Google Places updated its look after Google Maps, Google Calendar, Google Gmail and other applications. This looks like the final version that Google Places will roll out and from what I can tell it's a worldwide release.
There are a few major things right now from what I can see:
- Third-party reviews are gone (well, suppressed off the main page.) If you were not smart enough to get Google reviews, you are in a world of hurt.
- No citations - it links to the citation pages.
(More on that below in this post)
I like the big, red “Write a Review” button. That’s an improvement. THANK YOU for making it clear, Vanessa Schneider. Schneider is one of the community places manager for Google Places and you can follow her on Google Plus. I have gone back and forth with her each time I catch a change and now I talk to her on Google+, a great way to follow Google employees.
Local Place pages now have a competitive advantage because the changes prevent competitors from finding out where to build citations. Outside of Google Places, it’s not very hard to research the competition’s citations sources (search by company name and phone will do.) Sometimes the citations in Google Places are misleading, including some random links to Korean blogs attached (seemingly by chance) to your listing.
The missing "Reviews From Around The Web" section is a more significant change, which may negatively impact many directories that have enjoyed promotional status on Places pages. I imagine that most directories will see less traffic and exposure, and will stop giving information to Google. Big names like Yelp will prosper, but smaller directories will suffer huge traffic losses.
There is also a new favicon for the site listing all of the pages.
Google is under preliminary investigation for a variety of antitrust issues. Plenty of large sites with reviews scraped by Google had tremendous problems with what Google had been doing. Removing the third party reviews from other sites solves that issue. So one BIG potential antitrust problem is solved and in doing this redesign the Places page begins to REALLY emphasize Google reviews.
This is a gigantic push for Google Places reviews and Google getting more reviews on its own platform, rather than from third parties. A few things are worth mentioning:
- Five Google Users reviews now show on the main Place page (previously there were two)
- Third-party reviews are NOT gone, they are just suppressed, and their exposure is now close to zero
- Third-party reviews still appear in both the organic SERP and on the Place page itself, so I wouldn’t be worried about them not being important
This all seems like a big update to the layout of Google Places pages, and an overhaul of Google Places reviews, not a change in algorithm. People are going to be concerned that they have lost their reviews, and that their ranking might drop. We know that with the antitrust issues, that Google is not scraping all content and they are only returning the best quality information. Do I think that it is wise to update your external citations and reviews? YES, continue to do it at this time.