Another Round of Google Updates: City Sites, Descriptive Terms & URL Testing

January 20, 2017

There is never a lack of Google additions and updates in the webiverse, and with several happening in recent days, it’s worth taking an in-depth look at the latest concoctions Google is brewing up.

Getting Started With Google City Sites

City Sites

Google has started creating new city sites, which act as a central portal showing a variety of information in one central location. The city pages show places, offers, events, business owner resources, and community blogs.

The layout of these pages is fun and aesthetically pleasing. As a person who relies heavily on resources like Trip Advisor to tell me what to check out when visiting a new city, I’m looking forward to testing out the new city pages.

For now city pages is only available for Austin (TX), Portland (OR), Madison (WI), and San Diego (CA).

Google Portland

Checking out the Austin places page, you’ll see a snazzy panoramic image of the city that sits above a colorful local business directory which can be sorted alphabetically, by rating, or filtered by other attributes. Clicking any business will bring you to its respective place page, complete with details and reviews.

The right-side panel shows any upcoming events and an offer to download the Google mobile places app.

Upcoming Events

The top bar shows tabs for Places, Offers (after subscribing), Community, and Business Owners. For now, the community area just seems to be a soapbox for the Google blog, but of course this section will develop with time. The business owners section suggests a number of Google ad services to local business owners, complete with testimonials.

As Search Engine Land notes, these city pages could end up competing with similar online yellow pages sites like Citysearch and Yelp. Google’s bright and lively city pages already have a leg up on the blander directory sites. We’ll have to wait and see if this latest endeavor ends up being a flop or success.

Google Maps Adds Descriptive Terms

Google’s location-oriented updates continue in a recent tweaking of Google Maps. Google Map search results will now include some phrases, or "Descriptive Terms," which are used across the web to describe the places. The keyword phrases can come from reviews, web pages, or other online references and can be fact- or opinion-based.

In this description of the Rose & Crown in Palo Alto, the phrases “fish and chips,” “trivia night” and “great beer selection” give a quick and easy snapshot description of what to expect at the Rose & Crown. Great beer, fish and chips, and trivia!? I’d be there in a flash! 

Google Descriptive Terms

The bad news is that Google hasn’t done anything to stop negative phrases from appearing. No business wants to have the phrase “terrible food” pop up right below their name because of a few disgruntled customers. This also opens the door for unethical competitors to post negative reviews that could easily ruin your business if the negative phrases are directly associated with you. As Nodal Bits notes in their article chastising Google for their lack of consideration:

A major issue with the current arrangement is that it revokes your ability to take negative consumer feedback, improve your customer service, and improve business. If you get labeled as a bad-guy at the outset, you no longer have customers for whom to improve service.

If negative phrases are directly displayed under your business, chances are no one will be giving you a second chance. Hopefully Google will consider implementing something in the future to prevent this injustice.

Nonetheless, the addition of key phrases seems very appropriate in our Twitter-times—people prefer instant information to digging through chunks of lengthy paragraphs and descriptions.

Google Tweaks URL Diplay

On the same vein of abbreviating and trimming the fat, Google appears to be testing out a new look for SERPs, adding the name of the site before the URL for popular sites like Facebook, Apple, Amazon, etc.

You’ll see that in some cases, the URL disappears completely, and we are left with just the website name.

As Elisa Gabbert wrote in a previous blog post, URLs are becoming increasingly obsolete, with many people preferring to simply use Google to reach their desired site rather than typing in a URL. Google’s continued tweaking demonstrates an awareness of this phenomenon as they test alternatives to the classic URL display in SERPs.

Keep your eyes peeled for these latest Google updates, and tell us what you think of them!

Megan Marrs

Megan Marrs

Megan Marrs is a veteran content marketer who harbors a love for writing, watercolors, oxford commas, and dogs of all shapes and sizes. When she's not typing out blog posts or crafting killer social media campaigns, you can find her lounging in a hammock with an epic fantasy novel.

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