, and as they’ve confirmed above, the new Google Places involves more display variety than the old local search did.

In other words, you won’t hear me say again that Google is still tweaking Places. Viva la variety!

Comments (13)

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  1. Linda Buquet says:

    Thanks for this important update and confirmation Matt. I was really HOPING they were still testing.

    That means there are still 2 totally different algos too – at least according to my most recent tests. The old style 1, 2, 3 and 7 pack listings still use the old Places algo, while the new localMerge layout uses the new merged algo, which is totally different and largely dependent on organic SEO.

    Google sure likes to keep us on our toes!

  2. Michael says:

    Thanks for the update. Here at chatmeter we thought they were still testing as well and we also were wondering how Google decides on that very important first customer review that now accompanies many of the local results on the new Google Search page.

  3. Garious says:

    We appreciate your interesting update, Matt.
    I like the fact that while google is no longer testing their local search feature, the different layouts are not utterly confusing! So, I guess everyone is happy at the end of the day.

    I wonder how successful they will be in creating their “alleged” social search feature. That’s what I want to see happen in the near future and I think that google MUST do it soon because Facebook is steeling the rug form underneath Google slowly but surely. In fact, we have dedicated an entire article in our blog discussing that.

    Let’s wait and see who will finally win the race though I have to say that adaptive and flexible business owners will remain the all-time-winners. To our success!

  4. Kristinn says:

    I think they are turning a positive into a negative. Too many choices at the grocery store causes anxiety. KISS
    Sounds to me like they are over engineering this. I don’t think people will like all the complexity.

  5. I have always use Google to research something I’m looking for. If I want to find a local business, I use a yellow page website. I don’t like Google making assumptions when I want to see local search results. Google is making a big mistake by rebranding their name from a search engine that provided the best search results to a search engine that is a local directory when they want to be. Google Director of Product Management Carter Maslan wrote “If we fail our users, competition is just a click away.”

    He was right. I will be clicking elsewhere.

  6. Gwen says:

    The new Google search seems to be more of a directory than a search engine. The only thing constant is change and time will tell.

  7. Joe says:

    I think Google has accomplished what they wanted. Make a confusing listing out of Google Places. They saw that it might be too hard to monetize and realized that Google places as it used to be was too effective for business that Adwords took a big hit. So the next best thing was to destroy the effectiveness of Google places.

    Mission accomplished….

  8. Alex Taylor says:

    Excellent post. The quote at the start said that the layout depends on how certain they were that the seacher wanted a local result. I noticed that all but 1 of the layouts showed up when searching explicitly for a location.
    So what gives for the differences in the other 5 layouts?
    Do you think the quality of the listings available under each search query has any impact – i.e. here are 3 good quality reasonably reliable listings, so I’ll show 2 pack old-style; now I have 12 good listings so I’ll show 7 pack new style; etc..

  9. Thanks for the clarification. I was shocked the first time the new 7 pack appeared. The 7 pack styles show how important it is to be in google places. You can have the best seo for your web placement but if you aren’t in google places you won’t be above the fold.

  10. Jim Hobson says:

    I firmly believe that when all forms of gaining understanding have failed you simply follow the money trail. My gut feel is that Google is testing display versions to determine what is the optimum way to display Places results without harming usage. Why? Google can regain content control from SEO efforts, and if you imagine selling Places Tags to the huge number of “new top ranked sites” you’re looking at a LOT of potential revenue. After all, were people complaining about the way search results had been shown?

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