Google has made several changes with the rollout of their new Google Maps interface. Previous articles from my colleagues on Google’s “retro reviews” and the new look and feel can be read here and here, respectively.
As our team has been testing and playing with the new layout; one interesting item that we’ve come upon is that Google changes the search term when searchers click from one Google site to the next.
For example, when running a search for “Detroit Hotels” on Google.com a click to Google Maps via the map on the right hand corner of the page, caused the search term to update to “Hotels near Detroit, MI.” From there, I clicked the “Go to the list of top results,” in Maps, which took me to the revised “Places” page, where the search query changed to “Hotels” – but the geo remained focused on the downtown Detroit area, instead of resolving to my IP identified geo.
Of course the change in search terms doesn’t mean much if rankings stay the same. Unfortunately, they don’t. Comparisons between the three Google sites show that the top 7 businesses in the local section of Google.com, all appeared in the top 8 listings of the Google’s faux Places page – though with very different rankings. Of the properties that ranked on Google Maps (determined by those pins that had business names showing, without having to hover or click on a pin), only one appeared in the 7-pack on Google.com.
In addition, if you rank for a search term on the old version of Google Maps, there’s no guarantee that you will retain that rank on the new version of Google Maps. Preliminary studies show that while many of the listings that rank in the old version continue to rank in the new version, their rankings are definitely shuffled. Now whether this is a result of changes to the existing algorithm, heavier weight to Google+ Social Circles, or a bug, we can’t be sure.
These may seem like a lot of changes – but for the time being, the impact to most local search campaigns is minor. The new version of maps has only rolled out to a limited number of people. The impact to rankings is only seen on the desktop maps page, and only when the limited number of people with the new Maps interface are logged into their Google+ account.
While many people have discussed the changes to the new user interface on Google Maps, the deeper analysis of how rankings, and optimization strategies, will change in this new Maps world are definitely coming.
Of course, with the new Google Maps still in beta, many of these observations will be revised and overhauled in the coming months as the interface is tweaked and modified. Further rollouts of the new Maps interface to mobiles apps, APIs, and other Google properties will certain require modifications to the existing UI.