A new Google search results page layout for places queries adds significant benefits for users, but poses a real threat to marketers. Google has added a large, graphic display on the right side of SERPs for restaurant, museum, and other local attraction queries.
When the information needed to populate this feature is available, Google displays a box that may include a link to get directions to the place, a map, pictures, a list of related keywords/hours of operation under the heading “Details,” and links to reviews on Expedia and other review sites.
The new listing seems to pull any information available directly from the Google Places page and links back to it unless otherwise indicated. This is a great feature for users, who can get almost any information they need about the establishment without even leaving the SERP or Google Places page.
Which is precisely why it’s harmful to businesses and marketers.
First, bumping the PPC ads below the fold or beneath the search results almost certainly devalues them; it will be interesting to see any effect on click-through rates for paid search ads for queries affected by this new display.
Second, I've yet to see a preview display link to the company’s website. It seems to exclusively link to the Google Places page. This means an extra click to get anyone on-site, even if they’ve specifically searched for your brand.
Google’s new local SERP gives users the bare bones information, but kills your chance at giving them anything else or connecting in any way (newsletter opt-in, social icons, company blog) unless they make the effort to get through to your site. It’s almost an unfair advantage - the display is large and graphic, while your own site listing, even if you rank at the top, is plain text.
Yesterday, we reported that Google is testing another page layout with a display called Sources in the same place this feature appears. Again, this takes up the real estate on the right side of the SERPs and seems to keep users on Google properties as long as possible. Sources differs from the Directions box in that it affects other types of queries, such as those for products, services, or people.
What do you think of Google’s new SERP page layout? Have you seen any change in traffic to your website if you are one of those affected?