Site icon Bill Hartzer

How Google Places Listings are Different than Google Web Results

When you perform a search at Google with a query that includes a city name, there is a good chance that Google will automatically pull some of the Google Places Listings into the search results.

Google is treating Google Places just like they have traditionally treated Google News, by automatically populating the search results with results from Google Places. We call that Google Universal Search. I like it, and it’s been around for a while now. Other Google services that you’ll see pulled into Google’s organic search results include videos and images. It makes for a better-looking, more pleasing, and ultimately a better search experience. So, a search for “Dallas Hotels” on Google will show a search result like this:

However, search marketers like myself need to be aware, though, that not all Google services are treated alike. They are not all treated equally. Case in point: Google does not pull the meta description tag from and use it in the Google Places listings when they appear in the Google search results. At least I could not find an example of them doing this. In the Google “web results”, their “normal” organic search results, Google will typically pull data from your meta description tag (unless you tell them not to do so).

When a Google Places listing shows up in the organic search results in Google, the listing does not pull your meta description tag like it does in the web results. Rather, Google Places listings in the organic search results pull content from the page, and ignores the meta description tag. That can be an issue from some sites, especially if the site has Flash. Google’s spiders (like most search engine spiders) ignore the Flash content and will crawl as if they don’t have Flash installed. So there is a chance, like in the attached screen capture below, that some of your non-flash content will show up in the Google organic search results.

From all of my research, it appears that there really is not anything consistent about how or when or which data Google pulls in the Google Places listings when they are displayed in the Google search results. I have seen sites’ Google Places listings show their DMOZ/ODP description, the meta description from the page, and even content from the page when a meta description tag is on the page. So Google Places listings in the organic search results could even have their meta description tag from the page ignored altogether. I have seen, though, a case where the Google Places listing in the organic search results is pulling the DMOZ/ODP description merely because there was no meta description tag on the actual page. Sure, Google could have pulled the content from the page, but chose not to in that case.

So, how is Google Places Listings different than Google’s Web Results? From what I can tell, it’s all over the place (no pun intended). In fact, the only real difference is that it’s inconsistent.

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