True to form, Google has rolled out yet another series updates for local search. With the launch of Google My Business on June 11, 2014, Google has combined the features of Google Places and Google+ Local Business Pages to create a more user-friendly interface that will hopefully help more small businesses become more competitive in local search. Google My Business streamlines the functional and social aspects of Google Places and Google+ Local and provides a single platform for page owners to update their business information, manage content such as reviews and photos, see analytics, and more. The idea is to make it easier for business page owners to manage all of their Google pages on a central dashboard.
However, along with the roll out of Google My Business, there were some other complimentary updates to local search, and as with all Google changes, there are some issues that arise as a result of this integration. Shortly after unveiling Google My Business, there were some noticeable tweaks to Google’s local search algorithms, branding factors, and/or how they integrate with results pages for local search queries. These local search updates seem to be affecting a fairly large percentage of local searches on Google.
Eliminating The Last Of Google Places, Accurate Local Search Rankings & The Ability To Check Google Places Penalties
Since the elimination of the Google Places dashboard with the launch of Google My Business, there was one last remaining part of Google Places – the search. Google has now removed the ability to search Google Places. For local SEO professionals, changes are shaking up how local search rank tracking and troubleshooting solutions function.
The Google Places search was an important feature that helped local SEO firms and rank checking programs track Google+ Local ranking results. This change takes away the ability to search Google places results using the &tbm=plcs URL modifier, and sadly the method we discovered for checking Google Places Penalties. Unfortunately, this URL modifier was the only way to see local pack results beyond what gets blended into the SERPS with regular organic results for local searches. As a result, many of the local rank checking tools will or already have changed to focus on Google Maps results, which are similar but not always as accurate – and for some search queries will be pretty far off.
It’s not all bad, though. As tends to happen in the online marketing industry, there are already experts working on new tools and methods to get around the problems and there will likely be new findings from this – though results may be kept quiet for a while, and it seems the ability to accurately check Google Places results won’t be returning.
While it’s disappointing in some ways that Google Places is officially gone now, there will definitely be some exciting developments in the local SEO world over the course of the next few months. Keep an eye on the local search chatter and remember the most important key to local SEO – adapt!