Why Details in Google Places Pages Should Be Essential Content.

Yesterday I ordered pizza for home delivery. I turned to my smartphone, dialed up Google, clicked the Restaurants icon as a short cut into Places, searched for “pizza” and scrolled through the results.

I was on a mission to find a new pizza joint. My long time favorite independent pizzeria had shut down recently and after a spattering of trying the big national chains (I had been taking advantage of coupons that arrived in the mail) I had enough of mediocre pizza.

The search results are dominated by the big chains (Domino’s are very active in the local SEO space and kill it in many cities across the US and Canada) so I had to do some scrolling and investigating. Sorry Domino’s but your SEO skills were not enough to persuade me.

A couple prospects looked interesting and some others I was not sure about. Clicking through to the Places profile should give me some info like – do they deliver? Do they service my end of town? Basic stuff you’d want to know from a pizzeria. But that info was nowhere to be found. Seems Google, in it’s infinite wisdom has decided, with the recent cosmetic update of Google Places profile pages, that descriptive text was no longer of value to users. I beg to differ.

One result, D’Agostino Italian, I was not sure if they were just a sit in restaurant that happened to also make pizza. My wife and I thought that was the case but were not sure, and Google was telling me nothing other than a Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP). The listing is claimed and verified by the owner, but there is no link to a website, they must not have one. I bet the info I wanted used to be there on the profile page.

In the end I chose Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza, a smaller regional chain. Listing off names to my wife she recalled that Bill, downstairs neighbor, usually orders from them. Google was not supplying enough info to make a decision on my own. It required the collective wisdom of me and my wife with Google only giving us a long list of names and phone numbers. Are we almost back to the basics of mere phone books again?

So there, a perfect everyday example of why Google should be keeping the descriptions, and likely the additional info fields for display on Places pages.

Apparently the basic descriptions missing is just a bug still being worked on. But also MIA, and likely for good are “more about this place” citations, 3rd party reviews, even email addresses, service areas, menus and other additional details fields. What is all this? A cleanup before Google+ integration, a flex of muscle to squeeze out other big boys in the local space, or preparations for paid inclusion? Perhaps all of the above.

I’m all for clean design, minimalism and lots of white space to make web pages more user friendly, but when you remove essential information, information users rely on to make decisions, what then has a re-design accomplished?

3 Comments on “Why Details in Google Places Pages Should Be Essential Content.”

Nyagoslav on July 27th, 2011 wrote:

I believe it is a matter of time until the “Details” section is being returned to the Place page. It is not a bug I think. It is probably coming from the fact that in this section there was both data coming from the business owner themselves, and third-party sources. Probably they are working on removing the scraped data from the third-parties. Just a personal opinion.

Mark on September 16th, 2011 wrote:

I hope that they revert back to how they were set up before. You make a great point regarding the loss and usefulness of the description box.
I do like the clean background/whitespace as you say. Hopefully Google will move in the right direction and either fix the bug issue or allow for free “Descriptive” business listings again through G+.

Mark

Sarah Schager on September 16th, 2011 wrote:

Agreed. I have been feeling the same way about the redesign. I know it is supposed to place a higher emphasis on reviews instead of citations as far as results rank, but you’re right about the descriptions.

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