Google keeps on changing

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Google is known for constantly tweaking and changing its products and services. I read a post from one of their employees saying that they would rather get a product out to the public first and make changes as they go. Their reasoning is that they can make use of user data to improve on their product. It seems to be working so far.

Sticking to a name doesn’t seem to bother them either. Googles shopping listings has in the past been called Froogle (great name) , Base and now Merchant Centre. Google Local Business Centre is now called Google Places. If you work in an SEO company you’ll have noticed a raft of changes lately. First the big one, Google Instant where search results appear as a user types. Then the changes in Google Places came along and this morning I’m now seeing screenshots in the organic results.

Here’s a screenshot of Google’s screenshots.
google screenshot

Googles new screenshots in listings

When I do a search I’m seeing a magnifying glass graphic beside each listing. When clicked a screenshot of the page listed springs up and then does so for each listing hovered over. Where have we seen this before? You guessed it. Bing. I think Googles screenshots are more effective than Bings though which only displays more text and links. Bing’s also suffers from having to hover over the little arrow to the right of the listing. Once one magnifying glass graphic is pressed on Google’s listings it’s on for the duration. It’s worth noting that I’m only seeing the screenshots in one of my browsers while logged out so Google might not be rolling it out just yet.

Here’s a screenshot of Bings screenshots.
bing screenshot

Google Places in organic listings

Now onto Google Places. If you are unfamiliar with Places it is a system which allows a local business to register with Google so that it can be displayed in search results for the business’ area. The business registering needs to verify their listing through post, phone call or SMS. It’s Google’s way of giving the little guy a chance to rank at the top of the organic results and offering users a confirmed list of local businesses. In the past Google Places results were displayed as a single listing or in a list of ten businesses beside a map.

In the last week there has been a shift in where these listings are showing up. They are now being displayed amongst the organic listings.

google places screenshot

Is this once again the end of SEO? As usual it’s a no but it’s another change in the organic listings which needs to be taken into account. The Places enhanced organic listings are looking much like the rest of the organic listings with added Place page info underneath. It doesn’t look like Google is taking the listing info from the Places page but still relying on the meta data of the site.

I’ve had a look at where some of my client’s sites are sitting before and after the change and there has not been a big shift up or down in the rankings. (although that could be in the post) Would those sites still rank where they are without a verified business listing? Possibly but not definitely. It’s now more crucial than ever to have a Google business listing set up.

There are also still top spots up for grabs in the organic listings which are not displaying Places information underneath. For a lot of geographical searches there are no Places listings displaying at all so it’s not a case of the geographical organic listings now being closed off for optimised sites.

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