Is Google Places Going to be The Next Yellow Pages?

As Google continues to revamp the Places section and their launch of their new social media network, Google + there has been some noticeable changes that will affect the entire Google Places and Map section. The most severe changes to Google Places involve the removal of client reviews from third party websites within the Place page, and the prohibition of P.O. Boxes as acceptable addresses. One additional change is the removal of the additional information/SEO content that people would enter into their place page such as service areas, products, services etc.

Before the recent changes change, a contractor could modify his Google Places listing to include in-depth sections for additional location details and detailed information from the contractor himself. These Google Place sections allowed for optimization of a listing, and provided home improvement contractors a chance to showcase their business beyond what is typically offered in other directories, including the ability able to optimize around the towns they service. While the Google Places section allows input of this data, the information no longer appears to visitors.

What Google seems to be doing is limiting the amount of information a viewer will see, in order to perhaps offer more information for a fee in order to monetize the Google Places listing. That is the thought that keeps running in my head. With the major algorithm changes, the birth of Google +, as well as the integration of social media, , Google is looking for the best way to not only integrate the algorithm with social media, but also make a clear cut way to monetize the Google Places section.

Here is where my nightmare scenario comes into place, and what usually causes me to wake in the middle of the night. All Google Place listings are now very basic.  They only include name, phone, website, similar to a Yellow Page listing. Now imagine with Google+ social network launching of their business pages by the end of the year. These pages will definitely be connected to the Google Places listing. And with this new launch, they provide businesses a “premier” or “enhanced” listing which will include more information, much like a full page ad in the Yellow pages.

No longer would small home improvement contractors get leads for a simple free Google Places listing, but they now would have to compete with monetized billboard ads and full page yellow book ads directly in the Google Places section.

Other changes that seem to reflect this are:

  • Removal of 3rd party reviews – By doing this they are eliminating the competition from their space
  • Website Address Missing  – A large number of contractors are reporting that their web site is missing even though it’s listed in the dashboard. So double check your listings. Is having your website address going to cost more $$$?

I have never been a big conspiracy theorist or ever write anything negative about Google, but monetizing the Google Places listing will change the way users use the search engine. I hope that my belief and theory is wrong and Google is simply trying to make space for the social media aspect of their new algorithm change, which basically will be a combination of SEO and social media. But that is another blog post for another day.

About 

Aaron O’Hanlon is a marketing consultant with Footbridge Media , a marketing firm, specializing in the contracting industry. It is his mission to create awareness of marketing online to the home improvement industry, and to educate, inform and assist contractors on taking over their own online presence.