Today Google is rolling out a new search result design (see screen shot below) that puts business listings from it’s Google Places, formerly Google Maps, above almost all other search results when consumers perform a local search like Dentist in San Diego, or San Francisco Plumber. Google Places is a local business directory competing with Yelp.com, YellowPages.com, MojoPages.com and a dozen or so other business directories. In this bold move Google Places takes over 70% - 100% of the results you’ll see when you do a local search. There are still links to Yelp and others but they are buried at the bottom of the Places listings and most consumers won’t notice them. Is this a good move for consumers? Or should Google show a smaller set of listings from Google Places and show links to other directories on a more even basis?
Google has been systematically taking over more and more of the real-estate on local search results. A few years ago they launched the “7 pack” which showed 7 Google Maps listings at the top of results and pushed all other results from local business directories below the fold. It was an aggressive move but it did a decent job of showing what Google thought was the best businesses while leaving room for other directories so consumers had options. The reason the 7 pack didn’t revolutionize the industry is because most people would skip over the 7 pack and click on a directory like Yelp or MojoPages because, well, most consumers prefer these other directories’ user-experience over Google when looking for the best local businesses. Just like people prefer other comparison shopping engines to Google’s Froogle in most cases. But consumers are creatures of habit so they start and Google and then navigate to their favorite websites. Is it “evil” for Google to use mostly their own business results from Places or is it their right?
Well see how other online directories along with consumers respond to this shift.
In the screenshot below Google’s Advertisers and Places Businesses are in red, everyone else is in blue.